Tuesday, 28 September


Link [Scripting News]

It drives me crazy that the press makes everything about Dems and Repubs. Yes the Dems will be disappointed if the country disintegrates into civil war and becomes a zombie zone full of covid, but don't you get that other people will be unhappy too?


Link [Scripting News]

We’re really governed by journalism. They are not transparent, not accountable to anyone, dishonest, corrupt, no moral compass. Controlled by oligarchs. Not subject to recall. We are powerless against them. We have few if any rights.


CodeSOD: Golfing Over a Log [The Daily WTF]

Indirection is an important part of programming. Wrapping even core language components in your own interfaces is sometimes justifiable, depending upon the use cases. But like anything else, it can...


Link [Scripting News]

Obviously the Repubs want to force Dems to nuke the filibuster to prevent default.

Monday, 27 September


Link [Scripting News]

Poll: Netflix or HBO Max?

Link [Scripting News]

Netflix CEO takes a shot at HBO Max, which makes me think, I can't remember the last time I watched something on Netflix, and I watch HBO Max content all the time. I think they have a deeper and more intelligent base of stories than Netflix, which seems to be skewing toward mindless garbage, although HBO is trying to catch up in that area.

Link [Scripting News]

Background: "I expected that when the transition started, the Obama campaign website would turn into the White House website, and would continue to organize us."


Link [Scripting News]

Repubs are great at organizing. Dems just want money.

Link [Scripting News]

Maybe it's time for someone to take over the Dems and get people organized. The rule-of-law people in the US still vastly outnumber the bombthrowers, at least that's what I hear from journalism.


CodeSOD: Terned Around About Nullables [The Daily WTF]

John H works with some industrial devices. After a recent upgrade at the falicity, the new control software just felt like it was packed with WTFs. Fortunately, John was able to get at the C# source...


09/24/21 PHD comic: '...Said No Academic Ever.' [PHD Comics]

Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "...Said No Academic Ever." - originally published 9/24/2021

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!


1543 [Looking For Group]

The post 1543 appeared first on Looking For Group.


Sunday, 26 September


Link [Scripting News]

The basic problem (imho) is that we all have been raised to believe that getting ahead is the thing to do with our lives. It's deeply ingrained over many generations. We're still doing that, even though the three big crises we're going to be dealing with for the rest of our lives. demand a different impulse -- working together.


GN Thumbnails [Skin Horse]

Shaenon: Since I post a lot of Skin Horse thumbnails, I thought I’d share what my thumbnails for longform comics look like. These are for a graphic novel I’m shopping around right now.

Channing: I have absolutely no idea what’s going on here and I already love it!

Saturday, 25 September


Link [Scripting News]

When I find myself replying to a reply on Twitter with "Are you really that stupid?" I just block them instead.


Link [Scripting News]

I just got a link to "A wholistic RSS namespace for podcasting." I wasn't even aware that it existed. No one tells me anything. 😄

Link [Scripting News]

I like that they use my Rules for standards-makers as guidelines for the work. It was my hope that future developers wouldn't have to repeat all the pointless arguments about what matters.


09/25/21 [Flipside]

Hello, sorry to everyone for the continued no pages and no streams. I have some personal issues to work through at the moment. I'll keep you all posted to how things are going.

Friday, 24 September


Link [Scripting News]

The OPML package has a new end-point that reads an OPML file, and if it has an urlUpdateSocket head-level attribute, sets up a subscription, and calls back when the outline is modified. Captures all the complex code behind the interface, so an OPML-consuming app can have instant updates with no effort. It's wonderful to see this in action, hope to have a public demo soon.


Invisible Sun: signed copies and author events [Charlie's Diary]

Invisible Sun comes out next week!

If you want to order signed copies, they're available from Transreal Fiction in Edinburgh: I'll be dropping in some time next week to sign them, and Mike will ship them on or after the official release date. (He's currently only quoting UK postage, but can ship overseas: the combination of Brexit and COVID19 has done a whammy on the post office, however things do appear to be moving—for now.)

I'm also doing a couple of virtual events.

First up, on Tuesday the 28th, is a book launch/talk for Tubby And Coos Book Shop in New Orleans; the event starts at 8pm UK time (2pm local) with streaming via Facebook, YouTube, and Crowdcast.

Next, on Wednesday September the 29th, is the regular Tom Doherty Associates (that's Tor, by any other name) Read The Room webcast, with a panel on fall fantasy/SF launches from Tor authors—of whom I am one! Register at the link above if you want to see us; the event starts at 11pm (UK time) or 6pm (US eastern time).

There isn't going to be an in-person reading/book launch in Edinburgh this time round: it's beginning to turn a wee bit chilly, and I'm not ready to do indoors/in your face events yet. (Maybe next year ...)


