Mark Turner : Selling the sailboat

April 22, 2017 01:40 AM

Whimsy, our 1985 Rebel Spindrift 22 sailboat


With the posting of a Craigslist ad today I officially put our sailboat, Whimsy, up for sale. Going through my photo collection in search of photos to post, I rediscovered several happy afternoons spent on the water. Sadly these were days long gone by: it has been four years since we’ve sailed her.

Sailing the boat has been an emotional event for me. It’s like saying farewell to a family member. I will cherish the memories of those happy afternoons and dream of the day I will once again take the helm and steer my own course.

Magnus Hedemark : Ireland: Breaking in the Passport

April 16, 2017 03:13 PM

One of my bucket list items for a long time now has been to get a passport and put it to good use. I do like exploring quite a lot, but until recently I’ve never explored beyond my own country’s borders. Over the Christmas holiday, I did apply for a passport and immediately upon its arrival book passage overseas.

Trip number one was to Ireland. Why Ireland? Glad you asked.

  • It’s just foreign enough to know that I’m somewhere else. The driving rules are quite different (wrong side of the car, wrong side of the road, roundabouts everywhere, different lines and signs, etc).
  • It’s just familiar enough to be comfortable. The foods are mostly familiar, but with opportunities to try new things. Everyone speaks English, but a different dialect of it. I can relax and enjoy my holiday without sorting through language barriers or other massive cultural disparities.
  • It’s relatively close. Europe just isn’t close to the US. But it’s close enough to get there is a pretty reasonable amount of flying time. And it’s closer to us than most of Europe.
  • It’s very safe. This just isn’t a country known for violent street crime or victimization of tourists. The people live, for the most part, in relative comfort, and by and large aren’t tempted by the kinds of criminal opportunities that might make travel to more impoverished areas a bigger risk.
  • It’s very old. Many of the homes I drove past were probably older than my whole country. There are man-made structures here that pre-date Christianity itself.

I could keep going, easily. Ireland has so much going for it. And I think I chose well; I really had a fantastic time there.

People told me straight off, like on the shuttle bus at the airport, “stick to the coastline and don’t muck about in the middle”. I’d heard that from Americans back home, too. But I think they’re wrong. For me, I enjoyed the middle of Ireland at least as much as the coastal communities. That’s where I met regular people who weren’t jaded by endless streams of tourist buses, and had great conversations.

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Wild pheasant seen on Day #1 on an “L road”. It wasn’t the last.

I’d made a decision to get off of the major motorway as soon as I could. Ireland has a road system with four major categories, as I understand it:

  1. L Roads are locally run, tend to be more narrow and rustic. Speed limits are low, and they aren’t heavily traveled. If you’re looking for bucolic scenery that’s not often seen by tourists, you may find it here.
  2. R Roads are regionally run. They are still a bit narrow and precarious for the most part, by American standards, but they move a little faster while still offering great scenery.
  3. N Roads are nationally run roads and offer a good, safe way to get from town to town at a decent pace, while still offering some opportunities to see things or make stops along the way.
  4. M Roads, or “motorways”, are the closest thing Ireland has to super highways. The speed limits are still low compared to what I was used to at home, and none of the M roads were really all that “big”. But if you need to cover big distances in short time, this is the way to do it. The M roads didn’t offer as much in the way of scenery or opportunities for spontaneous adventuring, so we tried not to make much use of them.

You know how BMW drivers are the primary jerks on American roads, driving aggressively like they are always in such a hurry and your presence on their road is an annoyance? I saw many BMW’s in Ireland but didn’t get that vibe from most BMW drivers there. It was the Audi drivers that were total twats there. And for those who couldn’t afford Audis, the Volkswagen drivers were junior level road hooligans. Most other people were really quite courteous.

On the L and R roads, there were rarely any areas for pull-offs. Hedges and walls were established literally right up against the side of the road without a buffer in most cases, so it took a bit of nerve to get used to that. The downside to this as a traveler was that I didn’t have a chance to pull off to photograph so many wonderful sights.

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Slieve League cliffs in County Donegal offer a breathtaking experience without the crowds of Cliffs of Moher.

The Ireland of old that I think many Americans and plastic paddies desire doesn’t really exist outside of the tourist industry. To come here expecting your stereotypes to play out is really not going to be fair. Other than people saying “wee” a lot, I got to know a place and a people that was outside of preconceived notions.

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The village of Ardagh was not on any tourist itinerary that I’d ever seen, but a shopkeeper I’d patronized in Longford Town saw my camera and guessed correctly that I’d enjoy exploring this place.

I’ll not pad this out to thousands of words in length or offer a deep dive into the experience, though I easily could (and have the photos to back it up). But I’ll say this: I’ve learned what I like in travel, and it’s not something I’ll ever get out of a guided tour. The nexus of people and place fuels my curiosity. And I’m only getting started.

One thing I learned was that traveling with a camera bag is not something I enjoy. My otherwise amazing Fujifilm X-T2 and assortment of lenses might get less use on future trips, if it comes at all. The Ricoh GR, the wee beastie of a camera that fits in the front pocket of my jeans, is likely to get a lot more use on future adventures.

And where shall I go next? Leave suggestions in the comments below.


Mark Turner : The Fear Bubble

April 15, 2017 01:36 AM

The Bogeyman

Facebook can easily become an echo chamber, only showing you posts that its algorithms think will reinforce your worldview (and thus keep you engaged). This can result in a very skewed perspective of the world. On the other hand, Facebook does offer a window into the perspectives of people who don’t think like you do … if you actively seek this out.

I maintain friendships across the political spectrum. People are more alike than disalike, no matter how some might try to accentuate the differences. I do have some conservative-leaning friends and think they’re generally reasonable people. If they were unreasonable and not open to my gentle, loving prodding I might have turned away from them. Some of the less reasonable indeed have made it to the Facebook “unfollow” stage, where I remain connected to them but don’t get updates from them. I like to maintain a window into their worldview because I think it’s important to understand how people think, especially people with whom I sometimes disagree.

It was peering through this “window” that I began to notice a startling personality trait that many conservatives share which came to light after last week’s United debacle. While almost all of my left-leaning friends immediately faulted the airline for its brutal treatment of a paying customer, there were more than one conservative friends who defended the airline. In their view, the senior-citizen doctor must have done something to deserve getting the shit kicked out of him. He argued with authority, he was disruptive, so he earned what he got, their thinking seemed to go.

How can this be? How can some people side with authority in spite of ample warning signs that authority is wrong? Is it part of their personality, their religious upbringing, or some combination? I’m not entirely sure, but there seems to be a class of people who are almost completely authority-driven and these people are conservative people. It doesn’t matter what the orders are, you follow them. No gray area. Everything is good or evil, black or white.

When I look at the appalling treatment visitors to this country have been given by some in the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agency, this comes to mind. Orders were given that must be carried out. I think ultra-authority-driven people are drawn to these jobs.

I can also see how, given the right authority figure, people can be convinced to maintain order in ways that are detrimental to others. Germany’s Nazi Party held powerful sway over the German people. At present, Russians adore Vladamir Putin in spite of his looting the country, murdering opponents, and stirring up other lawlessness to bolster himself. Finally, Trump gained the same kind of support from people who were (and are) convinced that there’s a bogeyman behind every tree. Walls must be built, immigrants blocked, and sharia law prevented from taking root here.

A threat is raised and the fearful rally around the strongest authority figure. Oldest trick in the book. I never thought I’d see it here, though. Here we are in 2017 and there are people out there – friends of friends – who are so freaking spooked out of their minds that they have bought into the batshit-craziest fake news stories out there. Honestly, when I see some of these poor folks screaming about ISIS in their neighborhood I can only shake my head.

So, why didn’t these people fall in line behind Obama? After all, being President of the United States should come with some heft, right (well, until recently)? How were today’s fear-mongers able to keep Obama from being their savior? First of all, Obama was too pragmatic to get himself tangled in intractable wars. His job was to get us out of them, which he did fairly well. That meant no jumping with both feat into the ages-old quagmires of Middle Eastern relations, ISIS or no ISIS. The right, therefore, latched onto the Benghazi attack as proof to the fearful that Obama wasn’t going to protect them, no matter that far more diplomats were attacked during Bush’s term.

The other thing the Right did, and this was crucial to their strategy, was to de-legitimize Obama’s presidency, casting doubt on his citizenship and (of course) his race. As long as doubt was sown among the conservative fearful, the Right could drain his authority and keep these poor, petrified folks that they were all alone. As one gun shop owner put it, there was no better gun salesman than Barack Obama.

Somehow we have to get to these people. They are stuck in a “fear bubble,” fed sensational lies by the right-wing media to falsely believe they are under attack. Perhaps if they came out of their bunkers for a bit they would see that the sky is not falling and ISIS is not, after all, roaming their neighborhoods at night.

Can they be reached? It will take a lot of time and effort. One thing’s for sure: American discourse will suffer until they can be freed from their fear bubbles.

Mark Turner : To Be a Genius, Think Like a 94-Year-Old – The New York Times

April 13, 2017 02:40 PM

Great story on why innovation isn’t the exclusive domain of the young. The 94-year-old Dr. Goodenough continues to innovate.

In 1946, a 23-year-old Army veteran named John Goodenough headed to the University of Chicago with a dream of studying physics. When he arrived, a professor warned him that he was already too old to succeed in the field.

Recently, Dr. Goodenough recounted that story for me and then laughed uproariously. He ignored the professor’s advice and today, at 94, has just set the tech industry abuzz with his blazing creativity. He and his team at the University of Texas at Austin filed a patent application on a new kind of battery that, if it works as promised, would be so cheap, lightweight and safe that it would revolutionize electric cars and kill off petroleum-fueled vehicles. His announcement has caused a stir, in part, because Dr. Goodenough has done it before. In 1980, at age 57, he coinvented the lithium-ion battery that shrank power into a tiny package.

Source: To Be a Genius, Think Like a 94-Year-Old – The New York Times

Mark Turner : United Passenger “Removal”: A Reporting and Management Fail | naked capitalism

April 12, 2017 08:37 PM

This is the best piece I’ve read yet on United’s “re-accommodation” fiasco.

As disturbing as is the now widely-discussed incident of the brute force removal of a 69 year old doctor from a United flight last week, equally troubling is the poor job the press has done on such a high profile and relatively simple story. We’ll go over some of the glaring and regular errors as well as troubling oversights before turning to another puzzlingly under-examined issue: what this incident says about management at United. And we don’t mean arrogance and tone-deafness.

Reporting Failures

Widespread misreporting of the cause of the incident as “overbooking”. It would be difficult to figure out how to construct a reasonable sample, from reading a large number of accounts of the incident, a substantial majority, which I would guesstimate as being in the 75% range, refer to the cause of United’s perceived need to eject the elderly passenger, Dr. David Dao, as “overbooking”. Confirming this impression is that that four Senators and Governor Chris Christie, when weighing in on the incident, all referred to it as the result of overbooking or overselling.

Source: United Passenger “Removal”: A Reporting and Management Fail | naked capitalism

Mark Turner : Overbooking should be fraud

April 12, 2017 05:37 PM

Admit one (well, if we feel like it) [courtesy torbakhopper@flickr]


Yesterday’s shitstorm caused by United Airlines’s beating up a passenger has brought the practice of overbooking into sharp focus. Why do we let airlines get away with overbooking? How is this even legal? A ticket is essentially a contract: In exchange for my money, you will take me from point A to point B. Seems pretty simple, right? So why are airlines allowed to renege on that contract?

