Warren Myers : 7 things employees wish they could tell their boss about salaries

August 17, 2014 04:43 PM

LinkedIn had an interesting article Friday whose title I snagged for this blog post.

The 7 items are:

  1. We don’t care about pay scales
  2. Forget policies. We talk.
  3. We think about our pay a lot.
  4. We will sometimes let you take advantage.
  5. When we have to negotiate … we both lose.
  6. No matter how much we earn, it’s not enough.
  7. Still, reasonable pay is ok.

Several of the points resonated with me – especially in light of things I have written previously.

“If the company can’t afford to pay an employee more, smart bosses say so. If they think a certain percentage raise is fair, they explain why. Smart bosses use pay scales to build their budgets, and use reason and logic - and empathy - to explain pay decisions to employees.”

Can’t agree more: if you don’t treat your employees like rational, smart human beings, but rather like mere resources – you create and/or perpetuate a culture of dehumanization.

“Many companies actively discourage staff from talking to each other about their salaries. I know a few companies that require employees to sign agreements stipulating they won’t disclose pay, benefits, etc to other employees.

Doesn’t matter. Employees talk. I did, both when I was “labor” and when I was “management.” Generally speaking, the only employees who don’t share details about their pay are the ones who are embarrassed by how much or how little they make.”

Yes, yes, a million times yes! In my blog post “publicizing compensation – why not?“, I point-out that forcing people to not talk about their compensation makes folks more likely to try to find out, and can lead to discontent.

“Employees think about pay all the time. Every time they deposit their paychecks they think about their pay. To a boss their pay is a line item; to employees, pay is the most important number in their family’s budget.”

Funny thing is: managers get paid, too – but rarely think about that when it comes to their employees.

“Occasionally the job market is a seller’s market, but many new employees are just really happy to land a new job. And since business owners are born cost cutters, it’s natural to hire every new employee for as low a wage as possible.”

This is related to the next point …

“Great employees are worth a lot more than their pay. You get what you pay for, so smart bosses pay whatever they can to get and keep the best employees they can.

When smart bosses find great employees they always make their best offer, knowing that if their best offer is too low, there is nothing they could have done.”

If you want to be the best possible employer ever, you need to start with your best offer to candidates. If you start with anything less than your best, you’re implying that you don’t really value their time, expertise, or potential contributions to your organization. It has been said that “everything is negotiable” – but if you don’t start with your best offer, you’re telling your current/future employee they have to make you want them more. It may turn out that your “best offer” is $120,000 per year with 3 weeks of vacation. And maybe that employee really wants 4 weeks of vacation – and is willing to accept a somewhat lower salary for that perk. Start with your best, and then massage it into what is best for both of you.

“We all want more. It’s natural. Unfortunately no boss can always give more. And that’s okay.”

Wanting more is not inherently wrong (though wanting more for merely the sake of more is probably unhealthy) – and that’s why the last point in this article is so smart:

“People are smart. They understand market conditions, financial constraints, revenue shortfalls, and increased competition. They understand when a company can’t pay top-of-market salaries. What they don’t understand is when they don’t feel fairly compensated compared to other employees in similar positions, both inside and outside the company.”

“Fair is a concept that only exists in economic theories not based on effort.”* When you look at services like Glassdoor, you can quickly see that salary is only a single facet of employee compensation (and important one, and [generally] a large one, but only one). And it’s easy to get caught-up in the mindset of keeping up with the Joneses. While it is nice to have “more”, it’s important that honesty and transparency flow from management to employees as well as the other way around.


* publicizing compensation – why not?

Tarus Balog : Time Warner, Really?

August 15, 2014 04:42 PM

Once again I find myself jumping back into the fray and helping a friend get Internet/phone/TV from Time Warner. Here is the offer:

So, $89.99 per month for the first year. Not bad, right? Unfortunately, it comes to nearly $150 with equipment and taxes, but what can you do.

What bothers me is this bit at the bottom:

Do you want to guess what the reverse of the letter looks like?

In the interest in transparency, would it have been too much trouble to use a larger font? I know there is probably some kind of design constraint that includes phrases like “negative space” that made you put the terms in teeny, tiny letters at the bottom of a mainly blank page, but it makes you look like you are hiding something.

Tarus Balog : Review: Question Bedtime by MC Frontalot

August 15, 2014 03:04 PM

The best perk of my job is that I get to meet some truly amazing people. From the people I work with, to others in the open source world, to people like Damian Hess, my life has definitely been enriched by the people in it.

I was able to sponsor Damian, aka MC Frontalot, to perform at the Southeast Linuxfest (SELF) last year in Charlotte, and it was a great weekend. One evening ended up with a group of us in a hotel room, and Damian played some of the raw tracks from what would become his sixth studio album, Question Bedtime.

When he told me that he was doing an album based on bedtime stories, I was like “Wha?”. It didn’t seem to fit in with his “nerd” focus, but now that the album is out I can see why it works. First, while classics like “Goldilocks” and “Little Red Riding Hood are represented, most of the songs reference more obscure tales. Fairy tales are, by definition, fantastical, in much the same way as comic books or other geek friendly literature, so it isn’t as much of a stretch as I originally thought.

One of the tracks I heard that night at SELF was called “Devil in the Attic”. It is based on an obscure Japanese fairy tale called “The Ugly Son“. Such was their vanity, the parents of a very beautiful girl send out notice that she should only be wed to the fairest youth in all the land. Some grifters with a deformed (but intelligent) son think up a plan to wed him to her. They claim he is the fairest in the land and a courtship ensues, but based on tradition they do not see each other at first. On the night of the wedding, the boy’s father goes up into the attic of this grand house and starts claiming to be a demon who will visit a curse on the boy for daring to wed the girl, which the demon claims for himself. The curse turns out to be to deform the features of the boy – thus explaining his looks once they are revealed.

Front puts his own spin on the tale, turning it into a story of the oppression when women were considered property, as well as a lesson on conceit. In the chorus the father of the girl brags “Anything you could have, we have it. Even got a devil in the attic.”

Well, more than a year later, the CD Question Bedtime is now available for pre-order and immediate download. I’ve been listening to it for several weeks now and just got the final copy when it released this week.

The “his own spin” theme flows throughout the album. In “Gold Locks” the classic “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” story is retold from the bear’s point of view, portraying Goldilocks as the boogie man, creeping into your house to chop you up and eat you. The opening track “Start Over” is the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” as told by Front to a group of children who, in the chorus, exclaim “That ain’t how it happened”.

Just like in Solved, the album is laid out with tracks separated by little interstitial skits, this time with the theme that Front is a babysitter talking to his charges. Only they are all adults. In the opening one Front is trying to get “Li’l Kyle” (comedian Kyle Kinane) to go to sleep, and Kyle questions the arbitrary nature of a “bed time” – hence the name. It’s funny just to hear the arguments presented by the “children” in the skits – I wish I could have thought up some of those when I was younger.

I like every track on the album, but as can be expected I like some more than others. Almost all of them have a hook that will give you more earworms than the victims in The Strain. This morning I was walking around getting ready for work with “Gold Locks, gets in through your open door” on repeat in my brain.

My favorite track is “Two Dreamers” which is based on a tale from 1001 Arabian Nights. What has always attracted me to Front’s work has been the quality of the music. Too much of nerdcore rap tends to focus on the lyrics. While the lyrics are important, and Front excels at them, it is the music that takes it past novelty act and into valid art. In “Two Dreamers” there is even a bit of auto-tune, which I usually shun, but in this case it works. Quite frequently while listening to the album I switch over to Banshee and put that track on repeat.

Of course the track that is bound to be talked about the most is Wakjąkága. It is based on a tale from the native American Ho-chunk (Winnebago) tribe. Let’s just say that when I was learning how classical mythology explains things like why the sun rises and sets and why we have winter and summer, my instructors skipped over this little origin story.

If you are an MC Frontalot fan, you’ll like this album, and if you haven’t been exposed to him before, this album is his most accessible CD for non-geeks. It showcases his progression as a musician, and while my favorite tracks from Solved (“Critical Hit”, “Stoop Sale”, “Victorian Space Prostitute”) resonate with me more than the tracks on this album, they are offset by a couple of tracks I either don’t care for or actively dislike, such as “Invasion of the Not Quite Dead”. Overall, I like the album Question Bedtime the most, and tend to listen to it straight through.

