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.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

I get to deal with Transport Layer Security and email! Oh boy!

“Sean! Could you come look at this email?”

“Sure. Hmmm … ”

"Your XXXX Internet Customer Care Team " <customersupport@XXXXXXX>
"XXXX Internet Service Customer" <members@XXXXXXX>
Service Alert: Update your XXXXXXX computer email server settings before 10/14/15
September 30, 2015 5:29:24 PM EDT

Service Alert: Update your XXXXXXX computer email server settings before 10/14/15

Dear XXXX Internet Service Customer,

Our records indicate that you are using an email application such as Microsoft® Outlook® or Apple® Mail to send or receive email using your XXXXXXX account. You'll need to update your XXXXXXX computer email server settings before 10/14/15 to continue accessing your email.

What Are Email Server Settings?

Your email server settings are used to connect Microsoft® Outlook® or Apple® Mail to your XXXXXXX mailbox. You are currently using outdated server settings to make this connection, and XXXX is discontinuing support of these on 10/14/15.

Why Should I Update My Email Server Settings before 10/14/15?

Your current email server settings will expire 10/14/15 and will no longer be supported by XXXX You’ll avoid service interruptions that will prevent you from sending and receiving email Updating to the new server settings increases both reliability and security

“Do you think this is a valid email?”

“Let me check the headers … ”

After a few minutes of scaning the raw headers, and doing a few whois checks on some IP addresses I was able to conclude the email was real.

And annoying.

Not because we had to spend the next five minutes reconfiguring Bunny's email server settings, but becauase that means I have until October 14th to work around this new twist in email when posting to my blog, as odd as that may seem.

My workflow for posting is to use my preferred editor to write the post, then email it to my server where it will be posted via mod_blog. Now, because I'm running Postfix (on Linux) here at Chez Boca (just for updating the blog—I read email directly on my server using mutt … yeah, I'm weird that way) it handles the delivery of email by queueing it locally, then forwarding it through our ISP's email servers (because our ISP disallows direct email from home computers to arbitrary email servers due to spammer abuse). So it appears I have about two weeks to figure out how to get Postfix at Chez Boca to connect via SMTPS instead of SMTP.

How hard can that be?

Um … yeah … looks like it'll take a while to get things configured

Friday, October 02, 2015

With infinite resources one can even make pigs fly. It's still not a good idea.

Well the good news is that the test scores of New York City public- school students are up this year from last. The bad news is that still barely a third of them passed math or reading tests.

And that’s despite the fact that a number of teachers have been accused of tampering with test scores.

So what should we do? Teach everyone computer science!

Via Instapundit, The folly of teaching computer science to high school kids | New York Post

Strange as it may appear, I agree that teaching computer science to high school students is folly. Computers are (still) expensive (compared to books, paper, pens and pencils) and fragile. There's too much to fully understand (even I, who have been using computers for something like thirty years, still can't troubleshoot a Microsoft Windows issue, much to the dismay of my father who occasionally asks) and much of what is hot now goes out of fashion in a few years (over the past thirty years, I've seen the rise and fall of both Java and Perl, and Microsoft go from a juggernaut controlling the industry to a now mostly irrelevant bank with a quaint hobby in software, for example).

While I was in college, I saw the the first programming language taught in the computer science department change no less than three times! Back in high school, I took the programming course in Pascal (which is pretty much a dead language these days) on an obsolete computer (the Apple II back in the late 80s) and I was lucky in that I was able to use the only computer with two floppy drives! (which meant I could compile my code nearly twice as fast as other people in the class). And I can count on one finger the number of people who went on in life as a programmer.

And the sad thing is, computer science doesn't need computers to be taught. It's mostly math-centric theory. It's software engineering that requires the use of computers. Teaching “programming” is going to be expensive if you want to include all students. And I'm not alone in this view (link via Reddit).

Saturday, October 03, 2015

The Martian

Bunny and I saw “The Martian,” the movie about an astronaut being stranded on Mars and having to spend the next year or so surviving the harsh conditions. My understanding is that the book is about as accurate as you can get (with the sole exception of Martian sand storms aren't quite as bad as depicted, but the hero had to be stranded somehow for the story to work). I can understand that some concessions had to be made for Hollywood but still, this is some serious hard science in this movie, along with hard decisions that NASA wrestles with, dancing a delicate line between public relations success and disaster.

We both loved the movie, and feel it's well worth seeing Matt Damon coming home. Again.

Seriously, how many times does Hollywood have to save Matt Damon?

Sunday, October 04, 2015

An open love letter to Apple

Seriously, XXXX you, Apple!

Monday, October 05, 2015

About my open love letter to Apple

So … about yesterday

iOS 9.02 hit the airwaves. I've been having an uneasy feeling about iOS 9 and I decided to wait a bit until things settled down. Normally, I'm all “if it ain't broke, don't fix it!” but there was an intriguing feature—the ability to block web ads! Which is an important feature if you're using the cellular network for browsing where each and every byte is accounted and billed for.

So, iOS 9.02 finally hit. What could possibly go wrong?

Twenty hours later, on phone support with Apple

“So what you're telling me is that there is no way Apple is going to let me dump iOS 9.02 on my own iPhone and roll back to iOS 8.4.1? No possible way? Is that what you're telling me?”



Ten hours earlier

Well, that was a disaster. I upgraded to iOS 9.02 and the second the iPhone rebooted, my version of iTunes dutifully informed me that it could not talk to my iPhone in question, and that I should upgrade iTunes if I wanted the ability to transfer data. Only thing is, there are no updates for iTunes I can download! There are no more updates for anything on my Mac computer. Remember “if it ain't broke, don't fix it?” Yeah. There's a reason for that.

I resorted to downloading iOS 8.4.1 off some random website (yes! I'm resorting to downloading possibly questionable software off the Intarwebs!) in an attempt to downgrade (look at what I'm resorting too, Apple! Why hast thou forsaken me?), but I couldn't get iTunes to install that version. It kept deleting the offered iOS 8.4.1 and kept shoving iOS 9.02 onto my phone. By the time I gave up, I had a phone without my music (not that I listen much music, but still), my contacts (which include custom ringtones for various friends and family members) and my apps.