Subject: coreutils-9.0 released [stable] [Planet GNU]

This is to announce coreutils-9.0, a stable release.

This is a new major release, with these significant changes:
  - cp has changed how it handles data
    - enables CoW by default (through FICLONE ioctl),
    - uses copy offload where available (through copy_file_range),
    - detects holes differently (though SEEK_HOLE)
    - This also applies to mv and install.

  - utilities are more tuned to the hardware available
    - wc uses avx2 instructions to count lines
    - cksum uses pclmul instructions for --algorithm=crc

  - More amalgamation of utilities
    - cksum now supports the -a option to select any digest.
    - This is the preferred interface, rather than sha*sum etc.
    - This is similar to the amalgamation of encoding utilities
      introduced in the basenc command in v8.31.
See the NEWS below for more details.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed!
There have been 257 commits by 25 people in the 81 weeks since 8.32
  Andreas Schwab (1)              KOBAYASHI Takashi (2)
  Arman Absalan (1)               Kamil Dudka (4)
  Assaf Gordon (1)                Kristoffer Brånemyr (3)
  Ben Pfaff (1)                   Nikolay Nechaev (1)
  Benno Schulenberg (1)           Nishant Nayan (1)
  Bernhard Voelker (17)           Paul Eggert (97)
  Carl Edquist (2)                Pádraig Brady (110)
  Emanuele Giacomelli (1)         Tianjia Zhang (1)
  Erik Auerswald (1)              Tim Gates (1)
  Grigorii Sokolik (2)            Tobias Stoeckmann (1)
  Jason Kim (1)                   Zorro Lang (1)
  Jim Meyering (7)                nl6720 (1)
  Justin Tracey (1)

Pádraig [on behalf of the coreutils maintainers]


Here is the GNU coreutils home page:

For a summary of changes and contributors, see:
or run this command from a git-cloned coreutils directory:
   git shortlog v8.32..v9.0

To summarize the 1615 gnulib-related changes, run these commands
from a git-cloned coreutils directory:
   git checkout v9.0
   git submodule summary v8.32


Here are the compressed sources:
  https://ftp.gnu.org/gnu/coreutils/coreutils-9.0.tar.gz   (14MB)
  https://ftp.gnu.org/gnu/coreutils/coreutils-9.0.tar.xz   (5.4MB)

Here are the GPG detached signatures[*]:

Use a mirror for higher download bandwidth:

Here are the SHA1 and SHA256 checksums:

027a318930f295cb5bbc0dd06fb47a3b8552fc80  coreutils-9.0.tar.gz
b9TriKUVAEl3/HLX9HtAYgQJzEHfrwBBn90b4XZjxDQ  coreutils-9.0.tar.gz
e2623469f37259d4a89ced5f91af5eaf0ab8792d  coreutils-9.0.tar.xz
zjCs30pBvFuzDdlV6eqnX6IWtOPesIiJ7TJDPHs7l84  coreutils-9.0.tar.xz

The SHA256 checksum is base64 encoded, instead of the
hexadecimal encoding that most checksum tools default to.

[*] Use a .sig file to verify that the corresponding file (without the
.sig suffix) is intact.  First, be sure to download both the .sig file
and the corresponding tarball.  Then, run a command like this:

  gpg --verify coreutils-9.0.tar.gz.sig

If that command fails because you don't have the required public key,
then run this command to import it:

  gpg --keyserver keys.gnupg.net --recv-keys DF6FD971306037D9

and rerun the 'gpg --verify' command.

This release was bootstrapped with the following tools:
  Autoconf 2.71
  Automake 1.16.4
  Gnulib v0.1-4937-g9aca7b673
  Bison 3.7.4



* Noteworthy changes in release 9.0 (2021-09-24) [stable]

** Bug fixes

  chmod -v no longer misreports modes of dangling symlinks.
  [bug introduced in coreutils-5.3.0]

  cp -a --attributes-only now never removes destination files,
  even if the destination files are hardlinked, or the source
  is a non regular file.
  [bug introduced in coreutils-8.6]

  csplit --suppress-matched now elides the last matched line
  when a specific number of pattern matches are performed.
  [bug introduced with the --suppress-matched feature in coreutils-8.22]

  df no longer outputs duplicate remote mounts in the presence of bind mounts.
  [bug introduced in coreutils-8.26]

  df no longer mishandles command-line args that it pre-mounts
  [bug introduced in coreutils-8.29]

  du no longer crashes on XFS file systems when the directory hierarchy is
  heavily changed during the run.
  [bug introduced in coreutils-8.25]

  env -S no longer crashes when given unusual whitespace characters
  [bug introduced in coreutils-8.30]

  expr no longer mishandles unmatched \(...\) in regular expressions.
  [bug introduced in coreutils-6.0]

  ls no longer crashes when printing the SELinux context for unstatable files.
  [bug introduced in coreutils-6.9.91]

  mkdir -m no longer mishandles modes more generous than the umask.
  [bug introduced in coreutils-8.22]

  nl now handles single character --section-delimiter arguments,
  by assuming a second ':' character has been specified, as specified by POSIX.
  [This bug was present in "the beginning".]