Let’s say you planned to take your sweetie out for a big date at a concert. You bought your tickets months in advance and made arrangements for transportation, hotel, etc. You and your sweetie get all dressed up, show up at the arena, and get settled in your seats only to be tossed from the arena because they are “oversold.” You’d feel like burning something down, wouldn’t you? And yet airlines do this every day.

Now, let’s imagine that you made reservations for dinner on your date night but the restaurant canceled them. Sure, you’d probably be pissed but a reservation is free. You haven’t put up any money and so you are getting what you paid for. You expect the restaurant to honor the reservation but you know that since you don’t have any skin in the game you have to go along. See the difference?

When my family and I went to Jamaica for vacation two years ago, my son’s ear infection prompted us to forgo our return flight home, a doctor having told us that flying could rupture his eardrum. It seemed an easy thing to just catch another flight home once he was safe to fly but it was extraordinarily difficult to find empty seats! Southwest’s planes were so packed that it was days until seats were available for a trip home.

That’s the problem that overbooking presents. A voucher does no good if there are no flights with empty seats with which you can use it. If airlines are going to fill every seat and make a voucher flight just as difficult to catch, why would people willingly give up the “bird in the hand” that is the seat they’re sitting in? What good is a voucher if the travel it provides is a day or more late?

Airlines have gotten away with overbooking for far too long due to lax FAA regulation. In any other industry it would be considered a crime to sell something you haven’t got. I sure hope United’s incident lights a fire under Congress and regulators to rein in this ridiculous practice.

Mark Turner : Video shows man forcibly removed from United flight from Chicago to Louisville

April 12, 2017 04:34 PM

In case you were under a rock, yesterday United Airlines dragged a paying passenger off one of its planes to make room for another United crew to fly standby. The resulting outcry caused United’s stock to lose $800 million in value at one point Tuesday. CEO Oscar Munoz then released the biggest bullshit non-apology ever, apologizing for having to “re-accommodate” this passenger. I predict that “re-accommodate” has already earned its place on the “word of the year” lists.

A video posted on Facebook late Sunday evening shows a passenger on a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Louisville being forcibly removed from the plane before takeoff at O’Hare International Airport.

The video, posted by Audra D. Bridges at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, is taken from an aisle seat on a commercial airplane that appears to be preparing to take flight. The 31-second clip shows three men wearing radio equipment and security jackets speaking with a man identified as Elizabethtown doctor David Dao seated on the plane. After a few seconds, one of the men grabs the passenger, who screams, and drags him by his arms toward the front of the plane. The video ends before anything else is shown.

Source: Video shows man forcibly removed from United flight from Chicago to Louisville

Mark Turner : Google’s “Someone has your password” emails still ripe for abuse

April 10, 2017 07:23 PM

Fraud or not? Always be on guard!

I got another “Someone has your password” emails today from Google’s security team. These appear to be sent due to a flaw in the way Google geolocates the IP addresses used by our T-Mobile phones and are thus false alarms. That doesn’t keep me from freaking out every time I get one, however.

What’s more, it is exactly these emails that compromised John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee’s emails during the campaign. I consider myself fairly savvy at detecting phishing emails but I have to admit that the fake email the Russians sent was good enough to have had a chance of catching me.

I emailed a friend at Google to make sure the company knew their geolocation stuff was in need of serious work. My friend replied that Google is aware that their algorithm needs work and were working on a way to receive feedback from the message recipients. It appears Google’s “New sign in from … ” emails have a feedback link at the bottom but the “Someone has your password” emails still do not.

I appreciate getting alerts when unauthorized activity is detected but I could certainly do without the false alarms.

Tarus Balog : How Version 2.0 Killed Android Wear

April 10, 2017 06:18 PM

I am the happy owner of an LG Urbane smartwatch. Unfortunately, I just upgraded to Android Wear 2.0 and now I can’t use it.

Andrea Wear 2.0 Upgrade

Luckily for me, my smartwatch is not “mission critical”. If I leave it at home by mistake, I don’t turn around to go back to get it. The main thing I use it for is notifications. I like the fact that if it is with me, it will automatically mute my phone and then vibrate when I have a notice. A quick glance at my wrist will tell me if I need to deal with it right this moment, or if it can wait.

The second thing I use it for is to do simple voice searches or to set reminders and timers. Outside of that there are a few apps I use and I like the fact that it tracks my steps, but overall I don’t use a ton of features.

When the notice popped up that I could upgrade, I blindly went ahead and did it. In retrospect, that was stupid, but I often get in trouble rushing out to install the “new shiny”. The upgrade seemed to go fine, and I didn’t think that much about it until lunch.

One of the things I do before heading out to lunch is check the temperature to see if I need a jacket. So I did the usual wrist flick to “wake” the watch and said “Ok Google” to get to the voice prompt.

Nothing happened.

Hrm, I did some research and apparently with 2.0 you have to press the button on the side of the watch to get to the Google prompt. I think this is a huge step backward, because now I have to involve both hands, and I find it ironic that with Android Wear 1.5 I I had to sit through a demo of one-handed gestures over and over again (I often have to re-pair my watch due to reloading software on my phone) and now they’ve thrown “do everything with one hand” out the window.

Anyway, I pressed the button which then brought up the Google Assistant setup screen on my phone. With 2.0 if you want to use voice searches, etc., you must use Google Assistant and you have to give Google access to all of your contacts, calendars etc.

(sigh)

I work hard to “sandbox” my Google activity from the rest of my digital life. It’s not that I think they are evil, it’s just that I don’t want anyone to have that much information on me, well, other than me. I kind of despair for free and open source software solutions in the consumer space. Everyone seems to be rushing to adopt these “always on” digital assistants with absolutely no regard to privacy, and this is causing vendors to lock down their ecosystems more and more. While open source is definitely winning on the server side, I don’t think the outlook has ever been so grim on the consumer side.

There were some upsides with 2.0, such as improvements to the look and feel, but I also found that I didn’t care for the new notification system (I seemed to miss a lot of them – perhaps I needed to change a configuration). But the requirement for Google Assistant was a deal breaker.

I thought about going back to 1.5, which I liked, but I can’t seem to find a factory image. In trying to locate one, I discovered that TWRP does have a version for bass (the codename for the LG Urbane) and I should have installed that and made a backup before upgrading. I contacted LG and they told me it was impossible to downgrade. That’s a load of crap because I could easily sideload the old version if they made it available, but then I’d have to deal with constant upgrade reminders and the few apps I do use would probably stop support for 1.5 to focus on 2.0.

It just isn’t worth it.

I know at least one of my three readers is thinking I should just cave and learn to embrace the Google, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I am eagerly awaiting open source alternatives like Asteriod OS (which just isn’t ready for daily use) and Mycroft (which is supposed to be shipping units this month) but I really don’t think I’ll miss my Urbane enough to spend the time on it.

I plan to sell my Urbane on eBay and I’ve gone back to my previous “dumb” watch (a nice little Frederique Constant I bought on a flight from Dubai to London). It’s kind of a shame since I enjoyed using it, but to be honest I’m not going to miss it all that much.

Mark Turner : Men and women in leadership roles

March 29, 2017 03:08 PM

Ladies, men making decisions about you (like VP Mike Pence and the “Freedom Caucus” here) should be incentive enough to start taking charge.

I’ve been fortunate to work with a number of strong, amazing women, many of whom have stories of times when they have been (or felt they’ve been) shut out of important discussions in their professional lives simply because of their gender. I’m always sad to hear that they face this treatment and strive myself to treat everyone with whom I work (and, frankly, everyone I meet) with respect.

I got a small taste of how this feels as PTA president when I’d be the only man in a meeting and the women would never address me. Education, it seems, is so overwhelmingly associated with women that as a man I felt like an interloper. Other PTA volunteers would so often applaud the efforts of “our PTA ladies” that rather that fight the point it was easier just to quietly consider myself an “honorary lady.” There are ongoing efforts to get more dads involved in PTA but I came to realize that the deck is stacked against them.

Another thing I have noticed after years of serving on various boards and groups is that some women love to call the shots but only if they’re not the actual leader. They have strong views of how things should be done but when given the opportunity to take charge of the changes they demur. This drives me nuts because I know what they’re capable of doing – these are women who are great leaders – but for whatever reason are reluctant to be in charge. I don’t know if this is a culture thing or what but many women seem to hold themselves back – a self-imposed glass ceiling. They have so much going for them! If they’d only step up and add the authority to their ideas they would have it all.

It might come down to men and women leading differently. Or it might come down to me being full of shit, too. As an off-again-on-again leader myself, though, I do enjoy studying the topic.

Mark Turner : Nine years as East Raleigh residents

March 28, 2017 01:24 AM

It was nine years ago tomorrow that we became owners of a home in East Raleigh, walking distance to downtown. We moved in officially the next day (Wednesday’s anniversary), though I did haul some items over to start with.

Still very happy to live where we live!

Mark Turner : Home projects getting done

March 28, 2017 01:16 AM

While I’ve been away from my blog, several honeydos have been getting done (or worked on, anyway). I’ve scrubbed our boat down and started replacing parts in order to get it ready to sell. Kelly and I have also made plans to replace our cracked, rotted deck with something nicer. We’ve also explored expanding our screened porch, though not quite ready to pull the trigger on that one.

One thing we did decide to do is fix the drainage in our back yard. We get deluged by stormwater every time it rains as a catch basin on Glascock street empties into the neighbors’ yard and settles in our yard. The new homes next door have “industrial strength” storm drains at the edge of our property, so we hired a contractor to put in an underground pipe to move the water from one end of our yard to the other. Right now our backyard resembles the trenches of the Western Front of World War One. It should be better than new in a few days, though. Good to be investing in the home again, and knocking out those things we’ve been meaning to do for so long.

Tarus Balog : The Importance of Contributor Agreements

March 27, 2017 05:28 PM

One thing that puzzles me is the resistance within the open source community to contributor agreements. This was brought into focus today when I read that the OpenSSL Project wants to migrate to the Apache 2.0 license from the current project specific OpenSSL license.

In order to do that they need permission from all of the nearly 400 contributors of the project over the last 20+ years, and contacting them will be a huge undertaking. If one person refuses to agree, then they will either have to abandon the effort, or locate that person’s contribution and either remove or replace it.

Many years ago we found out that a company was using OpenNMS in violation of our license. When our lawyer approached them about it, they claimed that they were only using those parts of the code for which we didn’t hold copyright. At that time, early versions of OpenNMS were still copyright Oculan, the company that started the project, and not OpenNMS. Since Oculan wasn’t around anymore it took us awhile to track down the intellectual property, but in the end David and I were able to mortgage our houses to purchase that copyright so that now the project can control all of the code and defend it from license abuse in the future.

But the question arose about what to do moving forward, specifically how should we deal with community contributions? In the past companies like MySQL required all contributors to sign a document with phrases like “You hereby irrevocably assign, transfer, and convey to MySQL all right, title and interest in and to the Contribution” which seemed a little harsh.

I posed this question to the Order of the Green Polo, the de facto project administrators, and DJ Gregor suggested we adopt the Sun Contributor Agreement that we now call the OpenNMS Contributor Agreement, or OCA. This was a straightforward document that asked two things.

First, you attest that you have the right to contribute the code. This is more important than you know, because it helps remove liability from the project should the contribution turn out to be encumbered in some way, such at the author writing it as part of their job and thus it is actually the property of the employer. We allow both individuals and companies to sign the OCA.

Second, you assign copyright to OpenNMS while retaining copyright yourself. This introduces the concept of “dual copyright”. Now some critics will say that this concept hasn’t been tested in court, but there is a long history of authors sharing copyright. Considering that Oracle maintained the agreement in the form of the Oracle Contributor Agreement, it appears that their lawyers were satisfied.