That was totally unacceptable to me.

Had I been warned that iOS 9.02 would not talk to my version of iTunes, I would not have upgraded but alas, no mention was made in the Terms of Service (and yes, I read the whole thing) nor did iTunes give a warning until after it was installed.

On a whim, I downloaded the latest version of iTunes, just on the off chance I could run it. Good thing I checked before installing that, because it required a version of Mac OS X that I am currently not running.

What could possibly go wrong if I were to install that?

Don't answer that question!

Six hours later

If I can't solve it, perhaps the fine people at The Apple Store can help. I pack up everything I need and then some.

[What?  You don't use your iPhone earbuds to wrap around Mac mini power cords?  What do you mean I'm the only one that does that?]

My iPhone.
My Mac mini.
My Mac mini power cord.
My iPad.
My iPad keyboard.
And some miscellaneous cables and adaptors.
All went with us (Bunny tagged along) to Mecca The Apple Store.

We found a very helpful employee who was both amused and sympathetic to my plight. While Apple itself wouldn't downgrade my iPhone (corporate policy it seems) he did help me figure out one issue with my failed attempts to reintroduce iOS 8.4.1 to my iPhone—my use of DoubleCommand.

You see, I use an IBM Model M keyboard. It's the only keyboard I use (I am very picky about my keyboards) but it lacks a “Command” key. So I mapped the “Alt” key to “Command.” Only Apple calls the “Alt” key the “Option” key. And it's the “Option” key you need to hold down when you click the “Restore” button in iTunes to select an iOS version to install. Unfortunately, I had deleted the iOS 8.4.1 images I had downloaded due to sheer frustration and therefore, could not install them at The Apple Store. But with this new information, I felt confident I could carry on back at Chez Boca.

Also, while at The Apple Store, we found a very unhelpful employee who was incredulous that I would dare not upgrade my Mac system every twenty minutes. “Everybody upgrades, dude! What ancient software relic are you running that you can't upgrade?”

“I'm running a special driver that allows my Mac to use my keyboard.”

“Macs don't use device drivers, dude!”


And by the way, I did end up using everything I brought along to The Apple Store. Even the iPad keyboard. The helpful employee felt it was best to try using that keyboard (after disabling DoubleCommand) so I could use a “real Option key” to select the iOS 8.4.1 image.

Four hours later

I finally found the right iOS 8.4.1 image for my iPhone. I was able to select it in iTunes. iTunes dutifully extracted it, contacted some license server at Apple, which nixed the attempt, due, I think, to the fact that Apple knows I've installed iOS 9.02 on the phone, and damn it! That's what I'm going to run! Apple wasn't having any of this iOS 8.4.1 nonsense. It's onward and upward!

Two hours past that

Brings us to the opening, wherein it's made clear by Apple that YOU WILL LIKE iOS 9.02 BEING SHOVED DOWN YOUR XXXXXXX XXXXXXX AND YOU WILL BE HAPPY, CITIZEN!

There is simply no way to downgrade to iOS 8.4.1.

(I would also like to note the very audible sigh I heard from Bob when I told him I refused to use iCloud for backing up my iPhone. I'd rather not have the iNSA view my iData without my iKnowldege. Is that so iWrong?)

I'm willing to conceed that most of this is my fault and that I brought it down upon myself for my refusal to upgrade everything Apple-related every twenty minutes, and that Apple even states they do not guarantee any software they write will actually work (that's actually standard in the software world). BUT it's my iPhone. I should be able to run what I want on it, as long as I take the consequences of said actions. And iOS 8.4.1 was working for me. I just wanted to downgrade to what was working less than twenty-four hours earlier.

But no, I do not, we do not, own our own computing devices any more.

I think it's time I swim out of the Nile and admit to myself that I am not the master of my own digital realm.

And that Apple owns my soul.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Nice job Apple! You narrowly avoided someone drunkenly spending tons of money!

After some discussion with Bunny about the past two days, I figured what the hell! Let me spend vast amounts of money to fix the problem! I repent! I'm sorry Apple! You are right! I am wrong! Let me upgrade everything and maybe, just maybe, I'll get a year or so reprieve from obsolescense!

So Bunny and I head back to The Apple Store so I could spend money like a drunken sailor on shore leave. Top o' the Line Macintosh computer! It's only money!

You know, I didn't think I'd be forced to wait half an hour to spend vast amounts of money, but then again, Apple has more money than God these days …

But wait I did. And while waiting, I looked at various Apple products and came to the conclusion that I really didn't need the Top o' the Line model—I could live with the K2 of Macintosh computers.

Eventually a helpful employee wandered my way, and I pointed to the K2 of Macintosh computers I wanted. “We can certainly sell you that.”

“But I want more memory in it,” I said.

“We certainly can't sell you that here.”


“What you see is what you get. Custom orders have to be ordered on line.”


“Really. You can order it at home, and have it delivered at home, or you can select to have it delivered here at the store.”


“But if you want, you can buy it online here.”


So, why did I go to The Apple Store in the first place?

Yeah, that's right—to buy a computer!


I select the K2 of Macintosh computers and then get to the point where I need to sign in with my Apple ID. Only I don't remember my Apple ID password. Bunny saw the option to reset my password but that doesn't help me as I need to check my email to get a link to click to authenticate the request and yada yada short story I'm not in a position to check my email.

Double sigh.

So not only would I have to wait to get the K2 of Macintosh computers delivered, I couldn't even order it from The Apple Store! How lame is that?

A few hours later and I've come to my senses. I can upgrade the memory in my Mac mini from the paltry 2 gigabytes (Paltry! Ha! I remember the days when two gigabytes was considered gigantic. Sigh) upto 16 gigabytes, which is a heck of a lot cheaper than buying the K2 of Macintosh computers. I can upgrade to the latest and greatest operating system for free (and spend the next six months loathing every minute of it). And I get to keep the built-in DVD player!