As a bonus if you are an audio nerd, the download includes an 88.2kHz FLAC version which is as close as you can get to the music exactly as he mixed it. Be sure to read the README that comes with it though – if your audio card doesn’t support it he also ships a mastered 44.1kHz FLAC version that will sound better than if your media player is forced to downsample the 88.2kHz one.

Warren Myers : avoid stepping into a great man’s shoes – law 41 – #48laws by robert greene

August 13, 2014 12:18 PM

Law 41

What happens first always appears better and more original than what comes after. If you succeed a great man or have a famous parent, you will have to accomplish double their achievements to outshine them. Do not get lost in their shadow, or stuck in a past not of your own making: Establish your own name and identity by changing course. Slay the overbearing father, disparage his legacy, and gain power by shining in your own way. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)

Scott Schulz : Tweet: 2.36 inches of rain at NC-JH-23 yesterday evening….

August 13, 2014 11:02 AM

2.36 inches of rain at NC-JH-23 yesterday evening. And we were in the lighter area. #NCwx

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Blog: Insane Model Railroading http://t.co/sQM7JjV…

August 09, 2014 01:12 PM

Blog: Insane Model Railroading ift.tt/X8AmfO

Mark Turner : Neighborhood kudos

August 07, 2014 11:47 AM

Got this from a neighbor yesterday, thanking me for keeping my neighborhood informed about a rare but troubling string of recent larcenies from cars:

I surely do appreciate all the informative messages lately about the cars getting broken in to. It has made me check mine every night to be sure it’s locked and I keep my porch light turned on now too. Also, I called several neighbors who do not use email and let them know what has been going on. Many many thanks to you.

This makes it all worthwhile.

Mark Turner : Coyote snatches cat from porch

August 07, 2014 12:24 AM

I heard last week of a startling incident that a neighborhood friend witnessed in nearby Belvidere Park. Apparently a coyote helped itself to his next door neighbor’s cat. His wife relays the story:

“He pulled up in the driveway late in the evening after going back to work to check a few things after the kids were in bed.

He said he saw something moving through the bushes on the front porch of our neighbor’s house. Looking at our house from the street, the house to the left of ours.

After he got out of the car, he saw it scamper off the porch. Once it was in the street, he could see it better under the street light. There was definitely something furry and cat-size in its mouth.

We have TONS, and I mean TONS of cats around our side of the street. I’d say anywhere from 10-12 on the regular. A few I know are pets. Others, I haven’t a clue.”

We’ve had occasional reports of coyote-like critters in my neighborhood, some as far back as 2010. This is the first time I’ve heard of one in my area running off with a cat, though. Keep your pets safe and indoors!

Tarus Balog : OSCON 2014: Is Open Source Dead?

August 06, 2014 05:14 PM

After visiting OSCON this year, I have to ask myself: is open source dead?

I don’t mean open source software. Software published under licenses approved by the OSI is booming. What I mean is the ideal of open source software, that people would get together to build collaborative applications that would be given away for free.

I’ve never been a fan of software in an of itself. I’ve always looked toward software for what it can allow me to do. I don’t care about spreadsheets unless they help me manage my company. I don’t care about word processors beyond their ability to allow me to express my thoughts. Even games can be judged on how well they allow me to escape into them. So I don’t see “software” as a product – it’s the thing that helps me make the product.

It seems that open source applications have all but disappeared. What’s doing very well are open source libraries and languages that allow people to build proprietary products. Take a look at the biggest sponsors of OSCON. There’s Bluehost, a hosting provider “built on open source technologies”. There’s Paypal, “using open source foundations in their technology stacks”. The list continues: Citrix, Google, HP, Github, Microsoft and Rackspace. Of all of those, only Github strikes me as an open source company. The others are using open source technologies but to build closed products. The “open” has come to mean “open protocols” more than “open source”.

Is this a bad thing? I really don’t know.

If you look at the sponsor page, you’ll see “We’re Hiring” banners next to the names of many of the companies. Being fluent in open source technologies is a good way to get a job, and seems to be the primary reason many of the companies were there in the first place.

The only large truly open source company I know of, Red Hat, was there, but in a little bitty booth. There are still a lot of “open core” companies represented: those companies that provide a feature limited version of their products under an open source license but charge for the full featured one. While I think this is a bad thing, they seem to be doing well.

Is it because no one cares anymore? This saddens me.

There seems to be a lack of concern about the lock-in that comes with proprietary software, even more so than in years past. There is a huge gold rush to provide software as a service (SaaS) offerings, but no one is caring about security or portability. A lot of the business models of these SaaS companies directly involves analytics of their users. Was anyone in the tech world really surprised when it was revealed that Facebook was experimenting on its user base? Yet people seem to be in a rush to turn over their most important information to third parties. Even at OSCON, the premier open source conference, most of the people wandered around with Macbooks and iPhones.

So, open source is really succeeding in core technologies such as libraries and languages but fails at the end user application level. I think part of it is the lack of a good business model. People are more than willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money for software licenses but are loathe to pay for an open source support contract. I also think that it fails when it comes to usability. Without the business model, there just aren’t the resources available to make a lot of the software accessible to the casual technical user and much less to the Muggles. Heck, even Apple, which did such a good job with Time Machine, has pretty much moved backup from the user space to iCloud.

This doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on open source. I still use a Linux Mint desktop and an Android phone running OmniROM. Almost all of the software I use is open source, but even I have to admit that in many cases the stuff I use isn’t ready for the basic user. But I may have to rethink my relationship to the term “open source”.

This post may sound like I’m really down, but I’m not. I’m actually kind of upbeat overall. And I really enjoyed the short amount of time I spent at OSCON. While not as open source-y as I might like, this is one of the few times a year I can be assured of running into a lot of cool people I’ve met over the years. When I arrived at the exhibit hall, I made a beeline for the unfashionable booths in the back and toward the left known as the “Nonprofit Pavilion” or as I like to call it, the “Geek Ghetto”. It’s pretty cool that some commercial shows like this offer free booths, but one must realize that they don’t include things like carpet padding, power or Internet access. I know a couple of projects that got booths next to each other so they could share.

The first booth I stopped at was the Software Freedom Conservancy booth where I got to see Bradley Kuhn and Karen Sandler for the first time in over a year, and I got to meet Marc Delisle, the maintainer of phpMyAdmin. They seem to be doing well and the list of Conservancy projects keeps growing. While I was there, open source guru Stormy Peters stopped by, as well as Deb Nicholson from the Open Invention Network.

I also was happy to see the LibreOffice booth. That is one project that really does try to do a fully open source application and they seem to be succeeding (I use it every day). Back when I was a Mac user I started using Keynote and Pages until I realized that the stuff I was creating was going to be tied to Apple forever. To my knowledge none of the Microsoft Office or iWork stuff support an open format, but maybe that will change now that the UK government has formally adopted ODF as their standard.

While interest in open source applications is waning, it is fun to see the open source spirit is still alive in projects other than software. I met Kevin from Free Geek, a non-profit that started in Portland but has grown to over ten other cities. Free Geek recycles technology and provides training for a variety of disciplines including computer hardware, software and even lock picking (who knows when you’ll get locked out of the server closet).

Something I don’t believe they had at OSCON last time was an “open hardware” section. I got to play with a beagleboard which is used by Prof. Thomas Bewley in his robotics classes as UCSD. I’m kind of jealous at all the new toys college students get to play with these days, for credit even.

One project is to create a balancing, two-wheeled robot. The one I played with was managed with a radio controller, and it was quite robust, even when I purposely drove it into other things (people, other robots).

On the opposite corner of the hall from the Geek Ghetto were the booths of some of the smaller open source projects with more commercial backing. The Red Hat booth was over there, and it was nice to run into Greg DeKoenigsberg at the Anisible booth. I met Greg when he was at Red Hat and it was also nice to see a local face (he’s nearby in Durham). Anisible seems to be a pretty cool project and I loved the tweet from an emphatic user who said “If a vegan, Crossfit, Anisible enthusiast meets you, what do they talk about first?”.

Speaking of meeting people, I got to chat with Erica Brescia over at the Bitnami booth, and later on ran into Jono Bacon and Stephen Walli. We ended up at Baileys along with Chris Aniszczyk from Twitter and some others, but as they say, what happens in Portland stays in Portland, so no pictures.

Plus, you really, really don’t want to know about that evening’s particular discussion. Ah, good times.

Joseph Tate : Moving a Paravirtualized EC2 legacy instance to a modern HVM one

August 05, 2014 02:10 PM

I had to try a few things before I could get this right, so I thought I'd write about it. These steps are what ultimately worked for me. I had tried several other things to no success, which I'll list at the end of the post.

