Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Crossing


On days like today when the weather isn't so good and I'm stuck indoors and I need space to think, where do I go?
Everyone needs a change of scenery once in a while to help their thought process. A place where one is away from the distractions that clutter thought. When I'm stuck at my desk I disappear to the location in the picture. Virtually.
It's a live stream on YouTube of a railway crossing in the Netherlands. It's a perfect snapshot of Dutch life. Bicycles, people, scooters, cars and trains all visit this spot. I can lose hours gazing out of my virtual window. It's a place to observe and to daydream and to think. I can mull over the obstacles to solutions and then get back to work. There's all the time in the world at the crossing.
Maybe you'll find it. It might be the escape you're looking for. A place to go in inclement weather. It might provide a solution. Who knows?
You might even bump into me there.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Pushing It


It turns out that my rucksack was only 15kgs.
I thought it was much more. By the end of the 12 mile trek it certainly felt like much more.
I had a wonderful day exploring the Leicestershire countryside. The highlight was the Shaggy Ink Cap fungi above. It was absolutely stunning in its location. A real treat of a find.
More walks are planned.
Bed now. I'm as swollen as a balloon.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Small Victories


Sometimes finding the right command in Linux shell can be an uphill struggle.
I seem to spend hours at a time looking for a simple and elegant solution to a problem only to find long winded articles on how to achieve the result I'm looking for. Today was one such day.
All I wanted to do was re-arrange a list in a random order. There were plenty of articles on how to choose a single item on the list randomly but nothing about my particular problem.
Then I came across the shuf command. There were a few solutions that were close but not quite what I wanted. This is where man pages come into their own. The man page for shuf is short and sweet and all the options I needed are right there on the page. After a little trial and error I wrote a short and elegant command (see above) that does exactly what I want.
How does it work?
I make a list with each item on a different line in a text file and the command writes another text file with the same list but in a random order. Simple.
One more Linux victory under my belt.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Free Speech


There are some people that do bad things. Very bad things.
The people that do bad things like to communicate in secret. The UK government would like to stop the bad people doing that and so they want to compromise the tools that the bad people use.
That's all well and good but there's a problem. The good people use the same tools. The good people don't use those tools for bad things, they use them because their friends use them. That's a lot of people using the tools. Mostly for good.
If the government compromise the tools to catch the bad people, they also compromise the same tools for the good people. If the government can get in on a conversation so can other people. The other people that can get in might want to ruin the good people's experience of the tool and might go beyond that and ruin a lot more.
I'm not saying anything new here. It's well known that in the past various services have been compromised by government agencies and that beyond that people who don't work for the government have got hold of the methods and used that information to exploit any amount of innocent people.
It's been said thousands of times. One must learn to protect oneself.
Linux distributions are FREE! The distributions come with encryption built in and other tools are free also. These can be easily added. The whole Linux experience can reside on a USB stick, 8GB is fine, and cheap. You probably have one in a draw that you're not using because by today's standards it's a bit small for your storage needs.
Google searches for "Linux cryptography" or "Linux steganography" will keep you amused for hours. Linux is easy to get to grips with. If you start with Ubuntu you'll be up and running in no time. There is obviously some learning to do but not a great deal. YouTube is full of 'getting started' videos.
The choice is yours. Be prepared for an onslaught against your privacy or keep your fingers away from your computer or mobile device.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Normal


In case you ever wondered...
Why I upload and then re-edit.
Some things I say are for public consumption over a limited time scale. Like most people I feel constrained by standards.
Sometimes I just talk utter rubbish and I should sensor that. In fact maybe I should sensor everything I say. It's not a bad idea and I've been thinking of doing that for a while. If for no other reason to test a theory.
So this is it. The last plain English post that I have for you. If you're not following events then you'll hit the middle of a muddle.
To the people that follow this blog:
Instructions follow.
After that. Nothing will be the same again.
z2300

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Neville


It's nearly 19 years since I welcomed Neville into our family. Today he died.
Neville
July 4th 1998 - April 17th 2017.
The original "Mr Green".

I love you. Thanks for sharing you're time with me. I learned so much from you.

I'm in limbo emotionally. I have cried on and off all evening. I'm trying to get myself together. I can't.
Mr Green has left behind two brothers, Bailey and Paul.
Paul is taking the news badly.
If there's one thing I know, it's that humans have lost our ability to instinctively know when things have changed. Spend some time around cats and you'll understand. We have so much to learn from our friends, especially the ones that interact with us on a daily basis.

I look forward to sending my life force out to someone special when I die. No gods, no angels, no religion. Just something beyond what I know or that humans may ever have the capacity to understand.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Stunned!