I'll get my ring tones back yet!

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

John Cleese and Eric Idle: Together Again At Last … For The Very First Time

Months ago, Bunny bought tickets for a most unique show—John Cleese and Eric Idle: Together Again At Last … For The Very First Time at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. And lo, tonight was the night for the show. Given the past few days, it was just what I needed.

The only bad thing about the show (and it's not even that bad) is that it's only one-third of Monty Python and the sound quality. The two! The two bad things about the show were that it was only one-third of Monty Python, the sound quality and a ruthless efficiency. Three! Three bad things about the show are one-third Monty Python, the bad sound quality, a ruthless efficiency and a fanatical devotion to the Pope!


It was a fun show. In the first half of the show, John Cleese and Eric Idle spent the time chatting between themselves, performing a few sketches that never actually appeared on “Monty Python's Flying Circus” and showing clips from their past work (including stuff not from Monty Python, like “At Last the 1948 Show”).

The second half the show started with John Cleese telling … um … “off-colour” jokes (he's British, so I'm using the British spelling), followed by Eric Idle singing several … um … “off-colour” songs and then the both of them pulling “fan questions” out of a jar and pretty much mocking the questions.

The show concluded with everybody (Eric, John, and entire audience) singing “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.”

It's either a small world, or we have very similar tastes in entertainment

Much like when Bunny and I saw Alton Brown and Jamie and Adam, we ran into my old roommate Rob, his wife Laura, friend Squeaky and his wife Tanya (and had I not lost my phone contacts, I would have texted Rob this time). I wonder if we'll run into them again when we see Shatner's World or Penn & Teller?

Thursday, October 08, 2015

You know his music will be the only music of our era to survive, right?

It's not singing as we know it. But it's not exactly a spoken piece either. The closest thing is similar to watching a train wreck in real time—horrifying and yet, completely fascinating at the same time. I am, of course, talking about William Shatner “covering” Bohemian Rhapsody (and you can thank Bunny for that link). But I think I like his “covers” of Space Oddity and it's sequel, Major Tom (Coming Home) a little bit better.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Wow … and you thought the Edsel was a bad car

The fuel line goes through the cabin. The side windows are raised and lowered by a leather strap. The wheelbase is shorter than the width of the car. And you can't see the side mirrors from the driver's seat. There's even more bad, but yes, this is a bad car (link via Instapundit).

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Good intentions with bad implementations should be outlawed! Oh wait … they are!

I'm sitting, futzing around on the computer. Bunny is in the other room, watching television when this horrible buzzing noise starts. I'm thinking, Is that the Emergency Broadcasting System I mean the Emergency Alert System? I don't think I've ever heard it in actual use, when I realize it's coming from my phone and it's an Amber Alert sent by the government.

Oh. I can get these on my iPhone now. Which tells me to be on the lookout for a certain type of vehicle of a certain color, which is only applicable if I'm out, driving about, but Florida law makes it illegal for me to actually check my cell phone while driving!


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Stuff you don't learn in history class

Wisconsin last week closed a haunting chapter of the Cold War that began when Svetlana Alliluyeva famously defected to the U.S. in 1967.

But to her daughter in Portland, the death of the woman who became known as Lana Peters was the loss of her best friend and confidant.

Portland granddaughter of Josef Stalin remembers her mother as a talented writer and lecturer in her own right |


I never knew Stalin's daughter defected to the United States. And I wonder what it's like to grow up with such an infamous grandfather like that …

Monday, October 12, 2015

El Capitan is the captain around here, not me

One week ago, I wrote “[b]ut no, I do not, we do not, own our own computing devices any more.” The context of my saying that was in the forced “thou shalt not downgrade thy iPhone” I received from Apple but it's becoming more apparent that I don't “own” my Mac mini either—it's that Apple has benevolenty allowed the use of their Mac mini by yours truly.

I've just now learned about the System Integrity Protection “feature” that El Presidente de Por Vida Capitan contains (really Apple? Another series of pointless names for operating system releases? What, exactly is so wrong with 10.11?).

root is no longer root.

Yup, not even root can delete all of /sbin, not that you would want to do that, but the point is—Apple is making damn sure you, as “owner” of the machine, don't go deleting files willy-nilly. Of course Apple can delete files willy-nilly on “your” machine, because they know better.

And really, it's not quite as dire as I make it out to be (it can be disabled—link via Reddit). I can understand why Apple does this—to protect users from malware but I feel as if I don't actually own my computer. And now I'm just a bit more wary about upgrading my Mac mini (as I sit here, looking at the “Install El Presidente de Por Vida” icon, just waiting for the 16G of RAM to arrive).


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The calm before the storm

Woot! The 16 gigabytes of memory arrived! It's been installed and it's working beautifully. I'm currently backing up the Mac mini and when I work up enough courage, I'll do an incremental backup in the hopes that it takes longer than my courage holds up, then wait a bit more and eventually, the incremental backup will be over so quickly I'll have nothing left to do but update to El Presidente de Por Vida.

Wish me luck.

An appropriately Halloweenish thing to do

This is wonderful! This is a great idea for a drone!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015



No, seriously, you can go XXXX yourself, Apple.

The backup? Went smooth. And way faster than I expected. The upgrade to El Presidente de Por Vida? It took longer than the 30 minute estimate it gave, but eh, I can live with that. And my files were still there. That's good.

Less good? Oh, let's see … I had statically set the IP address of the Mac and Apple blew that setting away. Good one! I had a VPN configured for work, operational word there being had. Apple blew those settings away.

Apple also deleted everything I had under /usr/local/bin.

XXXX you, Apple.

So there went my only OS X compiled version of Synergy.

Have I told you to XXXX off yet, Apple?


XXXX off.