If you have Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances on the "previous generation" paravirtualization based instance types, and want to convert them to the new/cheaper/faster "current generation", HVM instance types with SSD storage, this is what you have to do:

You'll need a donor Elastic Block Store (EBS) volume so you can copy data from it. Either shutdown the old instance and detach the EBS, or, as I did, snapshot the old system, and then create a new volume from the snapshot so that you can mess up without worrying about losing data. (I was also moving my instances to a cheaper data center, which I could only do by moving snapshots around). If you choose to create a new volume, make a note of which Availability Zone (AZ) you create it in.

Create a new EC2 instance of the desired instance type, configured with a new EBS volume set up the way you want it. Use a base image that's as similar to what you currently have as possible. Make sure you're using the same base OS version, CPU type, and that your instance is in the same AZ as your donor EBS volume. I mounted the ephemeral storage too as a way to quickly rollback if I messed up without having to recreate the instance from scratch.

Attach your donor EBS volume to your new instance as sdf/xvdf, and then mount them to a new directory I'll call /donor

mkdir /donor && mount /dev/xvdf /donor


Suggested: Mount your ephemeral storage on /mnt
mount /dev/xvdb /mnt
and rsync / to /mnt
rsync -aPx / /mnt/
If something goes wrong in the next few steps, you can reverse it by running
rsync -aPx --delete /mnt/ /
to revert to known working state. The rsync options tell rsync to copy (a)ll files, links, and directories, and all ownership/permissions/mtime/ctime/atime values; to show (P)rogress; and to not e(x)tend beyond a single file system (this leaves /proc /sys and your scratch and donor volumes alone).

Copy your /donor volume data to / by running
rsync -aPx /donor/ / --exclude /boot --exclude /etc/grub.d ...
. You can include other excludes (use paths to where they would be copied on the final volume, not the path in the donor system. The excluded paths above are for an Ubuntu system. You should replace /etc/grub.d with the path or paths where your distro keeps its bootloader configuration files. I found that copying /boot was insufficient because the files in /boot are merely linked to /etc/grub.d.

Now you should be able to reboot your instance your new upgraded system. Do so, detach the donor EBS volume, and if you used the ephemeral storage as a scratch copy, reset it as you prefer. Switch your Elastic IP, or change your DNS configuration, test your applications, and then clean up your old instance artifacts. Congratulations, you're done.

Notes:
Be careful of slashes. The rsync command treats /donor/ differently from /donor.

What failed:
Converting the EBS snapshot to an AMI and setting the AMI virtualization type as HVM, then launching a new instance with this AMI actually failed to boot (I've had trouble with this with PV instances too with the Ubuntu base image unless I specified a specific kernel, so I'm not sure whether to blame HVM or the Ubuntu base images.
Connecting a copy of the PV ebs volume to a running HVM system and copying /boot to the donor, then replacing sda1 with the donor volume also failed to boot, though I think if I'd copied /etc/grub.d too it might have worked. This might not get you an SSD backed EBS volume though, if that's desirable.

Mark Turner : Mark Turner: Core continuity | Letters to the Editor | NewsObserver.com

August 05, 2014 10:26 AM

The N&O printed my letter to the editor today about Common Core. It was something I’d been meaning to write for months but only got around to finishing about the time the decision was made. Too bad.

IBM employees joke that IBM stands for “I’ve Been Moved.” Growing up in an IBM family, I experienced this firsthand.

When someone is educated in five states, continuity can become a real issue. Our state welcomes new residents and businesses every day. Military families come and go in what we like to call the “nation’s most military-friendly state.”

”Yet our state legislators are about to undo the one sure way our young new residents can hit the ground running with their education: the Common Core. Rejecting Common Core will hurt our new residents, both civilian and military.

Think about that the next time our state leaders crow about North Carolina being business- or military-friendly.

Mark Turner

By the way, the editor did a little tweaking to it, changing the format. Here’s the way I submitted it:

IBM employees joke that IBM stands for “I’ve Been Moved.” Growing up in an IBM family, I experienced this firsthand. When someone is educated in five states, continuity can become a real issue.

Our state welcomes new residents and businesses every day. Military families come and go in what we like to call the “nation’s most military-friendly state.” Yet our state legislators are about to undo the one sure way our young new residents can hit the ground running with their education: the Common Core.

Rejecting Common Core will hurt our new residents, both civilian and military. Think about that the next time our state leaders crow about North Carolina being business- or military-friendly.

(Yes, I was educated in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.)

via Mark Turner: Core continuity | Letters to the Editor | NewsObserver.com.

Warren Myers : bglug presentation – 04 aug 2014 – basics of initial centos/rhel 6.x server configuration

August 04, 2014 10:15 PM

Attached is the presentation for my talk on initial CentOS/RHEL 6.x server configuring.

bglug-2014-08-04-myers

Tarus Balog : Order of the Blue Polo – Southway Housing Trust

August 04, 2014 08:36 PM

I’m back a few posts, but since I always enjoy hearing from our users I thought I’d post this latest Order of the Blue Polo submission from Keith Spragg of the Southway Housing Trust in the UK.

I work for Southway Housing Trust – a Didsbury (Manchester, UK) based, Not-for-profit Housing Association, looking after approximately 5,900 properties throughout the South Manchester region.

Southway Housing Trust operates a small ICT team, split between business applications and just two people on Support and Infrastructure.

When I started at Southway, there were several paper based methods of looking after the assorted systems and the only way we knew something was wrong was when users piped up to report a problem. I went looking for a free solution to my problems, and came across OpenNMS. I was very impressed with what I saw, and because of the size of our network (approximately 120 nodes) was able to take one of our old servers and repurpose it for this application.

Installation was quick and simple – I didn’t have to learn much more than I already knew, and because the system is very extensible, I was able to add bespoke monitors very quickly.

As soon as I had got OpenNMS set up, I was rapidly able to ditch the paper based systems, and trust that not only was OpenNMS going to record the history of this information, but that if there was a problem, my team would know before the users did. I equate it to putting a whole extra member of staff in the ICT team, as it’s always got its eyes on the systems on my behalf.

The only money we’ve spent on this project is my time – but we’ve lost count of the amount of money we’ve saved because our systems are not going wrong as often because we’re pro-actively monitoring them.

I love using OpenNMS, and would recommend it for any sized business – even a small network can benefit from an extra pair of eyes.

Warren Myers : how cold is it?

August 04, 2014 06:58 PM

an oldy, but a goody


An annotated thermometer (degrees Fahrenheit)

+50
New York tenants turn on the heat
Minnesotans plant gardens

+40
Californians shiver uncontrollably
Minnesotans sunbathe

+35
Italian cars don’t start

+32
Distilled water freezes

+30
You can see your breath
You plan a vacation in Florida
Politicians begin to worry about the homeless
Minnesotans eat ice cream

+25
Boston water freezes
Californians weep pitiably
Cat insists on sleeping on your bed with you

+20
Cleveland water freezes
San Franciscans start thinking favorably of LA
Minnesota Vikings fans put on T-shirts—-YEAH!!!

+15
You plan a vacation in CANCUN!!!!!
Minnesotans go swimming

+10
Politicians begin to talk about the homeless
Too cold to snow
You need jumper cables to get the car going

0
New York landlords turn on the heat

-5
You can hear your breath
You plan a vacation in Hawaii

-10
American cars don’t start
Too cold to skate

-15
You can cut your breath and use it to build an igloo
Miamians cease to exist
Minnesotans lick flagpoles

-20
Cat insists on sleeping in your pajamas with you
Politicians actually do something about the homeless
People in Duluth think about taking down screens

-25
Too cold to kiss
You need jumper cables to get the driver going
Japanese cars don’t start
Minnesota Twins head for spring training

-30
You plan a two-week hot bath
Minnesotans shovel snow off roof

-38
Mercury freezes
Too cold to think
Minnesotans button top button

-40
Californians disappear
Car insists on sleeping in your bed with you
Minnesotans put on sweaters

-50
Congressional hot air freezes
Alaskans close the bathroom window
Two Harbors Minnesota Agates practice indoors

-60
Walruses abandon Aleutians
Minnesotans put gloves away, take out mittens
Boy Scouts in Two Harbors Minnesota start Klondike Derby

-70
Minneapolis residents replace diving boards with hockey nets
Ridgeway snowmobilers organize trans-river race to Buffalo,WI
Lackore Boys start to complain while working on snowmobiles

-80
Polar bears abandon Baffin Island
Girl Scouts in Two Harbors Minnesota start Klondike Derby

-90
Lawyers chase ambulances for no more than 10 miles
Wisconsinites migrate to Minnesota thinking it MUST be warmer

-100
Santa Claus abandons North Pole
Minnesotans pull down earflaps

-173
Ethyl alcohol freezes
The University of Minnesota (Twin Cities Campus) closes

-445
Superconductivity
Lackore Boys quit working on snowmobiles.