  pr again adjusts tabs in input, to maintain alignment in multi column output.
  [bug introduced in coreutils-6.9]

  rm no longer skips an extra file when the removal of an empty directory fails.
  [bug introduced by the rewrite to use fts in coreutils-8.0]

  split --number=K/N will again correctly split chunk K of N to stdout.
  Previously a chunk starting after 128KiB, output the wrong part of the file.
  [bug introduced in coreutils-8.26]

  tail -f no longer overruns a stack buffer when given too many files
  to follow and ulimit -n exceeds 1024.
  [bug introduced in coreutils-7.5]

  tr no longer crashes when using --complement with certain
  invalid combinations of case character classes.
  [bug introduced in coreutils-8.6]

  basenc --base64 --decode no longer silently discards decoded characters
  on (1024*5) buffer boundaries
  [bug introduced in coreutils-8.31]

** Changes in behavior

  cp and install now default to copy-on-write (COW) if available.

  cp, install and mv now use the copy_file_range syscall if available.
  Also, they use lseek+SEEK_HOLE rather than ioctl+FS_IOC_FIEMAP on sparse
  files, as lseek is simpler and more portable.

  On GNU/Linux systems, ls no longer issues an error message on a
  directory merely because it was removed.  This reverts a change
  that was made in release 8.32.

  ptx -T no longer attempts to substitute old-fashioned TeX escapes
  for 8-bit non-ASCII alphabetic characters.  TeX indexes should
  instead use '\usepackage[latin1]{inputenc}' or equivalent.

  stat will use decomposed (major,minor) device numbers in its default format.
  This is less ambiguous, and more consistent with ls.

  sum [-r] will output a file name, even if only a single name is passed.
  This is consistent with sum -s, cksum, and other sum(1) implementations.

** New Features

  cksum now supports the -a (--algorithm) option to select any
  of the existing sum, md5sum, b2sum, sha*sum implementations etc.
  cksum now subsumes all of these programs, and coreutils
  will introduce no future standalone checksum utility.

  cksum -a now supports the 'sm3' argument, to use the SM3 digest algorithm.

  cksum --check now supports auto detecting the digest type to use,
  when verifying tagged format checksums.

  expr and factor now support bignums on all platforms.

  ls --classify now supports the "always", "auto", or "never" flags,
  to support only outputting classifier characters if connected to a tty.

  ls now accepts the --sort=width option, to sort by file name width.
  This is useful to more compactly organize the default vertical column output.

  ls now accepts the --zero option, to terminate each output line with
  NUL instead of newline.

  nl --line-increment can now take a negative number to decrement the count.

  stat supports more formats for representing decomposed device numbers.
  %Hd,%Ld and %Hr,%Lr will output major,minor device numbers and device types
  respectively.  %d corresponds to st_dev and %r to std_rdev.

** Improvements

  cat --show-ends will now show \r\n as ^M$.  Previously the \r was taken
  literally, thus overwriting the first character in the line with '$'.

  cksum [-a crc] is now up to 4 times faster by using a slice by 8 algorithm,
  and at least 8 times faster where pclmul instructions are supported.
  A new --debug option will indicate if pclmul is being used.

  md5sum --check now supports checksum files with CRLF line endings.
  This also applies to cksum, sha*sum, and b2sum.

  df now recognizes these file systems as remote:
  acfs, coda, fhgfs, gpfs, ibrix, ocfs2, and vxfs.

  rmdir now clarifies the error if a symlink_to_dir/ has not been traversed.
  This is the case on GNU/Linux systems, where the trailing slash is ignored.

  stat and tail now know about the "devmem", "exfat", "secretmem", "vboxsf",
  and "zonefs" file system types.  stat -f -c%T now reports the file system
  type, and tail -f uses polling for "vboxsf" and inotify for the others.

  timeout now supports sub-second timeouts on macOS.

  wc is up to 5 times faster when counting only new line characters,
  where avx2 instructions are supported.
  A new --debug option will indicate if avx2 is being used.


Error'd: ;pam ;pam ;pam ;pam [The Daily WTF]

One of this week's entries is the type that drives me buggy. Guess which one. Regular contributor Pascal splains this shopping saga: "Amazon now requires anti-virus software to have an...