I still had the source, but guess what?

source='CArch.cpp' object='CArch.o' libtool=no \
	depfile='.deps/CArch.Po' tmpdepfile='.deps/CArch.TPo' \
	MACOSX_DEPLOYMENT_TARGET=10.2 depmode=gcc3 /bin/sh ../../config/depcomp \
	g++ -DHAVE_CONFIG_H -I. -I. -I../.. -I../../lib/common     -g -O2 -g -Wall -Wno-unknown-pragmas -Werror   -DSYSAPI_UNIX=1 -DWINAPI_CARBON=1 -D_THREAD_SAFE  -c -o CArch.o `test -f 'CArch.cpp' || echo './'`CArch.cpp
In file included from CArch.cpp:16:
In file included from ./CArch.h:25:
In file included from ./IArchString.h:19:
../../lib/common/BasicTypes.h:78:10: fatal error: '/System/Library/Frameworks/CoreServices.framework/Headers/../Frameworks/CarbonCore.framework/Headers/MacTypes.h' file not found
#include </System/Library/Frameworks/CoreServices.framework/Headers/../Frameworks/CarbonCore.framework/Headers/MacTypes.h>
1 error generated.
make[3]: *** [CArch.o] Error 1
make[2]: *** [all-recursive] Error 1
make[1]: *** [all-recursive] Error 1
make: *** [all] Error 2

Yeah! Screw backwards compatability! That only leads you to legacy hell ala Microsoft.

To be fair, even if I had the executable it probably wouldn't have worked, but man … that is a serious blow to my work flow here at Chez Boca. Not only the ease of sharing a keyboard and mouse between two computers of differing operating systems, but cut-n-paste! Cut-n-paste between the two operating systems!

I did download the latest version (although you won't find that link on the main Synergy website) but it requires some manual “fixes” to the source code that have yet to be checked in (really? Seriously, what the XXXX?) and of course it requires yet another build system (really? You can't even make cross-platform Makefiles? It's not that hard. Tedious, I'll give you that, but that's like a one-time thing. XXXX!) and a large “cross-platform portability library” and XXXX me, this means it probably isn't backwards compatible with the version on my Linux system and I'll have to upgrade that too because of CADT XXXX me XXXX me XXXX me XXXX me XXXX me XXXX me XXXX me XXXX me XXXX me XXXX!


Okay, so maybe Apple isn't the only thing trying to XXXX me over.

[Ooh … my bad—Apple did NOT delete everything. –Sean]

Well. That felt good. Now to email this … oh wait


iCloud this and iCloud that. What about uShutTheXXXXUp!

On the plus side, I have finally restored my iPhone. Of course, to do that, I had to disable “Find my iPhone” before iTunes would restore my iPhone. If course, when you do that, you get this friendly email from Apple:

Find My iPhone <>
Find My iPhone has been disabled on iPhone.
Wed, 14 Oct 2015 03:48:57 +0000 (GMT)

Find My iPhone has been disabled on iPhone.

With Find My iPhone disabled, this device can no longer be located, placed in Lost Mode, or remotely erased using or the Find My iPhone iOS app.

In addition, your Apple ID and password will no longer be required for someone to erase, reactivate, and use your iPhone.


iCloud is a service provided by Apple.
Apple ID:
Terms and Conditions:
Privacy Policy:
Copyright 2015Apple Inc. 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA 95014, United States. All rights reserved.

XXXX you too, Apple!

Apple is really pushing the iCloud thing. Really pushing it. Like, “you know you'll be XXXXXX if you don't use this, right?” pushing it.

No, I do NOT want to use it. And yet, I have to keep telling Apple that over and over and over again as I run various applications.


I leave this without comment

[Is this what Apple has become?  Mimicking Microsoft and the constant need for updating?  Why even bother asking as this point?  Just go ahead and XXXXXXX do it Apple!  XXXX me up the XXX!  Oh wait ... did I say I would leave this without comment?]

Thursday, October 15, 2015

… and then the router broke

The badness kept going yesterday.

As I was getting ready for work, Bunny informed me that she had to reboot both the DSL modem and the router. When I checked them, the lights on the router were off. Not a good sign. I pulled the power cord and plugged it back in, the lights started operating normally, then they went out, back on, went out, back on, and well, it's not supposed to be blinking Christmas lights. Bunny mentioned that on Tuesday there were a few power fluctuations and maybe that fried the electroncs.

It was then that the past month of computer aggrivation hit me and I'm afraid I took it out on the malfunctioning router (well, I assume it was malfunctioning; it certainly was malfunctioning after I was done with it). Bunny then asked if I was okay to drive to work, I said no, so she offered to drive. Only I couldn't engage the seat belt.

I took it as a sign that “the Universe” was telling me it was a bad week to stop taking meth, called in sick, and went back to bed.

At 5:00 pm, I awoke, and Bunny and I headed out to get a new router and UPS. A couple of hours, several hundred dollars, a few stores, and many many miles later I was trying configure the new router and was not having luck. It wanted an Internet connection (I'm trying to set you up first before placing you on the live Internet you incalcitrant piece of consumer electronics!) It then started asking for a password I didn't have!

There was this CD included with the router—perhaps it had the instruction manual? Sure enough, it did. The only file on the disk, a large PDF of the manual.

In Arabic!

It was at that point that Bunny sent me to bed before I caused any more collateral damage.

I awoke at 2:00 am this morning. Bunny had tried quite a bit to get the router working. Using the “hot spot” feature of her iPhone, she was able to surf the Intarwebs for an English version of the manual but quickly got to a point she didn't feel comfortable with. I started poking with it again and well … bless her heart, Bunny had the patience to deal with our ISP technical support to get us up and running again. That email we received on the first? Yeah, more than just the email server changed. Turned out we needed a new password to log onto the Internet but it took an hour long phone call to figure that out.

So I have my iPhone restored, my Mac upgraded, and our Internet connection restored. Synergy isn't working, but I think at this point, I should stop complaining.

I think my long October nightmare is finally over

My friend, Brian, concerned for my sanity, did some searching and sent me this:

Sean Conner <>
El Capitan: Rootless "feature"
Thu, 15 Oct 2015 14:23:33 -0400


When you upgrade to El Capitan, it moves any "unauthorized" files from restricted areas to /Library/SystemMigration/History/Migration-(someUUID)/QuarantineRoot/.