-452
Helium becomes a liquid

-454
Hell freezes over

-456
Illinois drivers drop below 85 MPH on I-90

-458
Incumbent politician renounces a campaign contribution

-460 (Absolute Zero)
All atomic motion ceases
The University of Minnesota-Duluth is closed
Minnesotans alert us as to how it’s getting a mite nippy


refound here

Mark Turner : US company signs $1.175 billion Iran energy deal

August 02, 2014 04:45 PM

This is almost certainly a sham. Much is unknown about this World Eco Energy company.

TEHRAN – A US company has signed a preliminary agreement to invest $1.175 billion 864 million euros in Iran, in a rare joint commercial project to turn rubbish and human waste into electricity.

California-based World Eco Energy said it plans to produce 250 megawatts daily by burning trash and by processing algae and salt and waste water into power.

Iran will match the US investment, the company said.

via US company signs $1.175 billion Iran energy deal.

Mark Turner : American aid worker stricken with Ebola arrives in U.S. for treatment | Reuters

August 02, 2014 04:43 PM

I jumped into a Facebook debate today about the wisdom of bringing Ebola victim Dr. Kent Brantly to Atlanta to be treated at Emory University. While I once gave into the hysteria surrounding infectious diseases, I know what I don’t know – in essence, that infectious disease is most certainly not by bailiwick.

I am now unconcerned about Dr. Brantly and the other American Ebola victim, Nancy Writebol, being brought to the United States by trained disease professionals. It’s really the unescorted average Joes that get infected and then board a flight that scare the daylights out of me.

An American aid worker infected with the deadly Ebola virus while in Liberia was flown from West Africa to the United States on Saturday and taken to an Atlanta hospital for treatment in a special isolation unit.

A chartered medical aircraft carrying Dr. Kent Brantly touched down at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia shortly before noon.Brantly was driven by ambulance, with police escort, to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta where he will be treated in a specially equipped room.

via American aid worker stricken with Ebola arrives in U.S. for treatment | Reuters.

Scott Schulz : Tweet: In @LastPass IOS why doesn’t the add new site have…

August 02, 2014 03:23 PM

In @LastPass IOS why doesn’t the add new site have a generate password option & why doesn’t the Save in Generate open the new site dialog?

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Blog: Toying with Tabitop http://t.co/rpMs1phvEe

August 02, 2014 02:10 PM

Blog: Toying with Tabitop ift.tt/1nenrxR

Eric Christensen : Answering questions regarding the Fedora Security Team

August 01, 2014 12:26 AM

Wow, I had no idea that people would care about the start of this project.  There seems to be a few questions out there that I’d like to address here to clarify what we are doing and why.

OMG!  Fedora is just getting a security team?  Does this mean Fedora has been insecure this entire time?!?

Umm, no, it doesn’t mean that Fedora has been insecure this entire time.  In all actuality Fedora is in pretty good shape overall.  There is always room for improvement and so we’re organizing a team to help facilitate that improvement.

What exactly is the security team responsible for?

We here to help packagers get the patches or new releases that fix vulnerabilities into the Fedora repositories faster.  Most of our packagers are very good at shipping fixes for bugs when upstream rolls a new version of their software.  Bug fixes can usually wait a few days, though, as most aren’t critical.  Security vulnerabilities are a bit different and fixes should be made available as soon as possible.  A little helping hand is never a bad thing and that’s what we’re here to do… help.

Can the security team audit package x?

No.  This may become a service a different team (also falling under the Security SIG) can provide but I/we haven’t gotten there yet.

I read where Fedora has 566 vulnerabilities!  How can you say that Fedora isn’t insecure?

Well, it’s actually 573 right this second.  That’s down from 577 last week.  566 was Monday’s number.  It’s important to not get caught up in the numbers cause they are, well, just numbers.  The numbers only deal specifically with the number of tickets open.  Many of the tickets are duplicates in that the same vulnerability might have several tickets opened for it if the finding is in only certain Fedora versions and EPEL versions.  Since the same packager is likely responsible for all versions and the same fix can be made we can likely close several bugs at a time with minimal work.

I should also point out that the majority of these bugs fall well below the “world is on fire” level of Critical and the “this isn’t good” level of Important.  This doesn’t mean we should just ignore these lower vulnerabilities but rather we should understand that they aren’t something that is likely to be exploited without many other bad things happening.  Should they be fixed?  Yes, but we should probably be more concerned with the Critical and Important vulnerabilities first.  If you’d like to know more about the process for coming up with the severity rating my friend Vincent wrote an excellent article that you should read.

“6. Close bug when vulnerability is shipped in Fedora repos.”

Yeah, that isn’t correct.  This is what happens when I try to multi-task.  Glad I don’t get paid to write….  err… never mind.  Luckily it’s a wiki and someone fixed it for me.  Whew!

(We try to not deliberately release a package with a vulnerability.  It seems people don’t appreciate vulnerabilities in the same way they like other features.  Who would have thought?)

I’d like to help!  How can I join up?

Go to the Security Team wiki page and look for the link to the mailing list and IRC channels, sign up, join up, and use the work flow to start digging in.  Questions?  Feel free to ask in the IRC channel or on the mailing list.  You can also contact me directly if can’t otherwise find the answer to your question.


Mark Turner : Mystery tower a micro-cell tower

July 31, 2014 02:09 PM

Looks like the mystery cell tower may actually be a distributed antenna system, otherwise known as a mini cell tower site. The idea is to fill in the weak coverage spots with smaller towers.

A Pennsylvania-based company called Crown Castle has been installing these micro cell sites on utility poles around the US. A few Google searches reveal that the company is currently hiring project staff here in Raleigh.

So there ya go.

Mark Turner : Is this a Stingray site?

July 31, 2014 10:00 AM

Mystery tower site

Mystery tower site


Update: Mystery solved? I believe this is a micro-site cell tower.

A few weeks ago when I went with Travis to a birthday party held at Adventure Landing on Capital Boulevard, the radio geek in me was drawn to an unusual device mounted on a utility pole outside.

Located on the corner of the parking lot next to a sword-shaped, pirate-themed sign that reads “Parking” is a newly-planted utility pole. Mounted on the pole is a locker-sized utility box, meter box, antenna feedline, and a cell tower-shaped antenna on top. All of these were painted brown to match the nearby light poles in Adventure Landing’s parking lot.

It appears to me to be a mini cell tower of some sort but it does raise some questions. Capital Boulevard is arguably the busiest street in the city and this spot is near its intersection with I-440. This would hardly be considered a cell phone service “dead zone.” Why would a single-node booster tower be here?

The paint matching the parking lot light towers strongly associates it with Adventure Landing. Tower owners get a cut of revenue from each call they carry. Is this an extra source of revenue for the amusement park? If so, why would the antenna be in the back of the property, shaded by the building from the 50,000+ cars that pass by each day in front of it? That’s a lot of revenue given up.

Closeup of utility box

Closeup of utility box


If it’s simply a boost for the park patrons, why not put the tower on the top of the building where it is not only taller but more centrally-located on the property? Then again, though, this is Capital Boulevard – thinking this area is a dead zone is ludicrous. And if you have a perfectly-good building to mount your tower on – one that’s actually taller than a utility pole – who would go to the trouble and expense of planting a separate pole? It’s possible that RF considerations means you have to have it a certain height above the population, I suppose, but you could easily reduce your power and still cover a four-acre park, right?

What’s interesting is that the pole is actually on the city right of way (ROW) and not private property. I don’t see how the city would give the nod to any old fool who wants to plant his or her own utility pole in the public right of way. It’s my understanding that such approval would have to be approved by the city council as all ROW encroachments are. So, either there’s a record of this pole being approved to be planted here or the pole in violation of something or another. This is provided that Pine Knoll Drive is in fact a public street but a look at the site in the city’s IMAPs system seems to show that it is and that the pole is indeed in the public ROW.

This hardline and the antenna on top show this is a cell tower site.

This hardline and the antenna on top show this is a cell tower site.