I claim responsibility for the license under which these Contributor Agreements are published: the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License. When DJ suggested the Sun Contributor Agreement I noticed that there wasn’t any license on the agreement itself. I didn’t want to just copy it and change “Sun” to “OpenNMS”, so I contacted Brian Aker who had just moved to Sun with the MySQL acquisition and asked him about it. Soon thereafter the Agreement was updated with the license and we adopted our version of it.

Once we adopted the OCA, I was tasked with tracking down anyone who had ever contributed to OpenNMS outside of the company or Oculan and asking them to sign it. They all did, but I can tell you that I had a hard time tracking down a number of them (people move, e-mails change). I don’t envy OpenSSL at all.

I hope this story illustrates the importance of some sort of Contributor Agreement for open source projects. They don’t have to be evil, and in the end getting your copyright and licensing issues completely sorted out will make managing them in the future so much easier.

Jesse Morgan : 3d Printer Ahoy!

March 25, 2017 02:45 PM

I’ve finally gotten the go-ahead to get a 3d printer. It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time, but I’m just now at the point where I can get into it. As I wait for my tax return, I’ve started learning how to use Freecad.

 

So far I’ve finished the following tutorials:

  • https://www.freecadweb.org/wiki/Basic_Part_Design_Tutorial
  • https://www.freecadweb.org/wiki/Aeroplane
  • https://www.freecadweb.org/wiki/Manual:Modeling_for_product_design
  • https://www.freecadweb.org/wiki/Sketcher_tutorial (2017-03-26)

It’s taken a bit of time, but I’m slowly getting there. With any luck I’ll be fabricating parts with relative ease, then can move on to sculpting with blender.

 

Mark Turner : Still here

March 24, 2017 07:26 PM

Well, yesterday was the day I was supposed to die according to the Death Dream. I’m still here and still just as annoying as I ever was. Perhaps moreso. Aren’t you glad?

Warren Myers : firewalld

March 22, 2017 11:06 PM

Last week, for the better part of 4.5 days, this site was offline.

Along with, of course, every other domain hosted hereon .

Here’s the timeline of my actions

  • Tuesday, reboot to update kernel revs
    • system did not come back online
  • over the next several days, tried all kinds of diagnostic attempts, including
    • verified host was pingable, tracerouteable, etc
    • rescue environments to chroot and remove out of date packages, update boot menus, etc
    • remote KVM (which is Java based, and wouldn’t run on my macOS Sierra machine with Java 8 U121)
  • late Friday (or maybe it was Saturday), received a cron-generated email – which meant the server was up
    • had a bolt of inspiration, and thought to check the firewall (but couldn’t for several hours for various reasons)
  • Saturday evening, using a rescue environment from my hosting provider, chroot’ed into my server, and reset firewalld
    • reboot, and bingo bango! server was back

So. What happened? Short version, something enabled firewalld, and setup basic rules to block everything. And I do mean everything – ssh, http, smtp, etc etc.

Not sure exactly how the firewall rules got mucked-up, but that was the fix.

 

Mark Turner : Where’s Mark?

March 20, 2017 12:18 PM

Been a while since I posted. As y’all should know by now, that means I’ve been busy! Got home from Spain with so much to say about the trip but couldn’t find the time to put it all down. Instead, I had consolidate my two Amazon instances into one, working to save money (and complexity). Since my old server was running CentOS 6.x and I wanted to be able to run Docker, I had to build an identical server, only based on CentOS 7.x. This took a while to transfer but hopefully no one out there noticed.

The reason I wanted Docker was to work on a new project, kicking the tires of new web forum software that I hope to use here in Raleigh for a new community site. It took some work but I got it going, though launch date is still several weeks away.

In the meantime, I prepared for my follow-up colonoscopy, hauled the kids around town, planned a summer vacation, and spent several hours working on our boat, Whimsy, to get it shipshape for selling. Add to this the work I’ve been doing for Central Raleigh CERT and the Democratic Party (who knew how crazy things would get?) and that doesn’t leave much time for anything else.

Oh, and on a whim last month I decided to start running. Kelly and I often get awakened at the crack of dawn by our dog, whining to go for his walk. I pondered my daily schedule and realized I could shift some of my routine around and get in a 30+ minute run first thing. So, three times a week for a few weeks now I’ve been dragging myself out of bed and plodding around a 3 mile course through the neighborhood. Friday morning was 22 degrees F and I still got in a good run, so I guess I’m serious about this. My next goal is to do a 5K. It turns out Ligon Middle School’s Bolt for the Blue is April 30, which is about the right timing for my first race in a while. Should be good.

I’ve got more posts to share. Been saving them up for when I have time and it seems I’ll have some time soon to do some catching up.

Tarus Balog : Electronic Devices and CPB

March 09, 2017 02:04 PM

With the change in administration in the United States, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have modified their behavior to include actions with which I don’t agree. These include forcing a US citizen to unlock his mobile device, even though it was a work device and contained sensitive information. I set out to come up with how I will deal with this situation should it arise in the future.

TL;DR My plan is as follows: before I enter the United States, I will generate a long, random password and set that as the encryption password for my laptop and my handy. I will then ssh into an old iMac I have on my desk, store the password in a file, and then shut the computer down. At that point I will not be able to access the information on my device until I return to the office and power on the system.

UPDATE: The EFF has published a detailed guide to help understand your rights at the border.

First off, let me say that until recently I’ve always respected CPB. They have a tough job and everyone I’ve ever met while returning from my travels has been efficient, competent and friendly.

But after the recent “Muslim Ban” fiasco I’ve come to realize that my experience is not universal. I think one of the main problems is this idea that the Constitution stops at the CBP desk, and until you are past it you really aren’t “in America” and thus the Constitution doesn’t apply.

I don’t agree with this interpretation, but it can probably be traced to the actions taken by the US government after 9/11 and the creation of the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Prior to that, when “bad hombres” were captured by the US government, they fell into one of two categories: criminals or prisoners of war. How each class was treated was fairly well defined. Criminals were processed according to the rule of law, and the treatment of POW’s was covered under the various Geneva Conventions.

The US government decided that those two classifications were inconvenient, and so they ventured into the murky waters of “enemy combatant” and Guantanamo. Their logic goes that since Guantanamo isn’t in the US, US law doesn’t apply, and since these people aren’t members of a foreign country’s military force with which we are at war, then they aren’t POWs. So, the US gets to make up its own rules about how these people are treated.

This is dangerous for a number of reasons. Since nothing is really codified about the treatment and rights of the detainees at Guantanamo, the rules are arbitrary. Also, this opens the door for other countries such as Russia to do similar things without fear of international repercussions. The US has survived for so long because things like this are not supposed to happen, yet here we are.

This thought now extends to the border. Even though a US citizen is being questioned by another US citizen, in the role of a representative of the US government on US soil, somehow the rules of the Constitution are suspended. It’s arbitrary and I don’t buy it. The Constitution codifies a right to privacy in the Fourth Amendment, and it doesn’t go away when entering the country. And it definitely extends to mobile devices, which in today’s world are probably the most personal item people own.

So how can people like me, with almost no political power, resist this threat to our freedom?

I’ve always done little things, like opting out of millimeter wave scans at airports and getting a pat down instead (I’m not shy). If everyone did this the whole system would collapse, and they would find better ways of dealing with security than the security theater we have now. Seriously, if the Israelis don’t use it, it ain’t worth using.

When I turned to the problem of dealing with CBP, my main thoughts went to two devices that I use when traveling: my handy (mobile “phone”) and my laptop. I figured the easiest thing to do would be to just wipe them before coming into the country, but that presents some logistics problems.

For example, I could make a backup of my handy, copy it to a server at home, and then wipe it. The problem is that I have 64GB of storage on the device and I doubt I could transfer a backup in time over, say, a hotel Wi-Fi connection. One of my coworkers uses an iPhone and they thought about wiping their phone and just restoring it from iCloud when they were in the country, but then CBP could require that he turn over his iCloud password.

On my laptop I use whole disk encryption, but I thought about just rsync’ing my home directory and then deleting it before leaving, then again there is the WiFi issue and I really don’t want to have to deal with copying everything back when I’m home.

Then it dawned on me that if I didn’t know the encryption password, then I couldn’t reveal it. The problem became how to create a secure password that I couldn’t remember yet get it back when I needed it.

While my main desktop computer runs Linux Mint, I keep an old iMac on my desk mainly to run WebEx sessions and for those rare times I am forced to use a piece of software not available for Linux. It’s connected to the network, so I can access it remotely. But, if I can access it, I would be lying if CBP asked me for my password and I said I couldn’t retrieve it. Unlike the US Attorney General, I refuse to perjure myself.

Then it dawned on me that I could shut the iMac down remotely and have no way to turn it back on. Thus I could store a passphrase on it, retrieve it when I was back in the country, but until then I would be unable to unlock my devices.

That became the plan. So, the next time I’m returning from overseas, I’ll generate a new, random password. I’ll set that as the whole disk encryption password on my laptop and the encryption password on my handy (note that this is different from the screen-lock password). This will also tie up all of my social network passwords since I use complex ones and store them on those devices. Well, with the exception of my Google account, but since I use two-factor authentication I should be safe as my handy is the device that generates the codes (and I won’t carry any of the backup codes). As long as both of those devices stay powered on, I’ll be able to use them, but once I power them off they will be useless until I get to the office, power on the iMac, and retrieve the passphrase. Note that in order to do that, I’ll be firmly in the US and anyone who wants me to unlock my devices will need a court order.

Which I would respect, unlike CBP. I think the scariest part of the whole “Muslim Ban” incident was when CBP refused to honor court orders. America is built on three branches of government, and when the Executive branch ignores the orders of the Judicial branch we are all in trouble.

I had a two other problems to address, one of which is done. If I’m in the US but my handy is locked, how would I make calls? I might need to call my ride home, etc. To that end I bought a cheap “feature” phone and I’ll just move the SIM card to it when we land.

ZTE Feature Phone

The second issue is that while I should be on solid legal ground concerning my electronic devices, there is nothing preventing CBP from holding me for a long time. Thus the final step is to find an attorney and execute a G-28 form allowing them to represent me. I’m not sure if I need a civil rights lawyer or an immigration lawyer but I’m looking into it. My goal is to be able to notify my attorney when I am coming back into the country, and then send an SMS to them when I am through immigration. If that doesn’t arrive within two hours of my scheduled arrival, they need to come and get me.

I think the thing that bothers me the most about this whole process is the need for it. I’m not a tinfoil-hat conspiracy guy but the actions of the new government have me worried. As I use open source software almost exclusively I know I’m safer than most when it comes to surveillance, and I also don’t expect to run into any problems being an older, white male. But I’d rather be safe than sorry, and the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

Warren Myers : circus

March 08, 2017 08:30 PM

“Ladies and Gentlemen. Boys and Girls. Children of ALL ages. Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey’s Circus is proud to present … GUNTHER .. GABLE .. WILLIAMS!!!”

Is about all I recall in vivid detail from when I went to see the RB&B&B circus as a kid with my parents, aunt, and friends. (And, as a sidebar, gave me the idea to be a host of something “cool” someday.”)

Saturday, my wife and I are taking our three to see Ringling Brothers on their farewell tour.

It’s exciting that I get to take my kids to see it.

But incredibly sad they won’t get to go again.

Tarus Balog : Dev Jam 2017: July 16-21 Concordia University

March 07, 2017 08:27 PM

One of my favorite times of the whole year is the week of Dev-Jam, the annual OpenNMS Developers Conference. This year will mark our twelfth meeting, and it has grown quite a bit since our inaugural one in 2005.