[spc]marvin:~>ll /Library/SystemMigration/History/Migration-0C65E56F-4185-42B0-BBE8-5537E4FDEE38/QuarantineRoot/usr/bin/
total 92472
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root    wheel     60212 Dec  6  2005 bbdiff
-rwsr-xr-x  1 root    wheel     86416 Dec  6  2005 bbedit
-rwxr-xr-x@ 1 root    wheel  21226488 Feb  4  2005 emacs (from old Mac)
-rwxr-xr-x@ 1 root    wheel  21226488 Feb  4  2005 emacs-21.2.1
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root    wheel   1511312 Dec 21  2010 pkgbuild
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root    wheel   1605200 Dec 21  2010 productbuild
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root    wheel   1440848 Dec 21  2010 productsign
-rwxr-xr-x  1 wlofie  staff   1195132 May 14  2010 synergyc
-rwxr-xr-x  1 wlofie  staff   1751764 May 14  2010 synergys
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root    wheel      3561 Jul 12  2007 zegrep (from old Mac)
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root    wheel      3561 Jul 12  2007 zfgrep (from old Mac)
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root    wheel       103 Jul 12  2007 zless (from old Mac)


There are my missing executables! In /usr/bin! And … owned by wlofie? How did—


I found them!

I had to copy them out of that directory to $HOME/bin so they won't get blown away again. Then I had to tweak “System Preferences → Security & Privacy → Privacy” to allow Terminal and “sshd-keygen-wrapper” to have control over my computer, then I can run synergys in the foreground, and it works! If I let synergys run in the background (as it does by default) then El Presidente de Por Vida prevents it from doing anything useful.

But I got it to work!

So now I'm back to where I was on October 1st!


Friday, October 16, 2015

Phones for the people

I feel that this small video about phones designed for people, and not for companies, somehow plays into our (the West) uncaring acceptance of modern computing and not demanding more control over what we buy and use. I'm not quite sure how it plays, but I definitely feel like it does. Who wouldn't want a phone to look like a race car?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

It's more a laser cutter/laster etching machine than a printer, but it's still very cool

The Glowforge 3D Laser Printer is way cool! Even though it uses the cloud for just about everything, it's one way that Glowforge has kept the price to the very low four digits instead of the five digits normal laser printers/cutters apparently go for. And here's an interview with the head of Glowforge about the device.

Too many moving parts

Ever since I got the new router, I've been having some weird issues with browsing. Most sites would come up instantly while others, like Hoade's, would take minutes to come up, and when the page would finally display there would be horrible formatting (probably due to not loading the style sheets).

This behavior is a classic DNS problem. But the only thing that changed, DNS wise, is the introduction of the new router. Is it possible the new router is filtering DNS results? I did a query on a problematic address and got:

[spc]lucy:~/source/spcdns/built>./dotest -s a
; Questions            = 1
; Answers              = 1
; Name Servers         = 0
; Additional Records   = 0
; Authoritative Result = false
; Truncated Result     = false
; Recursion Desired    = true
; Recursion Available  = true
; Result               = No error


; IN A

;;; ANSWERS         3600   IN      CNAME



Hmm … now let's do the same query from somewhere else:

[spc]brevard:~/source/spcdns/built>./dotest -s a
; Questions            = 1
; Answers              = 2
; Name Servers         = 2
; Additional Records   = 0
; Authoritative Result = false
; Truncated Result     = false
; Recursion Desired    = true
; Recursion Available  = true
; Result               = No error


; IN A

;;; ANSWERS         3600   IN      CNAME  3600   IN      A

;;; NAMESERVERS           127697  IN      NS           127697  IN      NS


Odd. And annoying. Doing a search on DNS issues with my router was dismaying to say the least. First off, the pages would take minutes to load and thus, no style information and thus hard to read. Secondly, from what I could read, there actually might be an issue with DNS on this router. Lovely!

But in playing around with this stuff, I did find this comment in the DNS server configuration file:

         * If there is a firewall between you and nameservers you want
         * to talk to, you might need to uncomment the query-source
         * directive below.  Previous versions of BIND always asked
         * questions using port 53, but BIND 8.1 uses an unprivileged
         * port by default.
         query-source address * port 53;

I know I added that comment, fixing an issue with DNS a few years ago. Really? Could that be the problem? Let me comment that directive out … and it's all fixed!

What the—

Okay, I've done some research, and it also revealed another issue I noticed with the new router. Network devices obtaining network information via DHCP were getting the router's IP address for DNS, not my actual DNS server. It appears that Linksys decided to direct all DNS traffic to the router and have it query the DNS server. It may have something to do with their “cloud” offering (so you can configure your router remotely—do people really want this feature?) I don't know. But it's a weird way of handling DNS. And having queries come from port 53 may have been confusing the router.

When I try it now (the the previous DNS server configuration) I get:

[spc]lucy:~/source/spcdns/built>./dotest a
net_request() = Connection timed out

I think I can explain this difference between the two results. I switched out the router but the DNS server was still running. Over time, certain DNS records expired and thus, not all the required information could be returned. The DNS server was getting some weird packet (more on that below) and just returning what it could at the time. Restarting the DNS server flushes all existing records and because of some weirdness with the router and DNS, some queries are just … lost … somewhere … over the rainbow.

I don't know, I don't have the source code to the router to troubleshoot—

Sorry about that. Bunny came in and said she couldn't get Netflix on the “smart” television. What the hell?

One hour and much cursing and angry shouts later, it's working. How? I dunno. All I want it a dumb wireless pipe to the Intarwebs. I don't need this “user friendly” crap router to intervene on my behalf. Is that so wrong?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

El Capitan is the captain around here, not me, part deux

I thought it’d be a “fun” project to see what the “El Capitan License” actually says. Cool idea, huh? Kind of like spelunking through a cave that everyone says they’ve been through, but maybe no one really has. What will I find wedged in a wall or lurking in the dark around the next turn?

  1. I can’t use the Capitan with illegal copies of anyone’s stuff.
  2. Apple didn’t sell me this software. They still own it, in fact. I’m just borrowing it.
  3. If I install more Apple software, those are on loan as well.