I sort of forgot about this interesting tower until I read this week’s WRAL story that the Raleigh Police Department owns a Stingray – a mini-cell phone tower that is used to intercept cell phone calls. Police departments that use it assure the public that their use of Stingray is lawful, yet the manufacturer, Harris, slaps a draconian non-disclosure agreement on its customers. This can’t help but make me wonder just how legal its use my be considered. Is this an attempt to keep judges in the dark? Perhaps to avoid having this question answered in a court of law?

So is this a Stingray site? Possibly. I imagine if the PD sinks $200k into a law enforcement tool, though, they’re not going to want to have it anchored (arrrr!) to a particular place. It’s possible that the box on the pole sits empty most of the time and only gets a Stingray when an investigation warrants it. (Did I just use “Stingray” and “warrant” in the same sentence?)

On the other hand, it could simply be a poorly-sited cell phone booster tower. Either way, the site is unusual and clearly designed to collect cell phone calls – the question is who is doing the collecting?

Eric Christensen : “You’re not allowed to join this video call.”

July 31, 2014 01:40 AM

“You’re not allowed to join this video call.” was the greeting I found while trying to log into my astronomy class tonight.  Thanks to Google and their Hangout app I’ve missed my last night of classes.  Fantastic.

I blame Google for this, honestly, but I wonder if they are really the problem.  They provide a service that has complex relationships with their other “products” and they provide this all for “free” to anyone that is willing to sign up (and allow them to track your every move).  I’m sure they never said the thing would have certain availability (how could they, they are utilizing the Internet as a transport layer) so I have no expectation of this thing working… ever.  And this is what happens when, as a society, we continue to embrace proprietary services that are completely out of our control.  Even if there was some sort of agreement that this stuff would work all the time I would still be sitting here unable to join my class.  Even from my FOSS software-running computer I am at the mercy of our proprietary overlords.  It’s sad.


Tarus Balog : Portlandia

July 30, 2014 06:13 PM

Last week I was delighted to return to Portland, Oregon, for the annual OSCON conference. While I had a fun time at OSCON, I was only there for Wednesday and this post is about Tuesday. I’ll talk about the conference itself next. So this post contains little OpenNMS content but might be interesting to those of my three readers who like travel.

I got to PDX around noon and took the MAX into the city. My plan was to drop some stuff off at the hotel and then head to the conference, but as usual my life was overtaken by events. By the time I dealt with my various e-mails and other obligations, it was fairly late in the afternoon so I opted for a nap before dinner instead of trekking over to the Convention Center.

Dinner included me, our OpenNMS guru extraordinaire Ken who was up from Salem, and Greg. Greg used to be an OpenNMS client before he changed jobs to work for a non-profit, but like all OpenNMS users he is super intelligent and amazing to be around. I never miss a chance to spend some time with him.

Ken showed up in his cool, new BMW diesel wagon and drove us across the river. A friend of mine who is also a chef recommended we try a place called Pok Pok and Greg seconded the recommendation. He was worried that it might be crowded, but it being a Tuesday night we figured we’d take our chances. It was also a little earlier than I usually eat dinner, but even then our wait for a table was an hour.

In the meantime we went across the street to the Whiskey Soda Lounge. Greg told us that when Pok Pok started to get popular, people would migrate to nearby bars to wait for their table. Sensing a business opportunity, when a building close to the restaurant became available, they opened up the Lounge.

While we didn’t order much food, we did have a couple of drinks waiting for our table. I really enjoyed the Tamarind Whiskey Sour, which is something of a signature drink. They also had some decent drink specials. The only food we got was a bowl of peanuts, but in keeping with the Thai style cuisine of Pok Pok, the peanuts came mixed in with mild chilis. While the Lounge was nothing out of the ordinary, it was nice to unwind before dinner and catch up.

Our table was ready in an hour as promised, and the wait staff in the Lounge were the ones to tell us about it (which I thought was pretty convenient). Now Pok Pok is one of those places that seems to have grown organically, and our table was in a section that was basically outdoors with a covered roof. Considering how nice the evening was, I preferred our table to the ones downstairs in the main restaurant which struck me as a little claustrophobic.

The food was good and unusual. Greg and I are pretty much “pescatarians” so we stuck with fish. We had catfish (Cha Ca La Vong)

as well as whole tilapia, which was a special.

Afterward, for dessert Greg suggested that we go to an ice cream shop called Salt and Straw.

Now I am an ice cream nut. I make it at home. I go to classes to learn how to make better ice cream. And my favorite ice cream is Jeni’s from Ohio which is simply fantastic.

How do you describe something that is nearly an order of magnitude better than fantastic?

I’m not sure if it is the creaminess, the wonderful flavor combinations or just high quality ingredients, but this stuff is good.

Greg told me that the long line was actually pretty short for this place but I still I felt bad when I got up to the front and wanted to try every single flavor as the line got longer behind me. I limited myself to five, and received a heaping tablespoon of each one to taste.

The first was the signature Sea Salt with Caramel. Wonderful. I’ve just been introduced to salted caramel as a flavor and I’m quite fond of it.

Since I couldn’t just stop on the first one, I also tried their Double Fold Vanilla and Chocolate Gooey Brownie. Both were superlative.

The fourth flavor was Lavender and Honey. When we walked in another customer was walking out with a big purple scoop, so I just had to try it and this was almost my choice but I had to try one last flavor: Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper.

As the youths like to say: OMG.

I love strawberries and this flavor combination just caught my eye. One of the issues with making great ice cream is to limit water. Water forms ice crystals which ruin the texture on the tongue. This makes working with fruit difficult due to its high water content. Usually when I make strawberry ice cream, I roast the fruit to get rid of some of the water, and then I puree it and mix it in with the cream. You don’t want chunks because they screw up the texture when they freeze.

Salt and Straw gets around this by not only pureeing and mixing in the fruit, they have made a type of jam that they swirl into the ice cream. So you get amazing amounts of fruit flavor without sacrificing the texture. This was a softer ice cream than the others but it was so, so, good.

Both Ken and Greg thought the ice cream as good as well. Greg pulled a “native” by also purchasing a pint to go. You can skip the line and head straight to the to go freezer, but I wanted to get back in line to try some more flavors so I doubt I could do that.

Anyway, it was a great “soft landing” for my trip. I also got a few laughs when talking to the locals. I’d tell them, in my deepest southern drawl, that I knew all about Portland from watching that documentary on the city: Portlandia.

What makes that show funny is the deeper truths it parodies, but that’s one of the things I love about that town.

Mark Turner : Man-made ‘breathing’ leaf is an oxygen factory for space travel – CNET

July 30, 2014 12:18 AM

A scientist has devised an oxygen-producing fabric.

One of the persistent challenges of manned space exploration is that pesky lack of oxygen throughout much of the universe. Here on Earth, trees and other plant life do us a real solid by taking in our bad breath and changing it back to clean, sweet O2.

So what if we could take those biological oxygen factories into space with us, but without all the land, sun, water, soil, and gravity that forests tend to require? This is the point where NASA and Elon Musk should probably start paying attention.

via Man-made 'breathing' leaf is an oxygen factory for space travel – CNET.

Mark Turner : RALEIGH: New Raleigh neighborhoods won’t get individual mailboxes | Raleigh | MidtownRaleighNews.com

July 29, 2014 01:16 PM

As I left the home this morning, I drove through the new Oakwood North neighborhood and something caught my eye. Workers have installed a concrete pedestal near the front of the subdivision to house the community mailboxes that the neighborhood is now required to have.

I beat up on Colin yesterday about his targeting of certain councilmembers (and I will have more to say about this soon) but he is capable of writing stories that deserve kudos. This one about the Postal Service discontinuing home delivery for new subdivisions was interesting and newsworthy. It’s something that apparently even caught giant homebuilder KB Home by surprise. Suddenly their ultimate home for retirees is much less attractive if living there requires daily trips to the mailbox. Or perhaps homeowners will be the fittest in Raleigh?

RALEIGH — At the model home for the newest neighborhood inside the Beltline, an ornate black mailbox sits atop a post at the curb.

But homebuyers in the Oakwood North subdivision won’t be getting one of their own. After developers started work on the community, the U.S. Postal Service pulled the plug on what’s been a standard amenity: curbside mail delivery.

via RALEIGH: New Raleigh neighborhoods won’t get individual mailboxes | Raleigh | MidtownRaleighNews.com.

Mark Turner : N&O’s Colin Campbell writes hit piece on Crowder

July 28, 2014 10:56 AM

Well, that was predictable.