For the first time we will be holding Dev-Jam outside of the United States. About a third of the attendees come from other countries and due to recent changes in US immigration policy we couldn’t have people forced to reveal sensitive things such as social media passwords just to come to Dev-Jam.

So, we are holding it at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Not only is Montreal an awesome city, Concordia is also the alma mater of Jesse White, one of the key architects of OpenNMS. It should be a wonderful venue for the conference.

We have reserved a block of rooms in the historic Grey Nuns Building. Similar to the dorms we have used in the past, every one will get a single room with a shared bathroom. If you would rather stay in a more conventional hotel, there are a number of excellent choices nearby, although I would strongly recommend you consider the dorm as the majority of people will be staying there and it can be quite nice.

Grey Nuns Motherhouse

There are also a number of other events going on in Montreal that week, including a Metallica concert and a fireworks competition, and we will try to do something as a group (baseball is out since the Expos moved to Washington, DC, in 2004).

Space is limited, so if you are the slightest bit interested please let me know and I can reserve you a spot. More details can be found on the wiki and registration is now open.

Hope to see you there, and yes, there will be poutine.

Mark Turner : KremlinGate Just Put the Trump White House in a Precarious Place | Observer

March 06, 2017 10:03 PM

Last week I explained in this column how President Donald Trump, despite facing serious political challenges over his murky ties to the Kremlin, was fortunate to have opponents more motivated by partisanship than truth-telling. As long as that state of affairs continued, the commander-in-chief was likely to avoid the thorough scrutiny which his apparent links to Moscow actually merit.

A lot has changed in just a few days. Last week began promisingly for the president, with his joint address to Congress on Tuesday evening earning better reviews than many had anticipated. Then it all unraveled the next day, when it was reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a key member of the White House inner circle, had two discussions with Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador in Washington, during the 2016 election campaign.

It’s hardly abnormal for sitting senators—as Sessions was last year—to meet with foreign diplomats, even Russian ones, but the precise capacity in which he chatted with Kislyak suddenly became important. Was Sessions parleying with the Kremlin’s emissary as a senator or as a top advisor to Donald Trump?

Source: KremlinGate Just Put the Trump White House in a Precarious Place | Observer

Warren Myers : somewhere over the buffet

March 03, 2017 07:49 PM

From the late, great John Pinnete (to the tune of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”)

Somewhere over the buffet:
Food piled high.
There’s a meal I must get to,
Stop me and you will die.

Somewhere over the buffet:
Watch me fly.
Eating up all of the profits,
Making the owner cry.

Someday I’ll have my own buffet
Where no one can tell me to stop eating.
With prime rib, pork chops, pizza, ham –
A gastronomic wonderland!

I’ll be at every seating!

If scrawny, skinny men can fly
Over the buffet,
Why oh why can’t I?

Mark Turner : Donald Trump’s White House ‘Shit Sandwich’ Problem

February 20, 2017 01:38 AM

Wow.

Whatever the case, it’s clear that, when a retired flag officer declines a job offer from the president* that would put him at the top of the national security apparatus, he’s had a good, long look into Bedlam and has declined to sign on.

Source: Donald Trump’s White House ‘Shit Sandwich’ Problem

Tarus Balog : Fourteen Years

February 19, 2017 03:44 PM

I just wanted to take a second to thank my three readers for fourteen years of support.

My first post on this blog happened on this date in 2003, and when I wrote it I had little idea I’d still be doing it almost a decade and a half later.

It does seem weird that I still consider OpenNMS a start-up. We took a much different path than a lot of other companies, focusing on our customers instead of fundraising. With our mission statement of “Help Customers, Have Fun, Make Money” and our business plan of “Spend Less Than You Earn” we’ve not only managed to survive but thrive, and both the company and the project have never been stronger. While we are always looking for good investors, this allows us to pick just the right partner.

I’d like to end this with a quote from Michael Seibel of Ycombinator. Actually, it is almost his entire blog post but it really resonated with me.

I’d like to make the point that success isn’t the same as raising a round of financing. Quite the opposite: raising a round should be a byproduct of success. Using fundraising itself as a benchmark is dangerous for the entire community because it encourages a culture of optimizing for short term showmanship instead of making something people want and creating lasting value.

I believe founders, investors, and the tech press should fundamentally change how they think about fundraising. By deemphasizing investment rounds we would have more opportunity to celebrate companies who develop measurable milestones of value creation, focus on serving a customer with a real need, and generate sustainable businesses with good margins.

Optimizing for funding rounds is just as unproductive as optimizing for headcount, press mentions, conference invites, fancy offices, speaking gigs or top line revenue growth with massively negative unit economics.

Mark Turner : All’s well in the end

February 16, 2017 03:47 AM

I’m done with today’s colonoscopy and, even better, I’m off the hook for another five years. The doctor removed another small polyp but that appeared to be the last. Other than that all was routine.

We got to the endoscopy office and waited at the elevator with another, older couple. Mr. B, dressed like me in sweatpants and a long-sleeve T-shirt, jokingly asked me “how was your night of sleep?”

“I’ve had better!” I laughed, recognizing the Patient Uniform we both were wearing. It was Mr. B’s second colonoscopy, ten years after his first. I told him the second time was easier though with a gap of ten years he might have forgotten all about the first. Mr. B got seen first and I’d wished I’d had more time to chat with him because he and his wife were so friendly and nice.

My account I posted this morning was roughly correct with a few changes. Andi, the anesthesiologist, never gave me a chance to count. I was chattering away about how I knew the name of the pulse oximeter she had placed on my finger and went into the story of our daughter being born a preemie. All the while she’s plunging a syringe right in front of me and I don’t even notice! A second later, my head starts swirling and I don’t even have time to say “hey!” before the lights go out and I’m gone.

I was comfortably out for the 40 minutes or so I was back there (Dr. Schwartz told me beforehand that the actual scope process took about 20 minutes). Regaining consciousness was an interesting process. I awoke to the sight of Kelly at my side and Dr. Schwartz standing at the curtain. Apparently we had been joking around about a front-end loader – I believe the doc asked if I was all ready to operate a front-end loader or something. At first my mouth would move and words came out but my mind would instantly forget what was said. I repeated a question or two more than once.

Gradually my recall began to return and things began to stick in my memory again. Fortunately, Kelly wrote down everything the doc said and then with little fanfare I was asked to get dressed again to be wheeled out of the recovery room. The endoscopy place operates like a well-oiled machine.

As we waited for one of the staffmembers to roll me out in a wheelchair, I saw Mr. B in line for the same service.

“Wanna race?” he grinned as he gave me a thumbs up over his shoulder. I smiled back and laughed. It was a good reminder to make the most of a unpleasant situation.

And that was pretty much it. I was loaded into the car, Kelly stopped to get me my requested Egg McMuffins, and I took a two hour nap at home. I couldn’t drive nor do anything requiring coordination or concentration so I caught up on today’s news and rested.

Warren Myers : vw to start driving into the cloud

February 15, 2017 05:51 PM

VW is planning to put cameras and sensors on new cars sold after 2018 to aid self-driving vehicles, create better maps, and more.

Ford announced concept vehicles back in 2010 that could Tweet while they drove.

Pretty sure I don’t like this move on the part of VW – technologically, it’s super cool. But from a privacy standpoint … not so much.

Tarus Balog : Ulf: My Favorite Open Source Animal

February 15, 2017 05:32 PM

Over at opensource.com they asked “What’s your favorite open source animal?” Hands down, it’s Ulf.

OpenNMS Kiwi: Ulf

When I was at FOSDEM this year, we were often asked about the origin of having a kiwi as our mascot. Kiwi’s are mainly associated with New Zealand, and OpenNMS is not from New Zealand. But Ulf is.

Every year we have a developer’s conference called “Dev Jam“. Back in 2010, a man named Craig Miskell came from NZ and brought along a plush toy kiwi. He gave it to a group of people who had come from Germany, since he had come the furthest east for the conference and they had come the furthest west. They named him “Ulf”.

There was no conscious decision to make Ulf our mascot, it just happened organically. People in the project started treating him as a “traveling gnome“, setting up a wiki page to track some of the places he’s been, and he even has his own Twitter account.

I lost him once. We had a holiday party a few years ago and Ulf went missing. We thought he had been left in a limo, so I dutifully sought out a replacement. I found one for US$9, but of course shipping from NZ was an additional US$80 more, so I bought two. I later found Ulf hiding in the pocket of a formal overcoat I rarely wear (but had the night of the party) so now we have a random array of individual Ulf’s.

Anyway, Ulf manages to represent OpenNMS often, from stickers to holiday cards and keychains. I love the fact that he just kind of happened, we didn’t make a conscious decision to use him in marketing. If you happen to come across OpenNMS at conferences like FOSDEM, be sure to stop by and say “hi”.

Mark Turner : Scoping out today’s colonoscopy events

February 15, 2017 12:00 PM

Today I head in for my colonoscopy. I’m to arrive an hour early (8 AM) to make sure paperwork gets filled out, any remaining questions get answered, and to get changed into my gown. While I set settled on a hospital bed, an anesthesiologist will insert an IV into my arm. The doctor will meet with me to answer any other questions I might have and then when the procedure room is ready I’ll get wheeled into it.

Once in the room, I’ll have the opportunity to say hello to the team doing the colonoscopy, usually two other staffers (nurse and anesthesiologist, I believe) and the doctor. I’ll get shifted from the hospital bed to a operating table and told to lie on my left side with my knees pulled up at my chest. I’ll get EKG leads attached to my chest to measure my vital signs.

Once everything is ready, the anesthesiologist will open the valve on the sedation IV. I will be asked to count to 10 and by the time I hit 6 or 8 I will completely go under. The medical team will then do its thing and thirty minutes later I will awaken in a bit of a drug-induced stupor for a while. I recall doing a lot of vivid dreaming right before I was awakened by the nurse calling my name and poking me. It felt like I had been out for a while even though it was only 30-40 minutes.

The doctor will explain to my loving wife whatever instructions I will need when I get home and then I’ll get wheeled in a wheelchair out to our car. I remember feeling able to walk and do things when I got sent out of the facility but this was an illusion. This time around I will be a good patient and take it easy.

Once home I will likely want to sleep for several hours until the sedation wears off. Then the next day it’s back to my same routine with the exception of no exercising or straining for a week or two. The doctors don’t want any potential perforations to get aggravated.

That’s all for this … end. I’ll write more when I come out of my stupor later today.

Mark Turner : Day of colonoscopy prep

February 15, 2017 03:29 AM

So I made it to the tail end (ha!) of my day of colonoscopy preparation and its been better than the first time. What does a day of colonoscopy preparation mean? I’m about to tell ya. Why do I tell ya? Not because it’s glamorous or fun, but because someday, Dear Reader, you may also be faced with having to get a colonoscopy and you’ll be thinking “dammit, why didn’t I listen to that blogger guy, Whatisname?”

Beginning Monday, I switched to a mostly diet – not because anyone told me to but because I wanted today to be as smooth as possible. I bought a case of Ensure-type nutritional shakes at Costco and swigged them throughout the day yesterday, pausing only for a four-egg dinner because I got so hungry by the end of yesterday. Today, though, was an all clear-liquids diet. That meant Gatorade, Jello, and chicken broth. Mostly Gatorade, as I’ll explain in a moment.

The doc wants you to stay hydrated because the laxative is going to take a lot out of you. You can only consume clear liquids, though, because anything more solid will clutter your bowel. My epiphany this time around is that chicken broth, while relatively tasty, only has 15 measly calories. A glass of Gatorade, on the other hand, has 80 calories. A bowl of Jello has calories somewhere in-between. Thus, I mostly subsisted on Gatorade today after two large cups of black coffee in the morning. Then, once I’d gotten as many calories as I could from Gatorade, I drank two cups of heated chicken broth at dinnertime.