Via Hacker News, OS X El Capitan License: in Plain English | The Robb Report

Hmm … I guess I was more right than I thought

… and then the router cable broke

I swear … is this ever going to end?

Um … end well?

Monday, October 19, 2015

A keyboard that might be tolerable to use

The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard (link via Lobsters) has a unique design, looking like a slightly-undersized normal keyboard but one that can split in half to allow for ergonomic positioning. It also split the spacebar in half, with the right side being the spacebar, and the leftside being another modifier key (personally, I would map the modifer key to backspace—it makes sense to me). I'm also glad to see them use a real mechanical switch with various models having differing “stiffness” factors (I really like the clicky keyboards). I do like the ability to mimic the mouse from the keyboard though.

The price, however, is a bit on the high side. But then again, I haven't spent more than $20 for a keyboard (even used, the IBM Model M are solid enough to bludegon lusers with and yet, have a wonderful feel, if they are bit “clicky”).

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Notes on a conversation held at 4:00 am

“Um … Bunny? I think there's a creature in the room.”


“You didn't hear it?”

“Hear what?”

“A … an … unearthly chirping…esque … sound, like a wounded dodo bird.”

“Dodo's are extinct—how do you know what they sound like?”

“How do you know what they don't sound like?”


“Listen … ”

[One snooze period passes]

“I haven't heard anything.”

“Give it some time.”

[Another snooze period passes]


“Did you hear that?

“I … think … so … ”



“Oh, that! It's just the bougainvillea scraping against the window.”



“Yes. Definitely the bougainvillea.”

“Well, if that's all it is then … zzzzzzzzz­zzzzzzzzzzzzz­zzzzzzzzzzz”

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Funny, it doesn't feel like the future

The reason [Marty] sets the DeLorean to Oct. 21, 2015? It’s the day 30 years in the future when the Cubs are predicted to win the World Series. Bob Gale, who scripted the 1985 original with Robert Zemeckis, said that he tried to figure out when the final game of the Series would have played: “I did my homework as a baseball fan.”

Marty McFly Returns! :

But the Cubs are down three games and we still don't have hover boards.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Darth Vader is still the good guy

Wait a moment. Do you even know the difference between the light side and dark side of the Force?

It must be understood that the Force is, above all, singular. The so- called "sides" arise from differing matters of perspective. (If you study the way of the Sith you will find that many of the truths we cling to depend entirely on one's point of view.)

The opposite of the singular Force is the all-encompassing void of death. Time began with the Force, and will end in desolation. This is the way of things, and an inevitable consequence of the flow of events from the past into the future.

Without the inertia of the fall toward the abyss, the Force would have nowhere to go.

For in the chaotic tumble toward doom the stuff of the worlds enact loops of complexity that change the grade from life to death, introducing valleys, peaks and cycles. Between creation and destruction comes a flutter of improbability, a brief sonnet of meaning against the noise of time. Life!

It is the causal contagion that ties every ounce of us together through the network of the Force, our actions resonating against our almost-actions and our non-actions in a web of fleeting possibility that spans this galaxy and beyond. The beat of a child's heart detonates supernovae, the beat of a bug's wing tilts the orbit of worlds.

We are all connected.

Anyone who awakens to the Force knows this. The divisive issue is what to do with this knowledge.

When you can run the mechanism of the universe forward or backward, scrubbing through possible histories with a thought, a theme develops. You cannot escape it. Death, death, death. It is the final destiny of all things, great or small, matter or idea. But there is astounding beauty in the arts of the not-death, the filigree dances of life's loops as it spins from light to void. If you are human, it moves you.

It should move you. But this is what the Jedi Order denies. They preach that the heart of a beast cannot judge the destiny of a galaxy. They preach dispassion and detachment, a condescending compassion for the damned. They stand by the sidelines and watch history happen, intervening only in trivia that offends their effete sensibilities.

Every Jedi knew the cycles of civilization, and every Jedi knew an age of barbarism was nigh. And yet they did nothing.

Via Decline and Fall of the Empire | The Weekly Standard (which in turn I got to via Instapundit), The Darth Side: The Tao Of Sith

If you really think about how George Lucas wrote the story, it becomes apparent that “the Good Guys” (that is, the Jedi Knights) not all that nice while “the Bad Guys” (the Empire) are apparently the only force keeping the galaxy from falling into barbarism.

Friday, October 23, 2015

I, for one, will welcome our new AI overlords

Earlier this year, I was driving in a northern Michigan snowstorm headed to Detroit airport. I was worried that, given the storm, my flight might be delayed. Thusly, I grabbed my phone and without knowing if it would work I said to it:

"OK GOOGLE, what is the status of my flight today?"

Within seconds, Googlebot (or maybe it was Larry Page - not sure) responded:

"Flight XYZ from Detroit, Michigan to San Francisco, California is scheduled to leave on-time at 2:30pm".

Pretty cool huh? If you were like me, you're sort of thinking that was cool but big deal, it should do that. OF COURSE it should do that - I could have done that (had I not been driving). After a lot more thinking about it however, I'd like to point out that boy are we a snot-nosed, ungrateful species who take amazing things for granted.

A stunning array of technologies just came together to make that happen. So much so I'm convinced I could write a full length blog article just listing them. In the name of sticking to the topic (i.e. complete human destruction caused by the emergence of AI) let's take for granted the everyday sorcery of talking to thousands of computers around the world, I'll just focus on the “artificial intelligence” parts. (Where “intelligence” may have a fuzzy definition).

Simply: I spoke to my tiny hand-held computer in English. It heard me start with "Ok Google" to know I was addressing it. It then parsed the rest of my words and realized I had asked a question (it likely offloaded that work to a remote computer). It is also able to recognize the voice of millions of others speaking in accents and dialects. I could have likely phrased that question many ways and it still would have worked. It parsed my question and understood I was asking about a flight. It then scanned my Gmail to find my flight reservation I had made months before. From that it examined the outbound and return flight and realized the outbound had already happened.