Days after Raleigh City Councilman Thomas Crowder defended against the recent attack on planning documents our city and citizenry spent millions of dollars and many years crafting, News and Observer reporter Colin Campbell writes a hit piece on Crowder’s pursuit of parking lawbreakers.

Objectivity does not appear to be Campbell’s strong suit. He needs a new beat, pronto. And shame on the News and Observer editors for condoning this tripe.

On a related note, I have been doing some research on Campbell’s reporting that is providing some interesting insights. Stay tuned.

RALEIGH — Two years ago, Raleigh City Councilman Thomas Crowder spearheaded an effort to ban front-yard parking in his district. These days, he’s filing dozens of complaints to make sure parking scofflaws are held accountable.Crowder has asked city zoning staffers via email to investigate 26 possible front-yard parking violations – many within blocks of his house – in his Southwest Raleigh district during the past year. Crowder’s complaints represent nearly 30 percent of the parking ordinance reports received in Raleigh since July 2013, according to city records.

“I have complaints regarding the above referenced property,” Crowder says in many of the emails, sometimes including a photo of the offense. “Please investigate and notify me of your findings and action taken.”

via RALEIGH: Raleigh councilman turns in neighbors under controversial parking ban | Wake County | NewsObserver.com.

Mark Turner : Vladimir Putin’s circle of fear

July 27, 2014 03:48 PM

I enjoyed this account of the current state of Russia’s political opposition.

The tragedy of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 has brought the conflict between Russia and Ukraine back into the headlines. This crisis, and the accompanying crackdown on domestic dissent in Russia, represents a new and frightening phase in a process that began 15 years ago: Vladimir Putin’s reversal of the freedoms Russia gained after the fall of communism in 1991 and the creation of a new authoritarian Kremlin regime.

Consider it a predictive metaphor for recent events in Russia, a quarter century after the country’s awakening from communism. The neo-authoritarian Kremlin regime of Vladimir Putin is squeezing the air out of the remaining pockets of dissent, cranking up the propaganda machine to Soviet levels, and setting up the conditions for a new Iron Curtain.

The spring of 2014 featured a high-water mark for Putin’s post-Soviet restoration, with its belligerent rejection of ‘‘Western values,’’ its confrontational stance toward NATO, and its aggressive claims towards former Soviet territories. As Komsomolskaya Pravda columnist Ulyana Skoibeda rhapsodised after the mostly unchallenged Russian annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, ‘‘It’s not about the Crimea coming back to us. It’s we who have come back. Home, to the USSR.’’

via Vladimir Putin's circle of fear.

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Looks like we are about to get hammered with some…

July 27, 2014 02:22 PM

Looks like we are about to get hammered with some rain/wind #ncwx http://t.co/Ly4EFqsCIs

Btjpn32IAAEZ6Kv

Warren Myers : despise the free lunch – law 40 – #48laws by robert greene

July 27, 2014 12:18 PM

Law 40

What is offered for free is dangerous – it usually involves either a trick or hidden obligation. What has worth is worth paying for. By paying your own way you stay clear of gratitude, guilt, and deceit. It is also often wise to pay the full price – there is no cutting corners with excellence. Be lavish with your money and keep it circulating, for generosity is a sign and a magnet for power. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Um earnest, park much? http://t.co/37jyEAJshS

July 26, 2014 10:29 PM

Um earnest, park much? http://t.co/37jyEAJshS

BtgPiENCIAAdyJA

Mark Turner : BBC News – US says evidence shows Russia fired artillery into Ukraine

July 26, 2014 12:35 PM

While the United States government has been investing billions of dollars so it can listen to Grandma’s phone calls, Russia has been busy boosting its military and invading neighboring countries.

Hey, DoD, the threat is over THERE.

The US says it has evidence that Russia has fired artillery across the border targeting Ukrainian military positions.

Russia also intends "to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers" to pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, the state department said.

Russia has frequently denied sending any rocket launchers into Ukraine.

The US comment comes a week after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine, with the rebels widely accused of shooting it down.

via BBC News – US says evidence shows Russia fired artillery into Ukraine.

Mark Turner : Copious free time? What’s that?

July 24, 2014 11:02 AM

I’ve been burning the midnight oil on both ends lately. My new job is keeping me plenty busy (and engaged) but had led to several early Sunday mornings spent doing server maintenance. On top of that, I’ve spent the last few weeks putting together the Ligon PTA newsletter when the parent who had volunteered to do it declined at the last minute. Oh, and family life has also been squeezed in there whenever possible.

Don’t worry, I’ve been saving up a few things to say since then. I’ll get to posting them when I can.

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Blog: Daily WTF from Foursquare http://t.co/8pWxQq…

July 24, 2014 12:56 AM

Blog: Daily WTF from Foursquare ift.tt/WG4bUl

Tarus Balog : ♫ It’s Hard Out Here for a (Free Software) Pimp ♫

July 23, 2014 05:09 PM

In thinking about a title for this particular screed, I almost went with “Papa’s Got a Brand New Phone” but that didn’t really encompass what I was after as much as a play on the Oscar winning “Best Original Song” by the Three 6 Posse.

When I first got involved in free software, I thought it was too good to be true. I thought “free” implied “no work” but I was confusing free (gratis) with free (libre).

Sometimes freedom takes work.

It takes effort and no small commitment to run as much free software as possible, and no where is that more evident than when it comes to choosing hardware.

I used to be a big Apple fanboy, and thus my personal technology decisions were easy: buy the newest shiny from Apple. When I decided to divorce myself from them, it took awhile to adjust to the fact that, quite frequently, the new shiny is not the best choice for a free software advocate.

But I’ve been stymied time and time again. When looking for a new laptop, I bought the latest Lenevo X1 Carbon and ended up sending it back. It was just too new to support my operating system of choice, whereas my old, second generation Dell XPS 13 “Sputnik” runs Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) just fine.

So I tried a new tact.

When I was in the market for a new phone, I figured the best bet was to work backwards.

I had been using a Samsung Galaxy S3 running Cyanogenmod. However, right after I upgraded the baseband to run Kit Kat, the phone would constantly and randomly reboot. I tried everything I knew of to fix it and tried out just about every major ROM there was but it would still crash. Only by running Jelly Bean could I mitigate the issue somewhat. Then instead of bouncing every hour or so, it would only reboot once or twice a day.

Now I play a game called Ingress … a lot. It is a heavy user of the display, the CPU, the network and the GPS. While these reboots might have been acceptable to a casual user, they were killing me. While I may have somehow corrupted my S3, it was probably due to some other hardware problem, so I decided to get a new phone.

One of the pluses about putting in the time to use free software is quite frequently you learn how things work. I would never have even known about baseband versions, bootloaders, recovery, etc. if I hadn’t played with my phone. I also get a lot of options, such as which ROM to run. In all my research I decided that my philosophy matches up best with the team behind OmniROM.

OmniROM doesn’t have as many options as, say, AOKP, but they are dedicated to keeping it as open as possible and I admire that. Plus they have a pretty decent OpenDelta update application that makes staying on the latest release pretty simple.

Once I decided that I wanted to run OmniROM, I just worked backwards to pick out a phone.

Here’s where I had to make a choice about freedom.

What I loved about my S3 was that it had a replaceable battery and a microSD slot. Some days I’m a heavy user of my phone and even the best phones can’t last the day on a single charge. The microSD slot made it easy to transfer data from my phone to my computer as well as easily and cheaply expanding the available memory.

Not many phones have these two features. In fact, the only modern phones I could find were both from Samsung: the S4 and the S5.

The S5 is not supported by OmniROM, so my choice was simple: get the S4. I ordered an unlocked S4 from Amazon and got ready to enjoy the new-ish shiny.

It was not to be.

While the description on Amazon said that it was “unlocked” it turns out that Samsung has decided to block third party bootloaders, even on the S4, with an update issued last November, so it is impossible to replace their default operating system with a free one. While there are some ways to “dual boot” the phone, this was unacceptable to me, so I sent it back with the reason “item did not match web site description”. Just being carrier unlocked is not enough to merit the term “unlocked”.

In looking over the remaining options, I ended up settling on last year’s HTC One (m7). And I do mean settle: the One has no microSD slot nor does it have a replaceable battery. But these are things I can work around in the pursuit of freedom. I got a microSD to microUSB connector and an external battery pack that can keep my phone running for days. It also has a somewhat lo-rez camera at 4 megapixels, but it seems to take pictures just fine.