A few weeks ago my trusty Too Much Coffee Man mug retired with a broken handle. It had seen thousands of fills and enough caffeine to keep a city awake for a decade.
I tweeted the sad demise to Shannon Wheeler, the creator of TMCM, just in case he had ever wondered what happened to the mugs once he'd posted them. In all honesty I thought that would be the end of the story.
As you might have guessed by now it wasn't. I got a reply saying that if I paid postage Shannon would replace my mug. I was gobsmacked and of course I took him up on the offer. I received my parcel yesterday but I had to wait until today until I got home to open it up.
Inside was not only a shiny new mug but an original Too Much Coffee Man artwork, a book of Shannon Wheeler's Postage Stamp Funnies and a numbered and signed print.
I know I'm sitting here writing this but what can I say? I'm stunned, really stunned.
(Gets a bit gushy here.)
For the creator of my favourite comic strip to replace my mug is really kind, but to include the extra art is beyond generous. It really is. I'm grinning like an idiot and will be for the next week at least.
Thank you Shannon Wheeler. You really are the best.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

CSPRNG


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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Joy In Looking


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Monday, February 13, 2017

Today For No Other Reason


Today, for no other reason than I want to learn the Python programming language I made my first tentative steps into a world many others inhabit.
While day one was easy I know that what comes after becomes increasingly difficult until that day when it all just makes sense. It was the same when I learned HTML, days and weeks of staring at Notepad, stealing and adjusting code. Bit by bit it began to sink in and then one day it clicked. I could knock up a decent web page in minutes without looking at a reference book.
That Python day is maybe years ahead of me but I'm looking forward to getting there.
Hello Python world!

Friday, February 10, 2017

My Move


About 20 years ago I used to play a lot of chess.
On a table in the living room was a chess board with cheap Staunton pieces and a Gary Kasparov chess computer. Both sets would be playing the same game. The idea behind having a real chess board was that I could study my moves for a long time without running the chess computer's batteries down. I could also study the game from both perspectives. And besides, real chess pieces are tactile.
Over time I've played less and less. Despite thinking I should play more I never quite get round to it. Now I'm using the excuse that it will help with my computer's entropy. It's a good excuse and I'm sticking with it.
I've downloaded PyChess. It's a good piece of software and I can export .pgn files to Droidfish on my android phone. I'm going to be playing very slow games so I need to be able to view them on any platform.
The above picture is from a game I've just started.
I'll let you know when I'm done.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Our Man Inside


Just over a year ago Documentally suggested that I might like to make an ident for his new Backchannel newsletter. I did, it was fun.
Backchannel has now morphed into Our Man Inside! so I was once again asked to supply an ident. Something different to reflect the change. Here's the thought process:

I wanted the typewriter sample in there to represent Christian hammering away on his keyboard. The 3+3+6 rhythm spells out Our Man Inside. I used a sample of Christian's voice as a musical note to add chords but the tuning was a nightmare so while playing with various delay lines I happened on the rhythmic middle two bars. Christian spells out O M I and the echo repeats his voice in different ways which mimics the formula of the newsletter.
Christian finally says Our Man Inside! I added plenty of reverb to this to make him sound like he was inside something large. The vast space he is inside equals the vast range of subjects covered in the newsletter.
There's a secret bassline which bounces around the note C. This is my secret nod to (Sea = A boat show has been covered in Backchannel) and (See = There's always plenty to look at).
I hope you're intrigued enough to subscribe to this once a week publication.

Subscribe to Our Man Inside!

Monday, January 30, 2017

All New Old Style


I'm doing something I haven't done in a while tonight.
That something is trying to piece together a musical composition. Well, it's a composition of sorts but more on that at a later date. Hopefully by the end of the week.
The interesting thing is that for the first time I'm using native Linux music and audio tools. Last time I did this I just loaded FL Studio into Wine and worked that way. The thing is that FL Studio and Wine are uneasy bedfellows. I really could do with a dedicated Windows music PC just for FL Studio.
Because I don't own a Windows machine I thought I'd just work in Ubuntu and see how it went. Very well is the answer to that. Above is a work in progress inside Audacity. I bought a book about using Audacity and it has served me well. No more messing around, I'm nearly a power user, sort of.
There's a good chance I might get back to writing some music one of these days. I do have a lot to be getting on with but I'm sure there will be some spare time to get back to what I enjoy.
Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Slice Of Air


Last week I very nearly bought a Raspberry Pi3.
The reason I didn't was because I couldn't think of anything to do with it other than mess around a bit.
This week while installing some excellent cryptography tools on Ubuntu I realised the a Pi would make an excellent air gap computer. Of course there would be a bit of work to do, ie disabling wifi (why not buy a Pi2?) and finding a decent way of getting uncompromised software onto the board. The latter I'm still working on but making sure checksums are intact might be a good start.
If you're interested in what I've been playing with start at privacytools.
I'm also using VeraCrypt, Encryptpad and a useful web notepad called Protected Text.
I'm sure there's enough there you keep you occupied for a while.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Balancing Fruit


I've been trying to quit smoking, as a regular pursuit, for a while now.
I have no problem with my nicotine addiction, I don't want to give that up. There's no need to and I enjoy it.
I like the odd pipe bowl especially with a good coffee. What I don't like anymore is smoking roll-ups as my only nicotine source.
I started vaping a couple of years ago but it wasn't a satisfying experience and I went back to smoking again after a short time. In the last six months I've been getting into some nerdy vaping stuff. You really don't want to know the details but what can be achieved is more akin to the experience that is smoking.
Add to the above a pinch of snuff when I need a quick boost or top up and I really think that I can substitute the roll-ups for eliquids and powder.
I'm currently into fruit flavours. Strawberry eliquids and raspberry snuff.
It's all rather pleasant.