For breakfast and lunch it was Jello, one box per serving. It gave my stomach something to do but I still found myself craving a handful of assorted nuts and dipping chips in hummus throughout the day. I’d also find myself imagining cutting into a juicy steak but the daydreaming was only torturing me more. I found myself wanting to get outside for a while, just to get away from all food.

So my routine wasn’t much different than normal for most of today, other than the liquid diet. My blood pressure began to rise a bit when it came time to take my first laxative, Dulcolax, a stimulant laxative that was relatively easy to handle.

At 5 PM the real fun started when I took my first dose of SURPREP. This stuff goes through you within 30 minutes and from then on you’re going to stay wherever you are for a while. A follow-up dose at 9 AM will likely keep me awake for a bit longer but after 11 PM my gut should settle down for the night.

Today is the hardest day of the whole colonoscopy routine. The procedure itself is a breeze, comparatively speaking. I show up, put on a gown, and fall asleep for 45 minutes. Super easy. But Prep Day is not much fun.

I got some ideas from last time on how to make this time better. I swallowed my pride and made use of diaper rash cream and adult … shall we say, “undergarments.” Both made a difference in my comfort.

And here’s something I just figured out that no one else has ever told me: when you are drinking your water or drinks, make them warm or lukewarm ones! You’re going to be flushing your body with lots of water during this day and if you’re doing it with cold water your body is going to feel somewhat chilled. That hot chicken broth I drank offered pitiful calories but its warmness was greatly appreciated. If the SUPREP laxative calls for “cool water,” you can read this as “not excessively hot.” Warm is okay. Also, feel free to make your hydration drink of choice to be decaffeinated coffee or tea. Might as well drink something tasty and warm while you’re fueling up.

What’s left? Tomorrow’s procedure! At this point I’m so looking forward to getting it over with and chowing down to a big hamburger or Egg McMuffin. I’ll blog a bit on tomorrow’s expected process in the morning.

Mark Turner : HKonJ | North Carolina NAACP on crowd size at Moral March in Raleigh | News & Observer

February 15, 2017 02:26 AM

N&O reporter Will Doran took a stab at estimating crowd size, rightfully pointing out that Fayetteville Street isn’t long enough to hold the 80,000 demonstrators some claimed were at Saturday’s HKonJ rally.

Blending the Howard Jacobs-method of estimating crowd size that Doran used with the National Park Service’s official SWAG method (“scientific wild-ass guess”), I’ve done my own calculations, based on the drone shot I took and shared in the previous blog post and measuring streets and spaces using Google Maps.

Here’s what I came up with:
South Street area between Salisbury and Wilmington, curb to curb: 600 x 33 ft = 19,800 sq. ft.
Wilmington between South and Davie: 1224 x 34 ft. = 41,616 sq. ft.
Davie between Wilmington and Fayetteville: 300 x 38 ft. = 11,400 sq. ft.
Fayetteville St. between Davie and Morgan: 1429 x 99 ft. = 141,471 sq. ft.

Now, based on my drone photo there is a huge crowd still in front of Memorial Auditorium at 10:35 AM. The area they’re in totals 71,500 sq. ft, give or take. It looks packed.

Going by the 5 sq. ft. per person Jacobs model and assuming all of these areas are that full, I get a high-end guesstimate of 57,157 people. The low-end estimate assuming the 10 sq. ft model (and that Memorial is 5-level full) is 35,729 people. A middle estimate that assumes Fayetteville was closer to slightly half-full gives me 44,168 people.

So, did the rally attract 80,000? Not even close. Still, the numbers it did attract are still quite impressive by any measure.

Supporters of Saturday’s protest march in downtown Raleigh, the 11th annual HKonJ, said more than 80,000 people attended.Organizers including the N.C. NAACP announced the massive crowd size, then it began circulating on social media and was picked up and repeated by several national news outlets covering the event.

The march was held to oppose President Donald Trump and to voice support for a laundry list of causes, ranging from supporting Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act to opposing gerrymandering. HKonJ stands for Historic Thousands on Jones Street.

But many questioned whether the crowd was really as big as organizers and attendees claimed, and some asked PolitiFact North Carolina to look into it.

Crowd size estimates are a handy way of gauging people’s interest – or lack thereof – in the big topics of the day.So understandably, estimates often inspire emotional reactions from both sides – especially in highly politicized contexts like this weekend’s HKonJ.

Source: HKonJ | North Carolina NAACP on crowd size at Moral March in Raleigh | News & Observer

Mark Turner : Huge crowd for HKonJ rally Saturday

February 15, 2017 01:49 AM

HKonJ brings a huge crowd to downtown Raleigh, Feb 2017..

This past Saturday was the day of the annual HKonJ rally and march (#HKonJ #MoralMarch hashtags). HKonJ stands for Historic Thousands on Jones Street. It was one of several HKonJ marches I’ve attended. Previous marches sometimes seemed overly optimistic calling themselves “thousands” as there didn’t seem to be a lot of interest. That certainly wasn’t the case Saturday as there was arguably the biggest demonstration I’ve ever seen in Raleigh.

Kelly, Hallie, and I attended but we were running late due to all the other things that happen in the Turner household on weekends. By the time we had made our signs and were in the car, it was close to 10:30 AM. We parked the car in the parking deck at Blount and Cabarrus and snapped a quick photo before heading off. Kelly and Hallie took their signs and joined the crowd marching towards Fayetteville Street, while I took advantage of the empty parking deck to launch my drone for some aerial footage of the crowd.

At least I got some footage before a downtown Raleigh security person (“ambassador?”) chased me out of the deck, saying that hanging around to photograph was not permitted. Then, when I tried to launch again from the intersection of Wilmington Street and Davie Street, my drone lost its GPS lock and landed in a tree. Fortunately only the propellers got damaged but I had no backups with me and packed it in to get to my Democratic Party SEC meeting that afternoon.

I posted a few aerial shots I had taken and got lots of shares and likes on Twitter and Facebook. I’m surprised I was the only one in the air but that apparently was the case. I have to get serious about getting a commercial drone license so I can do this for pay.

I was thinking about the rally again earlier this week while I frantically printed and signed a stack of invitations for active Democrats in my neighborhood to attend an upcoming precinct meeting. A favorite chant at rallies is “this is what democracy looks like.” I thought about that while I put those papers together and decided that marching down the street is perhaps what the first step of democracy looks like. It’s the flashy and fun part, the easy part. It’s the celebration. It’s fun to get together with your tribe and let out a roar. It’s energizing.

But it’s not enough. Democracy is knocking on doors, signing up voters. It’s pitching in to help campaigns. It’s choosing to run as a candidate. It’s working phone banks, canvassing neighborhoods, and organizing volunteers.

This is where the Tea Party has outdone us lefties. They have rallies too, of course, but they have followed them up with action. They have steered their candidates towards their views and made those views abundantly plain to elected officials. In short, they’ve done the heavy lifting of democracy; the quiet, behind-the-scenes work that really makes a difference. That’s how they’ve become a political force in America today.

That’s one quibble I have with HKonJ: there need to be more tables along Fayetteville Street staffed by good organizations who can use that moment to sign up an army of volunteers. What good does it do to march and cheer if you just go home and that’s it? I didn’t see much effort put into harnessing the energy that was built and it seems like a missed opportunity. Fortunately, there will be other rallies and chances to build on this, so hopefully people will continue to be engaged.

Tarus Balog : 2017 Europe: Brussels and FOSDEM

February 14, 2017 09:48 PM

This post is about a week overdue, but for the first time in my life I came down with a vicious case of “con crud”. This is a illness that you can get after attending a conference or convention (no reference since the top hits on Google all reference “furries“). This really knocked me out – mainly sinus congestion so severe that my head hurt so bad I couldn’t really sleep. It just laughed at my attempt to treat it with pseudophedrine, and nothing but time seemed to help. Luckily I feel better now and I’m eager to talk about my great time in Brussels at my first FOSDEM.

The Free Open Source Developers European Meeting is probably the largest free software event in the world. This year an expected 8000 people descended on the Université Libre de Bruxelles, and I believe every one of them walked by our stand. It was insane.

I arrived from Riga Friday night and made it to my hotel. My so-called friends had already abandoned me and headed toward the Grand Place and Cafe Delirium, the de facto pre-conference bar.

Cafe Delirium Crowd

Against all odds I managed to catch up with them in the alley outside the bar. Ronny and Markus had come over from Germany, as did Simon and Anya. Jonathan and Craig had come from the UK, and I finally got to meet the amazing Cyrille, a long time OpenNMS contributor who lives in Brussels. There was beer.

Our Gang at Cafe Delirium

We headed over to the university early on Saturday to set up our booth. While this was my first FOSDEM, I was told by a couple of long time attendees that the conference outgrew the venue years ago, with various suggestions for why: from “tradition” to “it’s free”. In any case, it does create an atmosphere that can only be described as special.

FOSDEM Stand

We had a stand in Building K on the second level. This was in a wide hallway surrounding a large auditorium where a number of sessions were held. From the start we got a lot of traffic to the stand, and unlike many conferences the people that stopped seemed genuinely interested in learning about OpenNMS and weren’t just there to check out the swag.

And we had really good swag. In addition to a number of stickers (including the awesome “Ulf Mate” sticker as a play on the “Club Mate” logo and slogan), we had, new for this show, OpenNMS keychain/bottle openers which were a big hit.

OpenNMS Keychains

I also got interviewed for Hacker Public Radio. I don’t remember much of what I said, but people seemed to be into it (grin).

It is seriously difficult for me to describe the crowds. When I needed the restroom, I had to make my way downstairs and then fight my way through a crowd so packed I think it rivaled that year I went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

FOSDEM Crowd

But it just lent to the energy and atmosphere of the place. I know from social media that a number of people I know were there that I just missed (looking at you Brian Proffitt) but I did get to see some old friends and I make a few new ones. One person I was happy to meet for the first time was Carol Chen. She is the community manager for ManageIQ, and I first learned about her when Jeff was invited to do an OpenNMS talk at the ManageIQ Design Summit.

Carol Chen and Ulf

She showed up at the stand on Sunday in search of one of our keychains, but we had run out. I had put one away for me but was happy to give it to her. After all, I can always get more.

One thing that sets FOSDEM apart from other open source conferences is the emphasis on “free” software, and some of the social justice causes that naturally follow. Heck, the University has “free” (as in freedom) in its name. Considering that the US President had signed a “Muslim Ban” the week before the conference, it was cool to see this sign on campus.

Refugees Sign

But not all of the fun happened at ULB. Brussels has some beautiful architecture, and just wandering around you might come across a stunning building like this church.

Brussels Church

Nothing is probably as striking as the Grand Place, or central square of Brussels. It is surrounded by tall buildings, some of which represent Guildhalls of various crafts. My friend Daniel pointed out to me that a lot of the money for those buildings probably came from Antwerp during the height of the Hanseatic League. Since the cities of Tallinn and Riga were key players in the Hansa, it kind of brought this European trip full circle.

That’s not to say there aren’t modern things in Brussels. I’ll post this picture without comment.

Mr. Ego Sign

We ended the conference on Sunday with a small group of us meeting for beers and then dinner. Dinner was held at Restaurant Vincent and it was quite good.

Dinner at Vincent's

At the table is Karen Sandler from the Software Freedom Conservancy, me, Lukas and Daniel Ranc from Paris (Daniel teaches at Télécom SudParis and his son is working on his Ph.D.), Cyrille Bollu, Ronny Trommer and Markus von Rüden from OpenNMS, and Spot Calloway from Red Hat.