You do have to jump through an extra hoop in order to unlock the bootloader, but HTC made it pretty simple. You just have to log in to their developer site and post a code and they’ll send you back a file to run to unlock your particular phone. Not as easy as, say, a Nexus phone, but it isn’t too much extra work.

Now I have the latest Kit Kat running flawlessly on the phone. I’m able to remove the Google search bar, which in my case just takes up space, and I can modify the number of icons displayed per page.

It’s pretty awesome.

Is the HTC One a perfect phone, especially for playing Ingress? No – it is not perfect. But it is pretty darn good. At the Gettysburg anomaly it held up all day with zero reboots, whereas other people were reporting them with usually stable phones such as the Nexus 5. Note that if I didn’t have any other considerations I would have gotten a Nexus phone, but since I play Ingress with my spouse and she has one I wanted another brand in order to diversify the radio technology. In some places her phone gets signal where mine does not, and vice versa, and thus we can tether if needed.

I like to vote with my wallet and I buy products from companies that support freedom. I don’t understand why Samsung felt the need to lock down their devices. In part I think it is Apple-envy, but they just lost out to those of us who want to truly own their hardware. I’m not sure if it is enough to affect the bottom line, but it has soured me on Samsung products as a whole and I do buy a lot of technology.

So, remember that freedom takes work, but it’s worth it in the end.

Tarus Balog : Oh Nos! My Wireless Stopped Working!

July 23, 2014 04:15 PM

I just had something a little scary happen, so I thought I’d share it in case anyone else hits this problem.

I’m in Portland for OSCON and suddenly the wireless networking on my laptop stopped working. The wireless status showed as “off” but it wouldn’t turn on. I’m running Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) and no interfaces were showing up.

Now, one thing I like about open source is I always tend to learn something when trying to solve a problem. A quick search on my phone introduced me to the “rfkill” command:

# rfkill list
0: phy0: Wireless LAN
	Soft blocked: no
	Hard blocked: yes

For some reason, the interface was “Hard blocked”. I then figured out what must have happened.

I was trying to bring up a shell to diagnose another issue. On Linux this tends to be ALT+CTL+Fx where the function key chosen is the virtual terminal you want (i.e. F1 for the first one, F2 for the second, etc.). On my normal keyboard, which is an old Apple keyboard, the function keys default to softkeys and you have to hold down the Fn key to actually trigger F1, F2, etc.

This is not the case with my laptop, so when I hit Fn+F2 it turned on “airplane mode”. This was causing the hard block.

I hit it again:

# rfkill list
0: phy0: Wireless LAN
	Soft blocked: yes
	Hard blocked: no
1: hci0: Bluetooth
	Soft blocked: no
	Hard blocked: no

And then turned off the soft block:

orcrist interfaces.d # rfkill unblock 0

And it fixed my issue:

orcrist interfaces.d # rfkill list
0: phy0: Wireless LAN
	Soft blocked: no
	Hard blocked: no
1: hci0: Bluetooth
	Soft blocked: no
	Hard blocked: no

It would have really sucked to be on the road and have some serious software issue to repair with no network access, so I was extremely relieved to figure this out.

Mark Hinkle : OSCON 2014 – Crash Course in Open Source Cloud Computing

July 20, 2014 11:16 PM

I’ll be presenting an updated version of my Crash Course on Open Source Cloud Computing presentation at OSCON 2014. I have some new material on Docker and SDN along with the latest updates on cloud software. Here’s the official excerpt:

The open source mantra is to release early and release often. That means software velocity can be difficult to keep up with. This discussion will expand on the latest open source software used to deliver and manage cloud computing infrastructure. Topics covered include virtualization (KVM, Xen Project, LXC), orchestration (OpenStack, CloudStack, Eucalyptus), and other complimentary technology.

Here’s the link to the slides on Slideshare.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Time for some more @scottsigler – Starting INFECTE…

July 20, 2014 06:28 PM

Time for some more @scottsigler – Starting INFECTED, bring it

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Pretty impressed that when I type TWC into iPhone…

July 20, 2014 12:35 AM

Pretty impressed that when I type TWC into iPhone it autocorrects to “Tax” – Couldn’t have said it better myself #TimeWarnerCable

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Really? ‘docker build’ fails if there are IPv6 nam…

July 16, 2014 11:37 PM

Really? ‘docker build’ fails if there are IPv6 nameservers in resolv.conf? What the heck…

Scott Schulz : Tweet: First annoyance with @overcastfm is the lack of la…

July 16, 2014 07:43 PM

First annoyance with @OvercastFM is the lack of last update time on the main screen when searching for podcasts by term.

David Cafaro : Hardware Hacking: Solar Panels and Battery Chargers

July 15, 2014 02:29 AM

I wanted to find a way to easily charge a couple of AA and AAA batteries from a solar panel for camping, hiking, and geo-caching.  Thought it would be nice to charge via the sun vs carrying around extra batteries charged up from the grid.  Turns out it wasn’t as easy as I had hoped, and yes, the solution involves pulling out the soldering iron, see below.

Finding a solar cell was actually pretty easy, doing some looking around I found this Anker 14W Portable Panel on Amazon:

Anker 14W Solar Panel

Cheap at about $70 and a full 14W with two USB ports.  All I needed to do was find a USB powered AA/AAA charger.

Yeah, sure, no problem…

So, after a LOT of searching turns out about the only good one I could find was the Guide 10 Plus charger by Goal Zero:

Goal Zero Guid 10 Plus Charger

One big draw back, it’s designed to work “best” with their own 7W solar panel, which costs more than the Anker for half the wattage.  They say that it will charge in 3-6 hours using their special connector to their solar panel, or 6-10 hours from a USB port.  It seems they put in a charging limiter on the USB in port (likely lower allowable current) vs the special solar port.

So what to do?  Build my own special solar cable that will allow USB to charge to the solar port on the battery charger instead of the USB port on the battery charger.  Two things to worry about, simulating the proper voltage and current on the solar port and having the right size adapter.  Taking some measurements I found that the solar port seemed to be a pretty standard 2.5mm x 0.7mm dc jack (High Speed USB 2.0 to DC 2.5mm Power Cable for Mp3 Mp4).  To handle the power issues I noticed that the box and literature stated that the solar port input specs were 6.5V at up to 1.1 to 1.3A (depending on which document of Goal Zero you read).  Standard USB is 5V at 2A (standard 2.0), so just needed to convert this to the required solar port specs.  To accomplish this I did some searching and found this:

Pololu Adjustable Boost Regulator - Converter

This boost regular can take in the 5V 2A from USB and using a small screwdriver I was able to adjust the trimmer potentiometer to a measured 6.5V ~1.1A output.  My cable looked like this after my soldering work:

Back of Converter Soldering Converter and USB Plug Front of Converter Soldering

With a little bit of electrical tape to cover up the sensitive parts I had this:

Finished Custom Cable

At this point there was only one thing left, to cross my fingers hook it up and give it a shot (oh and I did run this by an Electrical Engineering friend of mine first to make sure my plans were sound given how long it’s been since my college electrical engineering classes.  He approved and gave me an A- on the soldering job).

And it worked! Not only did it work, with the 14W panel and the regulated 5v 2A from that, I got faster more consistent charging times than the Goal Zero setup.  I know this because, shortly after buying the 14W panel and all my parts to build my own charger an incredible deal came up to buy the Goal Zero 41022 Guide 10 Plus Solar Recharging Kit
which included the 7W panel and another USB/Panel AA/AAA battery charger, plus mine came with the portable Rock Out speakers.  It was a VERY good deal or I wouldn’t have done it.  But it made for some great testing and comparison.

So happy and successful hardware hack!  And now I have two very effective portal solar powered battery charging systems.  The Anker based one for heavy lifting and fast strong charging of USB devices and batteries.  The Goal Zero for flexibility (USB, 12Volt, and Solar Port) and lightness (but slow charger).

The final Results:

Anker Solar Panel, Custom USB Cable, Goal Zero Guide 10 Charger

Warren Myers : apps on the network

July 14, 2014 12:30 PM

{This started as a Disqus reply to Eric’s post. Then I realized blog comments shouldn’t be longer than the original post :) }

The app-on-network concept is fascinating: and one I think I’ve thought about previously, too.

Hypothetically, all “social networks” should have the same connections: yet there’s dozens upon dozens (I use at least 4 – probably more, but I don’t realize it). And some folks push the same content to all of them, while others (including, generally, myself) try to target our shares and such to specific locations (perhaps driving some items to multiple places with tools like IFTTT).