It might have realized my current location was in Michigan near(ish) the Detroit airport further understanding I was asking about my return flight. It then hit some real-time flight database to know if the flight was still on time. It might have checked Detroit Airport in general for delays to decide if it should respond in a qualified manner. It then formulated a perfect English sentence, maybe with considerations of how I formulated my sentence, computer generated the audio in a human voice, and played it aloud for me.

Go ahead, be not impressed - I dare you. Clichés be damned. We truly live in amazing times.

So that's now. What's coming next? How about:

"OK Google, what's the probability my flight will crash today?"

Via Lobsters, Paul Tyma: How Artificial Intelligence Will Really Kill Us All

The good news? That Paul Tyma doesn't think we'll face the Terminator Scenario.

The bad news? It's much, much worse.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Given the problems I had earlier this month, I found this poem (via Violet Impudence) quite appropriate:

I met a programmer the other day
Who said “A vast and blocky plastic box
Stands in my workspace; in it, so they say
Half-dead, a chip from Intel lies, which clocks
566 M-hertz; the CD drive
And fifteen gigs, and bundled AOL
Must have seemed neat when Reagan was alive
But now the stickers on its lifeless shell
Seem only fit sad memories to revive
And on the light beige case are words that say:
The monitor is dark; near its defeat
My new and shiny MacBook whirs away

There's even a photo of the non-obsolete computer in question.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Notes on an overheard conversation while watching an interview with Bill Clinton

“Have you seen Bill Clinton recently?”

“Yeah, he's very thin and looks old.”

“He's not that old though.”

“I guess being married to Hillary will do that to you.”

“I guess so.”

Oh, it's the expression problem

Years ago I blogged about an observation I had about the main difference between procedural programming and object oriented programming, mainly, that procedural programming emphasizes actions (or “verbs”) while object oriented programming emphasizes data (or “nouns”) but there currently exists no programming language that allows one to expand both easily. It's not a unique observation, but it wasn't until today that I learned it actually has a name—the expression problem.

And there's still no programming language that allows one to expand both easily at the same time.

Monday, October 26, 2015

As painful as it sounds, the DOJ's argument to Apple is compelling

The Department of Justice is trying to get Apple to unlock a defendant's iPhone. While Apple has stated that it can technically bypass the phone's passcode security, it has so far refused to do so for various reasons. So the DOJ has come up with a new strategy, force Apple to comply because it licenses the software on the phone. Because of that, the DOJ contends that the iPhone maker actually has a relationship with the phone that's currently evidence in a case. In a reply to Apple's response to the court order to unlock the phone, the government states, "Apple cannot reap the legal benefits of licensing its software in this manner and then later disclaim any ownership or obligation to assist law enforcement when that same software plays a critical role in thwarting execution of a search warrant." In other words, it's your software Apple, not the defendant's, unlock it.

The government's strategy is a reaction to Apple's refusal to comply with a court order to unlock an iPhone 5s. In its response to the order Apple lawyers stated, "forcing Apple to extract data in this case, absent clear legal authority to do so, could threaten the trust between Apple and its customers and substantially tarnish the Apple brand." It also noted that unlocking the phone would eat up resources and might not even yield any information. Plus, just for good measure, it would be impossible to circumvent the passcode of any iPhone running iOS 8 and later. The phone in question is running iOS 7.

As expected, the government isn't too happy about not having access to the phones of defendants. Apple CEO Tim Cook has been on a privacy crusade recently. He recently said that people have a, "fundamental right to privacy." Cook has also insisted that the government does not have a backdoor into Apple's servers.

Via Reddit, DOJ: Apple owns your iPhone's software, so it should have a backdoor

Ooh! Pass the popcorn! This is going to be fun to watch!

Apple says I'm just borrowing their software, and now the DOJ is saying, “fine, it's your software, you let us see this data generated by your software! Fork it over! It's not while-collar resort prison you'll be seeing … ” And now Apple is in a bind, between “selling” its code (and thus, making it fall under the first sale doctrine—something most software companies try to avoid to make as much money as they can) or continue to “license” it and thus, be forced by our beloved government to hand over private information (thus making them hypocrites to their customers and potentially losing money).

The road to the Sith is paved with good intentions

I’ve had this argument with friends so many times; some think as I do, others remain convinced that Luke ended the original trilogy as a Good Guy.

I say he, in fact, had turned to the dark side and we watched it happen in blissful ignorance, choosing to believe that he would always be The Good Guy. Lucas wanted it this way so he could sell more toys. But there’s way more to this story.

Seeing these previews I think my theory might be correct: Luke gave in to the dark side to save his friends and defeat Vader and the emperor. We don’t know what will happen after that, and hopefully we’ll find out in December and we’ll see if I’m right.

Here are my arguments, in no particular order…

Via Jason Kottke, Luke Skywalker, Sith Lord — Medium

Read the article, and then think back to Luke's actions in “Return of the Jedi.” Given the original storyline outlined in the article, it's quite believable that Mark Hamill played Luke as a Jedi falling to the Dark Side. Did Darth Vader take pity on his son and kill the Emperor? Did Luke subtly influence his father to kill the Emperor? Did Luke outright manipulate Vader to kill the Emperor?

I'm trying hard not to have high hopes on “The Force Awakens” because Lord knows how disappointing “The Phantom Menace” was, but George isn't heading this movie, and the last time that happened we got the best Star Wars movie made.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Is HR expecting us to rappel down the side of the building in case of an emergency?

I arrived at the Ft. Lauderdale Office Of The Corporation and on my desk, I find a paracord survival bracelet. Odd … but I do seem to recall something about this in email a few days ago and sure enough:

The Ft. Lauderdale Office Manager <XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX>
The Ft. Lauderdale Office of The Corporation <XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX>
Safety Committee Update - New Paracord Survival Bracelets
Friday, October 23, 2015 11:11 AM

New Addition To Our Safety Kits
Paracord Survival Bracelets

[The new fashion accessory for your pet rock!]

Emergency Preparedness Taken to the Next Level

The Safety Committee's gift to YOU for staying up-to-date with procedures and attending drills!