My only wish is that we could have sat at a round table, since the long table caused conversation to be split into two. I really wanted Daniel and Spot to chat, as Daniel is working on some cool software for education for doing quizzes and surveys in class, and Spot is focused on higher education at Red Hat. But in any case I really enjoyed the conversation, especially one story that Spot told of his college days that I pretty much can’t top (and I pride myself on being able to hold my own when it comes to storytelling).

It was a nice end to an exciting week.

Mark Turner : What a colonoscopy is like

February 14, 2017 02:25 AM

I briefly mentioned last year about getting a colonoscopy in December 2015. I was scheduled for a follow-up colonoscopy a year following and so I’m going back on Wednesday morning.

I didn’t go into much detail about the whole process though I find medical procedures somewhat fascinating. I chose not to do much blogging about my experience because it seemed a bit embarrassing. This time around, I will share details because I’ve since learned how important this procedure is.

I recall last time gradually coming out of a sedation-induced fog as I lay on the post-op gurney, the doctor coming in to say that they had collected two polyps that were being biopsied. They turned out to be precancerous, fortunately, but gave me a start. I was 46 at the time and on the young side for anything like this to be discovered. It was not an enjoyable experience (or prepping wasn’t, anyway – more on that later), but I’m glad I got it done since who knows what might have happened if I had put it off.

So that brings us up to now. How does one prep for a colonoscopy? Months ago, I got a prescription mailed to me from Wake Endoscopy for two laxatives and a “prep kit.” Starting tomorrow morning I will be on a clear-liquids-only diet until I leave the clinic. Once the laxatives take hold I will be, shall we say, “indisposed” for a great portion of the day (and some of the night).

Then at 8 AM Wednesday, I’ll arrive at the clinic. An hour later, they’ll take me back and I’ll change into a patient robe. I’ll be wheeled into the procedure room and meet the doctor and staff doing the work. They’ll have me lie on my left side, hook an IV into my arm, crank up the sedative, and before I can count to 10 I’ll be out like a light.

Thirty minutes later, I’ll be wheeled back into the post-op area, though to me it will seem as if an entire night has gone by (I remember last time dreaming deeply under sedation). The nurse will continually poke me until she rouses me and, even though my eyes are open and I’m responding to my name, for a little while what I say and hear will be utterly nonsensical due to the sedation. It will appear I’m there but I won’t be, in other words. Kelly will collect the post-op instructions while I get loaded into a wheelchair, after which I’ll be helped into the car for the trip home.

The drug kept me sleepy last time and I went straight to bed. With this procedure being at 9 AM, I’m sure I will be ready to nap for a few hours at least, if not all day. I recall being very hungry afterward last time so I urged Kelly to stop by the nearest McDonald’s for breakfast.

The worst part of a colonoscopy by far is the preparation. Consuming nothing but clear liquids, Jello, and the like is not fun. And certainly are all the frequent trips to the bathroom the day before are not fun. At least the medicines taste better now than they did before – last time around they weren’t the best-tasting but I had no problem drinking them.

With any luck this will be the last colonoscopy I’ll have to do for a while. The second time around won’t be nearly as anxiety-producing for me, though, and hopefully it won’t be for you now should you ever have to get one done.

Mark Turner : Chinese spammers abuse Jetpack plugin

February 10, 2017 11:28 PM

All day long, Chinese spammers have taken advantage of an apparent flaw in Automattic’s (the makers of WordPress) Jetpack plugin. This morning, I noticed a slew of email bounces in my inbox, all with Chinese letters in them and a link to one of my blog posts. It turns out that the spammer has been clicking on the post’s “Share This” link and somehow entering their spam as the resulting email’s “From” address. Each email goes to a “qq.com” address, which is a Chinese mail provider.

The only way I could stop these emails was to turn off Sharing under Jetpack’s settings. Upgrading to the latest Jetpack (4.6) didn’t seem to help.

Apparently this has been an issue since 2014. I have no idea why this is the first time my site has become a victim nor why Automattic hasn’t figured out a suitable countermeasure yet.

Mark Turner : Rahm Emanuel: Too many Dems care more about being right than winning – Chicago Tribune

February 10, 2017 01:26 PM

Rahm has a point. If you’re not in power you have zero say about what gets done.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has warned Democrats they need to “take a chill pill” and realize that they are not going to take back national power anytime soon.”It ain’t gonna happen in 2018,” Emanuel said Monday at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business in California. “Take a chill pill, man. You gotta be in this for the long haul.”

As he did last month at an event in Washington, D.C., the mayor expanded on what he believes is the road map back to power for his party — putting moderate candidates such as veterans, football players, sheriffs and business people up in Republican districts, picking battles with Republicans, exploiting wedges within the GOP and fighting attempts to redistrict Congress on partisan grounds.But this time he didn’t hold back on his frustration with some of his fellow Democrats.

Source: Rahm Emanuel: Too many Dems care more about being right than winning – Chicago Tribune

Mark Turner : Ordinary Americans carried out inhumane acts for Trump – Baltimore Sun

February 07, 2017 03:34 PM

When we worry and wonder about authoritarian regimes that inflict cruelty on civilians, we often imagine tyrannical despots unilaterally advancing their sinister agendas. But no would-be autocrat can act alone. As a practical matter, he needs subordinates willing to carry out orders. Of course, neither Donald Trump nor Steve Bannon personally detained any of the more than 100 people held at airports over the weekend pursuant to the administration’s executive order on immigration, visitation and travel to the United States. They relied on assistance.

The men and women who reportedly handcuffed small children and the elderly, separated a child from his mother and held others without food for 20 hours, are undoubtedly “ordinary” people. What I mean by that, is that these are, in normal circumstances, people who likely treat their neighbors and co-workers with kindness and do not intentionally seek to harm others. That is chilling, as it is a reminder that authoritarians have no trouble finding the people they need to carry out their acts of cruelty. They do not need special monsters; they can issue orders to otherwise unexceptional people who will carry them out dutifully.

Source: Ordinary Americans carried out inhumane acts for Trump – Baltimore Sun

Magnus Hedemark : Personal Fitness Journey: Fork in the Road?

February 07, 2017 01:59 PM

I’ve lost a little over 75 pounds now and I’m feeling stuck. So I’m going to eat more.

When I started at a weight of 316 pounds around Christmas of 2015, I didn’t have a plan or methodology. I didn’t have any notions to exercise. My body was in pain from simple things like standing or walking, and I was using a walking stick to get around.

A few months into my journey, simply “trying to eat right” wasn’t enough. I was hovering around 305 pounds. My youngest brother got married and I missed the ceremony, because the walk from the parking lot to the ceremony was long and I was hobbling on a walking stick. I tried to smile for everyone but in truth I just wanted to lay down in a shallow hole and have everyone throw dirt on me. I couldn’t endure any longer.

I needed to exercise. I needed to have some method to this. And I needed some practical outcomes to aspire to beyond just getting smaller.

“I want to be lean. I want to have good functional strength. I’m training for a week long canoe expedition.” That was it. I had a goal.

I started using technology to help me out. Most of what I use now is MyFitnessPal, MapMyFitness, and two scales. But I tried an array of things, observed results, and adapted along the way to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

But I also had to add exercise in. In April, I invested in a Bowflex Max Trainer. The idea was to improve my cardio fitness and get some good functional strength into my legs and any other muscle that seemed to be participating in the almost full-body exercise it provided. I put the machine together, got on it, and fell off about a minute in. Grabbing my chest, I was scared to death of that machine and what it might do to me.

About once a week I’d get on that machine and see what I could do, and every week it validated my fears. I really did feel like I was going to have a heart attack.

Next I invested in a heart rate monitor and started using phone apps to track my heart rate as I walked. This helped a lot. I was now able to go on long walks, and have a feedback loop to help me set a good pace that pushed my heart without pushing too hard. I was also stretching every day. These simple stretches were themselves a cardio workout for me. I’d lay in bed while my wife and kids pushed and pulled on my legs and arms, twisted my back to and fro. My breathing got hard and my heart rate monitor registered that I was indeed having a cardio workout while laying in bed and being stretched. That’s how far gone I was.

But eventually, after a few months, I could get on the Bowflex and operate it at a steady state (low speed, low resistance) for the full 14 minutes without my heart getting into a dangerous state. My weight started dropping at a good cadence two or three weeks into this. I started adding one or two intervals per workout, then doing all of the intervals. Then I started upgrading the resistance. I’d committed to doing this four times per week.

photo-jan-21-10-22-01-pm

Caught working out on the Bowflex Max in my workshop.

When I’d gotten down a little in weight, I started running. This went on for about a month. I did interval running (run for a minute, walk for three, repeat). I actually felt great once I hit a groove. But after about a month, I’d go out there and try to run, but I felt like there was no gas in the tank. My breathing was fine. My joints were fine. But I had no energy. My calorie reduction diet was not serving me well for this kind of exercise. I’ll run again someday, when I can eat more.

Today I’m down 77 pounds. But I seem to be stuck. And I’m starting to feel “out of gas” even trying to do the Bowflex. I’ve got the Bowflex set for 20 minutes of workout instead of 14, so I’ve increased the duration of both high & low intervals. And I’ve got the resistance set to 10 now, so I’m getting some strength training with my cardio at this point. My breathing is fine, my heart rate is ridiculously ok with this. My joints are stronger and doing alright.

But I just feel out of gas.

Every weekend I try to go on a hike of 3 to 7 miles on rugged terrain. Last weekend, the same thing happened. My pace was slow, and I just felt out of gas.

The groove I’d gotten into was fun. I wasn’t eating a lot, but I’d felt great. I’d felt strong. Virile. I’d work out and then start bouncing around to burn off all of the extra energy I had. And the weight was falling off.

But now I don’t feel great, the weight isn’t falling off, and I don’t have the energy to eat more. My calorie reduction plan had taken me down to about 1,500 calories per day by the time I’d hit 240 pounds. My daily total food intake was now less than what I’d have eaten for a single meal when I was still over 300 pounds. I think maybe I’d hit a point of diminishing returns.

All along the way I’ve done the same thing, which I learned from DemingPlan, Do, Study, Act. Per the Deming Institute:

The cycle begins with the Plan step. This involves identifying a goal or purpose, formulating a theory, defining success metrics and putting a plan into action. These activities are followed by the Do step, in which the components of the plan are implemented, such as making a product. Next comes the Study step, where outcomes are monitored to test the validity of the plan for signs of progress and success, or problems and areas for improvement. The Act step closes the cycle, integrating the learning generated by the entire process, which can be used to adjust the goal, change methods or even reformulate a theory altogether. These four steps are repeated over and over as part of a never-ending cycle of continual improvement.

So I’m adjusting my plan. I’ve taken my daily calorie count up from about 1,500 per day to about 2,100 per day. My hope is that as my body adjusts to the increased intake, I’ll have the fuel I need to exercise with greater vigor. And then, as I start feeling better about exercise, I’ll start running again.

This whole thing is one big series of math equations, right? You will lose weight if your body burns more Calories than it consumes. Some combination of burning more Calories and eating less will get you there. To date, I’ve done a combination of the two, but perhaps now I have to give greater weight to the exercise side of the equation, even if that means consuming more Calories. Remember, my goal isn’t simply to get thin. I want to have lean functional strength.