Google’s mistake with Google+ was thinking they needed to “beat” Facebook: that’s not going to happen. As Paul Graham notes:

“If you want to take on a problem as big as the ones I’ve discussed, don’t make a direct frontal attack on it. Don’t say, for example, that you’re going to replace email. If you do that you raise too many expectations…Maybe it’s a bad idea to have really big ambitions initially, because the bigger your ambition, the longer it’s going to take, and the further you project into the future, the more likely you’ll get it wrong…the way to use these big ideas is not to try to identify a precise point in the future and then ask yourself how to get from here to there, like the popular image of a visionary.”

That’s where folks who get called things like The Idea Guy™ go awry: instead of asking questions, you try to come up with ideas – like these 999. And if you can’t/don’t, you think you’ve failed.

Social networks should be places where our actual social interactions can be modeled effectively. Yet they turn into popularity contests. And bitch fests. And rant centers. Since they tend towards the asymmetric end of communication, they become fire-and-forget locales, or places where we feel the incessant need to be right. All the time. (Add services like Klout and Kred, and it gets even worse.)

I would love to see a universal, portable, open network like the one Eric describes. All the applications we think run on social networks (like Farmville) don’t. They run on top of another app which runs on “the network”.

Layers on layers leads to the age-old problem of too many standards, and crazy amounts of abstraction. Peeling-back the layers of the apps atop the network could instead give us the chance to have a singular network where types of connections could be tagged (work, fun, school, family, etc, etc – the aspect of G+ that everyone likes most: “circles”). Then the app takes you to the right subset of your network.

Of course – this all leads to a massive problem: security.

If there is only One True Social Network, we all end up entrusting everything we put there to be “safe”. And while some of still follow the old internet mantra, “if you wouldn’t put it on a billboard, don’t put it on a website,” the vast majority of people – seemingly especially those raised coincident to technology’s ubiquitization – think that if they put it somewhere “safe” (like Facebook), that it should be “private”.

After all, the One True Social Network would also be a social engineer’s or identity thief’s Holy Grail - the subversive access to all  of someone’s personal information would be their nirvana.

And that, I think, is the crux of the matter: regardless of what network (or, to use Eric’s terminology, what app-atop-the-network) we use, privacy, safety, and security are all forefront problems.

Solve THAT, and you solve everything.

Or maybe you just decide privacy/security doesn’t matter, and make it all public.

Scott Schulz : Tweet: <— look at that idiot. He decides to mow th…

July 13, 2014 02:41 PM

<— look at that idiot. He decides to mow the lawn not realizing the humidity is 83%!!

Warren Myers : stir up waters to catch fish – law 39 – #48laws by robert greene

July 13, 2014 12:18 PM

Law 39

Anger and emotion are strategically counterproductive. You must always stay calm and objective. But if you can make your enemies angry while staying calm yourself, you gain a decided advantage. Put your enemies off-balance. Find the chink in their vanity through which you can rattle them and you hold the strings. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)


Proverbs 14:29

He who is slow to anger has great understanding,
But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.

Proverbs 16:32

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.

Mark Turner : Solar has won. Even if coal were free to burn, power stations couldn’t compete | Giles Parkinson | Comment is free | theguardian.com

July 09, 2014 10:54 AM

Astonishing.

Last week, for the first time in memory, the wholesale price of electricity in Queensland fell into negative territory – in the middle of the day.For several days the price, normally around $40-$50 a megawatt hour, hovered in and around zero. Prices were deflated throughout the week, largely because of the influence of one of the newest, biggest power stations in the state – rooftop solar.

“Negative pricing” moves, as they are known, are not uncommon. But they are only supposed to happen at night, when most of the population is mostly asleep, demand is down, and operators of coal fired generators are reluctant to switch off. So they pay others to pick up their output.

That’s not supposed to happen at lunchtime. Daytime prices are supposed to reflect higher demand, when people are awake, office building are in use, factories are in production. That’s when fossil fuel generators would normally be making most of their money.

via Solar has won. Even if coal were free to burn, power stations couldn't compete | Giles Parkinson | Comment is free | theguardian.com.

Mark Turner : Segway Inventor Dean Kamen Thinks His New Stirling Engine Will Get You Off The Grid For Under $10K

July 09, 2014 10:53 AM

For the new issue of Forbes Magazine I wrote an article about David Crane, the visionary CEO of NRG Energy. When I met Crane for lunch a couple weeks ago, no sooner had we sat down than he began singing the praises of this new contraption he had in his basement. The machine — which can generate 10 kilowatts of continuous power, fed by Crane’s natural gas line — is a new iteration of an old creation, the Stirling engine. This version, called the Beacon 10, was created after a decade of engineering by famed inventor Dean Kamen.

With the Beacon 10, says Kamen, “you don’t have to feel guilty heating up the pool.” That’s because of the highly efficient nature of the Stirling engine. First conceived in 1816 by Scottish minister Robert Stirling, the device in its simplest form consists of applying an external heat source to a closed cylinder where the cyclical expansion and compression of air inside the cylinder drives the pistons up and down. Unlike your car, where fuel is combusted inside the engine, the Stirling is an external combustion engine; it can work with any external heat source.

via Segway Inventor Dean Kamen Thinks His New Stirling Engine Will Get You Off The Grid For Under $10K.

Magnus Hedemark : John Willis at Triangle DevOps, Hosted by Bronto

July 08, 2014 05:39 PM

Magnus Hedemark:

My latest contribution to the Bronto Engineering Blog is about a talk that John Willis delivered to Triangle DevOps on Software Defined Networking.

Originally posted on Engineering @ Bronto:

Here at Bronto, we’re very proud to support the local community in many ways. One of the facets of that spirit of community support is in hosting a number of meetup groups. One of the meetup groups that we’ve been hosting for over a year now is Triangle DevOps. We love this group so much that two members of our engineering team, Doug Hairfield and myself, actively help to keep the group running smoothly along with Mark Mzyk of Chef, Mark Imbriaco of Digital Ocean, and Nathan Walls of WebAssign. We often host the group’s meetings in our Thunderdome, which has a maximum capacity of 200 people.

Back in May, before this Engineering Blog was live, we were very proud to host John Willis who is the VP of Customer Enablement at Stateless Networks. John is an early adopter of DevOps, and has…

View original 461 more words


Jesse Morgan : muahahah

July 07, 2014 10:02 PM

https://wordpress.org/plugins/google-comments-widget/

Lets see if this cuts down on the random spam.

Mark Turner : 10 Words Every Girl Should Learn | Soraya Chemaly

July 06, 2014 01:37 AM

A friend posted this article on Facebook, generally agreeing with it. I, on the other hand, could only smirk at its premise that goes along the lines of “when women get interrupted by men it’s men being sexist.”

Baloney. The author says “ask any woman” if they’ve ever been interrupted. Well, no shit, they probably have. Men get interrupted all the damn time, too. Did she question if this was sexist?

It always irks me when someone wails about being oppressed: “they took my power away” and the like. No one can take you power away unless you let them. The key is to claim your power.

I think the author has a self-confidence issue that get overlaid onto a gender gap issue. If someone is interrupting her then perhaps she needs to learn to be more assertive instead of blaming someone else. Or she could simply be drawn to dumbshit men who like interrupting people, in which case she should ask herself why she likes to hang out with them. Either way, whining will get her nowhere.

And, oh, I say this as a father raising a fiercely self-confident daughter in complete control of her destiny who could kick anyone’s ass at anything she chooses.

I routinely find myself in mixed-gender environments life where men interrupt me. Now that I’ve decided to try and keep track, just out of curiosity, it’s quite amazing how often it happens. It’s particularly pronounced when other men are around.This irksome reality goes along with another — men who make no eye contact. For example, a waiter who only directs information and questions to men at a table, or the man last week who simply pretended I wasn’t part of a circle of five people I was the only woman. We’d never met before and barely exchanged 10 words, so it couldn’t have been my not-so-shrinking-violet opinions.

These two ways of establishing dominance in conversation, frequently based on gender, go hand-in-hand with this last one: A woman, speaking clearly and out loud, can say something that no one appears to hear, only to have a man repeat it minutes, maybe seconds later, to accolades and group discussion.

via 10 Words Every Girl Should Learn | Soraya Chemaly.

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Sad that when you filter out the ads & trackin…

July 04, 2014 10:13 PM

Sad that when you filter out the ads & tracking pieces of the @Target website, links and search no longer work. Okay, @amazon it is.