Ways Paracord Bracelets Can Work

  1. Makeshift Shelters
  2. Fishing Line
  3. Tourniquet

Visit website for more ways you can use Paracords

Paracord Info

Really? What safety kits? Did I mess that memo?

Anyway, I have this paracord survival bracelet on my desk.

[I got the Apple Mac Accessory Color Paracord Survival Bracelet]

It barely fits around my wrist, and that connector, while very sleek, is hard to actually use. The pin screws in, and getting everything lined up while attempting to wrap this thing around your wrist is not easy. And the little hairs on my arm kept getting bound around the pin as I was screwing it in. Ouch. So no, I'm not wearing the darned thing.

I could see getting this five months ago, you know, at the start of hurricane season. But whatever. I have this paracord survival bracelet on my desk. And while it's great that I can use it to start fires or trip the machete wielding serial killer, I don't do the camping thing. My idea of roughing it is a hotel with no wi-fi (free or otherwise). I suppose I could use it to rig something up on Hallowe'en so when the kids come up to the door and yell “Trick or treat!” I can yell back “Trick!” and trip them or something but really, that's too much trouble.

And now that I've unravelled the 10′ of paracord, I'm not sure if I can form the bracelet (link via fellow cow-orker B) as tight as it was. I suppose I could learn to tie a few knots.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Safety Dance

Oh, that safety kit!

[In case of an emergency, this is here to make you feel like you are prepared.]

Fellow cow-orker T came into my office, carrying the safety kit we all got. I have no recollection of ever receiving one, but sure enough, in the bottom drawer, underneath some unused boxes of office equipment and outdated HR memos, was the titular safety kit.

[It's nice to be reminded that the safety kit, which comes in a sturdy white cardboard box, does indeed, contain a sturdy white cardboard box.]

Which includes six packets of water, good until 2019 (we checked).

How about that?


As I was pulling up to the exit for Chez Boca, I noticed a very bright light ahead of me, very much like a flood light they use to light baseball fields. Then it dimmed.

A few moments later, a bright flash of light, closer this time. And because I was closer, I could tell it wasn't a flood light, but a tremendous explosion of electricity from one of the utility poles along side I-95. That can't be good, I thought to myself.

A few moments later, another bright explosion of electricity from the utility pole, sparks showering down nearly ontop of rush hour traffic. I hope this isn't affecting Chez Boca, I thought.

Of course, it was …

Thursday, October 29, 2015

When typewriters cost as much as a computer

Mark Twain'snew fangled writing machine” cost him $125 back in 1874, which in today's dollars is around $2,500. That was about how much the original Apple Macintosh cost. Even today, $2,500 will get you a fairly tricked out Apple computer. I find it kind of odd how that works.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Today, he would probably be arrested and we'd never hear from him again

The story of the mass panic caused by Welles’s War of the Worlds remains popular, but recent research has suggested that the extent of the commotion is far more limited than the myth allows. Newspapers at the time greatly exaggerated listeners’ panic - most of the show’s audience understood the play was fictitious - as a way to discredit radio, which was emerging as a serious competition to newspapers.

Via Impudence, This Day In History | October 30th 1938: ‘War of the Worlds’ broadcast…

Ah, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Anyway, I remember my Great Aunt Freddie (she was my mom's father's sister, and yes, Freddie really was her name) telling stories about this radio broadcast. As a kid, she was attending an evening church service that Sunday when a frantic guy burst in claiming that Martians had landed in New Jersey. Sadly, I don't recall more of the story other than that. I would have liked to have known the pastor's reaction to that.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

“Twice-times-a-thousand glares and winks and blinks and leerings of fresh-cut eyes.”

There must have been a thousand pumpkins on this tree, hung high and on every branch. A thousand smiles. A thousand grimaces. And twice-times-a-thousand glares and winks and blinks and leerings of fresh-cut eyes.

And as the boys watched, a new thing happened.

The pumpkins began to come alive.

One by one, starting at the bottom of the Tree and the nearest pumpkins, candles took fire within the raw interiors. This one and then that and this and then still another, and on up and around, three pumpkins here, seven pumpkins still higher, a dozen clustered beyond, a hundred, five hundred, a thousand pumpkins lit their candles, which is to say brightened up their faces, showed fire in their square or round or curiously slanted eyes. Flame guttered in their toothed mouths. Sparks leaped out their ripe-cut ears.


Sly does it. Tiptoe catspaws. Slide and creep.

But why? What for? How? Who? When! Where did it all begin?

“You don't know, do you?” asks Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud climbing out of the pile of leaves under the Halloween Tree. “You don't really know!”

“Well,” answers Tom the Skeleton, “er—no.”

Was it—

In Egypt four thousand years ago, on the anniversary of the big death of the sun?

Or a million years before that, by the night fires of the cavemen?

Or in Druid Britain at the Ssssswooommmm of Samhain's scythe?

Or among the witches, all across Europe—multitudes of hags, crones, magicians, demons, devils?

Or high above Paris, where strange creatures froze to stone and lit the gargoyles of Notre Dame?

Or in Mexico, in cemeteries full of candlelight and tiny candy people on El Dia de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead?

Or where?

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

The Halloween Tree, my favorite Ray Bradbury book. I remember stumbling across it at my grandparents house one summer and absolutely loving it. I managed to pick up not one, but two copies of the book since then. The imagery of the book closely describes the feeling I used to get as a young kid living in Transylvania County (you know, the birthplace of Count Dracula and all cool Hallowe'enish things).

But the crisp air? The crunch of dry leaves under your feet? The feeling that summer is gone, winter is coming? Of Christmas carols dominating the radio for the next two months? Not so much here in South Florida. Bunny is sitting outside in her shorts, waiting for the little hellions some kids to show up, yell the obligatory “Trick or treat!” before loading their outstretched bags with sugar bombs. I'm sitting inside, where the A/C is keeping the place cool.

Obligatory Picture

[The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades]

Obligatory Contact Info

Obligatory Feeds

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

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