There are two forms of exercise I want to add now that I’ve not been practicing yet:

  1. Running. I’m a lot lighter now so it shouldn’t be nearly as hard on my body. Running regularly will get my Base Metabolic Rate up enough to offset the increased caloric intake.
  2. Kettlebell. The kettlebell lends itself to more practical full-body weight resistance workouts that will offer the kind of functional strength I need for practical outcomes in everyday life. Building a little bit of lean muscle mass will also increase my Base Metabolic Rate. “The bigger the engine, the more gas it burns”. I’m not going to bulk up. I have no interest in that.

Where does it end? It doesn’t. This is a lifestyle change for me. The things I’m learning now, the habits I’m building, are going to serve me for the rest of my life. The exercise doesn’t stop. The mindfulness about food doesn’t stop. This isn’t a diet. The results are the outcome of the lifestyle change.

I expect the downward spiral of fat loss will taper off and end when I hit a healthy maintenance weight. And I don’t know what that weight will be. I’m guessing around 180 pounds, give or take 5 pounds. But really I’m looking for a healthy Percent Body Fat level of around 18% or so. I was hoping to hit that sometime late this Summer, but with the new changes happening right now I’m gaining acceptance that I might have to slow my burn rate until I can build more functional strength and endurance, and adjust to increased Calorie intake to allow greater commitment to exercise. Whatever happens, you can be sure I’ll continue to rely on the data I’m collecting to inform my decisions, and my tactics will change accordingly as I go.


Mark Turner : Streaming live video from the 3DR Solo

February 07, 2017 02:28 AM

I have had a 3DR Solo drone since last summer and have been looking for interesting ways to expand its capabilities. One thing that I thought should be possible is to stream live video from the drone while it’s in flight. The Solo controller has an HDMI port to push video to a monitor but I wanted to see if I could get to the video stream directly, through software. I’m proud to say that I figured out how to do it.

First you need a separate computer, preferably a laptop or something portable. The computer will need to connect to the WiFi network that the Solo controller creates. Once you’ve got your computer joined, make sure it’s connected by pinging the controller (IP address 10.1.1.1).

Next, create an SDP file on your laptop as discussed on the 3DR Solo wiki.

c=IN IP4 10.1.1.1
m=video 5600 RTP/AVP 96
a=rtpmap:96 H264/90000
t=0 0

… save this as sololink.sdp.

The controller will only stream video if it’s got a TCP connection from the host requesting a stream. In a terminal window, connect to the controller as follows:

telnet 10.1.1.1 5502

or

nc 10.1.1.1 5502

Now the controller should be able to stream video using a tool such as VLC or ffmpeg. For VLC, open the osololink.sdp file you created above. You should see the drone video appear on your laptop. VLC is nice for checking the video but I haven’t worked out how to send it to YouTube yet. I believe it does not properly handle the RTMP media format that YouTube needs, though I’m not sure of this.

FFMPEG, however, does handle RTMP and can video to YouTube. Through trial and error (with lots of help from blogger George Timmermans and blogger “Yatko”), I worked out the proper command line options:

ffmpeg -f lavfi -i anullsrc -i ~/Videos/sololink.sdp -tune zerolatency -s 432×320 -pix_fmt + -c:v libx264 -b:v 600K -c:a aac -strict experimental -f flv rtmp://a.rtmp.youtube.com/live2/xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx

… where xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx is the Stream Name/Key that can be found when you log into YouTube’s Live Dashboard and set up your stream (under Basic Info – Encoder Setup at the bottom of the page). It also helps to know what formats/resolutions YouTube expects.

There is probably some optimizing I can make to this ffmpeg command line. Also, I need to adjust it so I can see the video in real-time as it comes off the controller (perhaps a tee command).

One quirk of this method of streaming is that only one device gets the video at a time. Thus, if your laptop’s getting video, your smartphone/iPad mounted on the controller is not getting video. If the laptop is showing video and positioned near the remote pilot, however, the pilot can position the drone using the video like before.

Another addition I’m considering is to put a RTSP proxy of some sort on the controller. That way the video can be split to multiple devices at once. There’s also the possibility of running ffmpeg directly on the controller, but without Internet access for the controller what would be the point? A better solution would be an ffmpeg instance on the smartphone configured where the Solo app gets its video while ffmpeg streams it. To be continued!

Mark Turner : How to reset your body clock, and get better sleep, with hiking boots and a tent – The Washington Post

February 06, 2017 01:16 PM

How to fix poor sleep brought on by modern technology: go camping!

Are you sick of going to bed late and waking up tired? Then grab your hiking boots and a tent. A new study suggests that a couple days of camping in the great outdoors can reset your circadian clock and help you get more sleep.

The circadian clock is an internal system that tells your body when it’s time to go to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. Scientists track this clock by measuring the amount of melatonin circulating in a person’s blood at any given time.

In a healthy sleeper, melatonin levels rise a few hours before bedtime, stay high through the night and then settle back down to daytime levels when it’s time to wake up. The period when melatonin levels are elevated is known as biological night.

In our modern society, biological night does not usually coincide with night in the natural world. Most of us stay up many hours past sunset, and we would probably sleep in many hours after sunrise if we could.

The trouble is, if your biological night begins at midnight or later, your melatonin levels may still be high when your alarm clock goes off in the morning. This leads to grogginess, and it may have other consequences, researchers say. Diabetes, obesity and heart disease have all been associated with not getting enough sleep.

Research by integrative physiology professor Kenneth Wright of the University of Colorado at Boulder found that people reset their circadian clocks by taking a six-day summer camping trip in the Rocky Mountains.

Source: How to reset your body clock, and get better sleep, with hiking boots and a tent – The Washington Post

Magnus Hedemark : slippery when wet

February 06, 2017 12:02 AM


Magnus Hedemark : Ricoh GR over the years

February 05, 2017 02:09 PM

A few years ago, I had the honor of working at Red Hat‘s main office building in downtown Raleigh. The surrounding area is very walkable, and the people that I would see every day each seemed to have their own story lurking just below the surface. So I procured a small but capable camera that would allow me to capture what I saw to capture that slice of Raleigh in time. The Ricoh GR was perfect for this role.

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I used to see people leveraging team problem solving skills to figure out how to feed Raleigh’s parking meters, which have become almost legendary for their unintuitive interface.

The Ricoh was my constant companion, occupying a pocket in the front of my jeans. This hasn’t been good for the camera’s outside surface, especially its screen, but it still works fine. And almost every day, I would use my lunch break to walk around and capture the people I’d see outside. Sometimes I’d get to work early or stay late so that I could capture a different slice of Raleigh’s day.

I didn’t work for Red Hat very long (another story for a distant day). But when I resigned, that wonderful backdrop of downtown Raleigh went with the job. My next job was in Durham and honestly I wasn’t feeling the palpable electricity in the air when walking around Durham, so the “Durhamites” project never really got off the ground.

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An early attempt at street photography in Durham, for the Durhamites project that I never really felt was working.

The Ricoh mostly ended up sitting on a shelf for years. In my mind, this was a street photography camera and since I wasn’t doing street photography, it was more or less retired.

In 2015 I went on a total photography hiatus. I had some goals in life that my passion for photography was actually distracting me from. 2016 was a great year for getting my life in order, and 2017 is off to a great start.

My next bucket list item, you see, is world travel. I’ve never left the continent that I was born on. I’ve never had a passport. But over the Christmas 2016 holiday, I submitted my application. Two and a half weeks later, my passport arrived in the mail. I’ve already got my first trip booked, and when I come back I will book my second.

“What camera should I take?” This can be a vexing question for photographers. Like many enthusiasts, I’ve had a bit of Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) over the years, so I’ve got quite an array of old film equipment around.

For background, my first international trip will be to Ireland. I’m renting a car and doing a road trip there, so I’m free to see any sights I want to see, stop as long as I want to stop to get the right photo.

I could take one of my 4×5 sheet film cameras, like the Graflex Crown Graphic. It’s a pretty tedious camera to use, and the processing of the film is a bit more work, I think, than roll film. But what comes out are these enormous, beautiful negatives with an almost three-dimensional depth of field.

But something tells me I won’t have enough film backs to take all of the pictures I should take when I’m in Ireland.

And this deliberation continued with my medium format cameras, 35mm rangefinders, and on to the DSLR.

Digital. Yes. I want to take a lot of photos, and not spend a week processing and scanning film when I get home. Moreover, I want to capture color and I don’t want to get into processing color film. So it’ll be a digital camera.

My Canon EOS 70D seems so big and clunky now. I wasn’t feeling it. No, this is not the right camera to take. I even thought about selling it, selling it all, and getting into a Fuji X system. And I still might do that, because Fuji has put together a really compelling platform. But not in time for this trip.

And there on my shelf sat the Ricoh GR. I picked it up and started noodling with it. The settings I had programmed in for street use were still in place, and not really appropriate for the kind of photos that I felt I might want to take while on holiday. But I kept playing with it. And I started carrying it again, and even remembering that I had it with me from time to time.

But that 28mm prime lens… it’s so wide. And while it’s perfect for taking compelling photos of unsuspecting strangers at arm’s length, how will it work as a system for capturing my vacation memories? I’ve been trying it out to see.

It’s more than just a street camera, and it certainly provides better images than my iPhone (which, contrary to the marketing hints, is no DSLR replacement). And yes, the 28mm lens does keep me from capturing things like distant wildlife. But if I see all of my potential images through the look given by this wide lens, it’s actually quite a capable camera.

Off to Ireland it goes.


Magnus Hedemark : In sickness and in health…

February 05, 2017 01:35 PM


Tarus Balog : 2017 Europe: Riga

February 04, 2017 04:27 PM

Latvia is the 39th country I’ve been able to visit, and based on Riga it is easily in my top ten. I really enjoyed my short time here.

Getting off the bus from Tallinn, the first thing I noticed was that it was a little colder here. Both Helsinki and Tallinn are right on the water, but Riga is slightly inland. Still, it wasn’t a hard walk from the bus station to the hotel, and I got to see some of the Old Town.

Frozen Stream in Riga

I had the rest of the day to myself, so I decided to explore the City. One thing I noticed about Riga is that it is very clean. Granted, when you have piles of snow that don’t melt this doesn’t mean everything looks brand new, but I didn’t see the usual trash and paper on the ground like I might find in London or Paris. While the buildings may be old, they are well maintained, and some are quite beautiful, which is not how I imagined a former Soviet bloc country to look.

Riflemen Monument

Granted, there were a few reminders, such as the impressive “Riflemen Monument“. This was originally meant to honor those in the Latvian military who supported the Bolsheviks (the “red” riflemen) but I was told that now it also honors the opposition “white” riflemen.

The reason I came to Riga was to participate in a conference held by LATA (Latvijas atvērto tehnoloģiju asociācija or the Lativian Open Technology Association). LATA is a volunteer organization with only one employee, Ieva Vitolina, who was kind enough to invite me to speak.

Not only were the people in general in Riga very kind to me, the LATA people treated me like a diplomat.

Main Entry Hall for the LATA Conference

Before the conference I was introduced to Jānis Treijs, of the LATA Board. A very nice man, Jānis is very tall, and I had to joke that when I studied physics we used to say all people were two meters tall to make the math easier, but it is rare I actually get to meet someone that tall.

LATA conference room

The conference was held at the Latvijas Universitātes Dabaszinātņu akadēmiskais centrs (Latvian University of Natural Sciences Academic Center) which was a very modern facility, much nicer than many of the schools I attended in my youth. The morning program was held in this main room, and after lunch we would break out into another room as well (which was where my talk was to be made). About half of the program was in Latvian, with the other half in English.

IBM was a sponsor, and Andrzej Osmak from Poland gave a talk on IBM’s approach to open.

Andrzej Osmak

To be quite frank, OpenNMS would not exist without IBM. They are a main supporter of the Apache Foundation and most of the developers use Eclipse as their IDE. The only small criticism I would have about that talk was an emphasis on permissive licensing. I think permissive licenses are great in the proper context, but they aren’t the best choice for everyone.

This was followed by another talk in English by Dr. John O’Flaherty from Ireland.

John O’Flaherty

His focus was on “open data” and the different levels with which data can be made available. I am always amazed at what wonderful things people can create when companies and governments make data available in a usable fashion, and John gave several examples of those.

The remaining morning talks were in Latvian, so I just tried to understand them through the slides. The Clusterpoint presentation was interesting in that the slides were in English but the presentation itself was given in Latvian.

The morning ended with an awards presentation which had three categories: the most open institution, the most substantial contribution to technology promotion, and the best start-up.

Then it was the lunch break, which I spent talking about business and free software with Valdis, Ieva’s husband. It was then time to get ready for my own presentation.

There were two presentations in English about open source business. Including mine, Aleksejs Vladiševs the founder of Zabbix shared his experiences. It was kind of ironic that both of us work at pure open source companies and both of us work in the network monitoring space. Despite that, we tend not to compete, and it was interesting to see how similar our paths were.

My talk seemed well received, although I had a little less than 30 minutes so I didn’t have any time for questions. I was humbled that the winner of the LATA start-up award, Mihails Scepanskis, wanted to ask me some questions about open source business afterward, and along with his wife Anna and Vladis, we spent pretty much the rest of the conference talking. As usual, my favorite conference track turned into the “Hallway Track” once again.

National Library

That evening, the organizers of the conference took a group of us on a tour of the National Library of Latvia. This is a major landmark in Riga and it is easy to spot from many places in the city. It was planned for many years, but finally opened in 2014.

National Library Sign

The interior hosts a 400+ seat state of the art theatre, but the first thing I noticed was the central atrium.

National Library Atrium

Inside it there is a wall of books. These were books donated by the Latvian people to the library, and it stretches for several stories. We were also told an interesting story, when the library opened several thousand books were moved from the old location to the new building via a “human chain“. People formed a line over a mile long and passed the books hand to hand.

National Library Book Wall

The tour took us up through the building, and we got to see a number of the large (and not so large) reading rooms. One that caught my eye was dedicated to American culture.

National Library American Culture Room

I found it interesting that the books on display included ones by Noam Chomsky, James Carville and articles from the New Yorker.

Each floor was color-coded, and we were told that the colors corresponded to the “pre-Euro” Latvian currency, the Lat. The higher floors had colors that corresponded to higher denominations.

National Library

At the top was an interesting display. It was a Cabinet of Folksongs. This wooden cabinet holds over a quarter of a million Latvian folksongs written on small slips of paper.

Cabinet of Folksongs

The tour was followed by a wonderful meal in a restaurant in the Library itself. I got to spend more time talking with Aleksejs, Jānis, his wife and John, as well as drinking some nice beer over wonderful food.

The next morning Jānis’s wife had arranged for me to meet with the ITC department of the City Council of Riga. Riga firmly believes in Internet access for its population. The City has more free WiFi coverage than any other European City, and the Council is responsible for providing as many services as possible to its citizens to make sure the government is responsive to their needs. It was a refreshing conversation. They use a number of tools, including Zabbix, so I wasn’t expecting them to switch to OpenNMS, but I had a nice meeting learning about their environment and sharing a little bit about OpenNMS.

Corner House

We had a little time before lunch, so we made a quick visit to the “Corner House“. This was a beautiful apartment building that was taken over by the Cheka, a division of the KGB, and was the source of terror for many citizens of Latvia as late as 1991. It reminded me of the House of Terror in Budapest. Jānis’s wife told a story of her mother having to go to this building for an interview as the Cheka was interested in one of her relatives.

Corner House

It is a shame that a thing of such beauty could be used for such evil.

After that we met up with Jānis for a wonderful meal, and then I made my way to the airport for my trip to Brussels for FOSDEM.

As the airBaltic Q400 took off and got above the clouds, the cabin was suddenly filled with light. I realized that I had not seen the sun properly in a week. If Riga and its people can be this beautiful in the dark of winter, it must be a truly magical place in the summer. I hope one day soon to return.

Mark Turner : Internet everywhere

February 02, 2017 06:05 PM

Two recent events converged in my mind. Yesterday, I attended Google’s grand opening of its Fiber Space in Raleigh, where gigabit Internet connections are the norm. And on Saturday afternoon, I was in Garner’s Southeast Regional Library to pick up Hallie and observed that all but two of the library’s Internet terminals were occupied. It made me sad that in the years since I watched a mom and her son turned away from the library when no computers were available that a shortage of Internet access is still seems to be a problem.

I hope the big-gun Internet providers like Google Fiber, AT&T, and the rest continue working to provide Internet access to the people who need it most.

Tarus Balog : 2017 Europe: Tallinn

February 02, 2017 05:24 AM

After a wonderful visit to Helsinki, it was time for the next leg of the journey: Tallinn. Estonia will mark the 38th country I’ve been able to visit.

To get to Estonia I took the Tallink ferry service. There are several trips from Helsinki to Tallinn each day, so I planned to leave around 10:30 to arrive around 13:00.

I’m not a boat guy. While I’m fine in planes I don’t do well in boats, but the ferry is quite large. Here is a picture of one heading the other way through a window on mine:

Tallink Ferry

It had ten decks, so I made my way up to deck nine and found a seat near the window.

Tallink Ferry Interior

It was a quite civilized way to travel. Even though the sea was a little choppy, the ride was very smooth. You almost didn’t realize the ship was moving.

When we arrived I took a taxi to the hotel, dropped off my bags and set out to discover the city. I was in the “Old Town” section of Tallinn which was quite beautiful. There were a lot of cobblestone streets and well maintained old buildings with plenty of shops and restaurants.

Street in Tallinn

One of the things I like to do when visiting a new city is to play Ingress. I know that sounds weird, but one part of the game involves completing “missions” which require you to walk around. These missions are often created by locals and it can give you a great overview of a new place. Tallinn was no exception.

Tallinn was only a degree or more warmer than Helsinki, but it made quite a difference. I had issues walking around Helsinki because in places the slush had refrozen into ice and it made walking a little slippery. The streets in Tallinn were mainly dry and I could move around a lot faster.

There is a great mixture of old and new,

Tallinn Grafitti

and I saw a lot of construction. I’m not sure but I think this was the demolition of a Soviet-era housing block to make way for a more modern building.

Tallinn Building Demolition

It also had a lot in common with other European cities, such as this huge flower market I came across:

Tallinn Flowers

I think if I lived here I’d stop by every day and buy some fresh flowers for home.

While I practiced a number of Estonian words (When I came into the hotel and said “Tervist” one person mistook me for the mailman and came out of the back office, so I must have nailed the accent), everyone seemed more than happy to talk to me in English, and I didn’t meet a single rude person the entire stay.

Which, alas, wasn’t long. I was only in Tallinn on my way to Riga, so the next morning I got up and made my way to the Central Coach Station to grab my LUX Express bus to Riga.

LUX Express Bus

The five hour journey was made in comfort. I was in the back section which consisted of just one seat complete with “seat back entertainment”. I thought about watching some movies (they were pretty much the same selection as the ones on the plane over here) but I decided I’d rather watch the countryside go by and to doze a little.

Inside LUX Express Bus

It was snowing lightly and as soon as we got away from the coast there were several inches of snow on the ground. It looked very peaceful. When we crossed the Pärnu River it was completely frozen, and off in the distance I could see people skating on the ice. I’d heard of frozen rivers before but this was the first time I’d seen one.

When I arrived in Riga the first thing I noticed was the cold. Riga is a few degrees colder than either Helsinki or Tallinn, and I was happy I brought my winter coat that I bought in Sweden a couple of years ago. I am eagerly awaiting the conference which is the reason I am here, and to see some friends again and make a few new ones.

Mark Turner : Resist: How to Triumph in Trumpland

February 02, 2017 01:48 AM

Here are some inspiring words on organizing from Dr. Glenda Russell.

Mark Turner : ‘Beyond the extreme’: Scientists marvel at ‘increasingly non-natural’ Arctic warmth – The Washington Post

February 02, 2017 01:19 AM

Kudos to citizen-scientist Nico Sun who assembled the temperature graphs from publically-available weather data.

The Arctic is so warm and has been this warm for so long that scientists are struggling to explain it and are in disbelief. The climate of the Arctic is known to oscillate wildly, but scientists say this warmth is so extreme that humans surely have their hands in it and may well be changing how it operates.

Temperatures are far warmer than ever observed in modern records, and sea ice extent keeps setting record lows.2016 was the warmest year on record in the Arctic, and 2017 has picked up right where it left off. “Arctic extreme (relative) warmth continues,” Ryan Maue, a meteorologist with WeatherBell Analytics, tweeted on Wednesday, referring to January’s temperatures.

Veteran Arctic climate scientists are stunned.

Source: ‘Beyond the extreme’: Scientists marvel at ‘increasingly non-natural’ Arctic warmth – The Washington Post

Mark Turner : Google Fiber debuts in Raleigh, opens home on Glenwood South | News & Observer

February 02, 2017 01:06 AM

Here’s the full N&O article about the Google Fiber Space grand opening.

RALEIGH – After months of building hype for its services, Google Fiber is offering high-speed internet to its first Raleigh customers and opening a retail office in the city.The tech giant is now offering its fiber services to homes in the area around North Hills known as Midtown, mostly along Six Forks Road and the Beltline. In doing so it provides those residents a high-speed alternative to AT&T, which already offers the same speeds for the same price in Raleigh.

As part of the rollout, Google Fiber is opening its regional office in the former 518 West restaurant space at the corner of Jones Street and Glenwood Avenue in downtown Raleigh.

“This will be a place where people can come experience the future of the internet,” said Erik Garr, Google Fiber’s regional manger in the Southeastern United States.

Source: Google Fiber debuts in Raleigh, opens home on Glenwood South | News & Observer

Mark Turner : Google Fiber Space Grand Opening

February 02, 2017 01:04 AM

I attended the grand opening of Raleigh’s Google Fiber Space today on my lunch break. It was a good chance to check things out for myself and to say hi to some of the Googlers (and other techies) I know.

While I was there, N&O photojournalist Travis Long interviewed me about what Google Fiber means. I didn’t go there expecting to be interviewed but I always enjoy talking about the wonders of broadband.

Mark Turner : A Full Transcript Of Donald Trump’s Black History Month Remarks

February 02, 2017 12:48 AM

Oh. My. God. Donald Trump is a living trainwreck. He’s a complete idiot. His remarks today on Black History Month are jaw-dropping. Press Secretary Sean Spicer won’t even touch it. Watch the video for yourself here.

This man could mess up a wet dream.

February is Black History Month. This morning, Donald Trump held a White House event to mark the occasion. Below is an accurate transcript of his remarks.

Well, the election, it came out really well. Next time we’ll triple the number or quadruple it. We want to get it over 51, right? At least 51. Well this is Black History Month, so this is our little breakfast, our little get-together. Hi Lynn, how are you? Just a few notes. During this month, we honor the tremendous history of African-Americans throughout our country. Throughout the world, if you really think about it, right? And their story is one of unimaginable sacrifice, hard work, and faith in America. I’ve gotten a real glimpse—during the campaign, I’d go around with Ben to a lot of different places I wasn’t so familiar with. They’re incredible people. And I want to thank Ben Carson, who’s gonna be heading up HUD. That’s a big job. That’s a job that’s not only housing, but it’s mind and spirit. Right, Ben? And you understand, nobody’s gonna be better than Ben.

Source: A Full Transcript Of Donald Trump’s Black History Month Remarks