Thursday, 23 September


Facepalmbook – DORK TOWER 13.10.21 [Dork Tower]

Become a DORK TOWER Patreon! Dork Tower is 100% reader-funded, and updated Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, thanks its generous Patreon supporters. The next goal is four strips a week! Enlist in the Army of Dorkness today, and help us reach that! We have a ton of fun! Also: swag!


Link [Scripting News]

We are backing off the Twitter feed feature I had developed for Drummer.

Link [Scripting News]

To developers wishing to work in the tools for thought world, we can work together as equals, instead of platform vendor and third-party developer. There's a huge difference between the two models. In the first model we are free to compete, but never on the basis of user lock-in. In the latter, the platform vendor has all the power, you can only coexist with them on their terms, and they can change the terms at any time. This has always been true in my experience. The way we work as equals is we agree on an interchange format. I have committed to supporting OPML in all my products. So they can all be replaced. And so can yours, if you make it easy for users to migrate, and when you do that you also open the door for people to create products that plug into yours without having to replace yours. We compete as equals. We compete to please users. We are free to build on each others' work. That's the kind of discipline I like as a developer.

Backing off tweets.opml [Scripting News]

I have taken the feature out of the first public release of Drummer.

It turned out it was a mistake to try something so ambitious so late in the game. We'll come back to it in a due time.

This happens sometimes, I wish it hadn't happened in view of the testers.

They all have been wonderful, enthusiastic, and understanding.

Onward! 😄


Link [Scripting News]

Journalism did their part in screwing up the 2016 election. No contrition, they’ve never done an exposé, and they have the gall to be sarcastic. I’m no fan of Facebook, but journalism is actually making them sympathetic.


Eric Timmons: New Project: cl-tar [Planet Lisp]

I have just published the first release of a new project: cl-tar. This was supposed to be my summer side-project, but it ran long as they often do :).

The goal of this project is to provide a Common Lisp interface to tar archives. It has its foundations in Nathan Froyd's archive library, but has been significantly extended and improved.


There are actually two subprojects under the cl-tar umbrella. The first is cl-tar-file, which provides the ASDF system and package tar-file. This project provides low-level access to physical entries in tar files. As a consequence, two tar files that extract to the same set of files on your filesystem may have two very different sets of entries of tar-file's point of view, depending on the tar format used (PAX vs ustar vs GNU vs v7).

The cl-tar-file project is technically a fork of archive. Except, all non-portable bits have been removed (such as code to create symlinks), better support for the various archive variants has been added, better blocking support added (tar readers/writers are supposed to read/write in some multiple of 512 bytes), cpio support removed, and a test suite added, along with other miscellaneous fixes and improvements.


The second sub project is cl-tar itself, which provides three ASDF systems and packages: tar, tar-simple-extract, and tar-extract.

The tar system provides a thin wrapper over the tar-file system that operates on logical entries in tar files. That is, a regular file is represented as a single entry, no matter how many entries it is composed of in the actual bits that get written to the tar file. This system is useful for analyzing a tar file or creating one using data that is not gotten directly from the file system.

The tar-simple-extract system provides a completely portable interface to extract a tar archive to your file system. The downside of portability is that there is information loss. For example, file owners, permissions, and modification times cannot be set. Additionally, symbolic links cannot be extracted as symbolic links (but they can be dereferenced).

The tar-extract system provides a more lossless extraction capability. The downside of being lossless is that it is more demanding (osicat must support your implementation and OS) and it raises security concerns.

A common security concern is that a malicious tar file can extract a symlink that points to an arbitrary location in your filesystem and then trick you into overwriting files at the location by extracting later files through that symlink. This system tries its best to mitigate that (but makes no guarantees), so long as you use its default settings. If you find a bug that allows an archive to extract to an arbitrary location in your filesystem, I'd appreciate it if you report it!

Also note that tar-extract currently requires a copy of osicat that has the commits associated with this PR applied.

next steps

First, close the loop on the osicat PR. It started off as a straightforward PR that just added new functions. However, when I tested on Windows, I realized I couldn't load osicat. So I added a commit that fixed that. There may be some feedback and changes requested on how I actually acomplished that.

Second, integrate tar-extract into CLPM. CLPM currently shells out to a tar executable to extract archives. I'd like to use this pure CL solution instead. Plus, using it with CLPM will act as a stress test by exposing it to many tar files.

Third, add it to Quicklisp. tar-extract won't compile without the osicat changes, so those definitely need to be merged first. Additionally, I want to have at least some experience with real world tar files before making this project widely available.

Fourth, add support for creating archives from the filesystem.

Fifth, add the ability to compile to an executable so you could use this in place of GNU or BSD tar :).

If the fourth and fifth steps excite you, I'd love to have your help making them a reality! They're not on my critical path for anything at the moment, so it'll likely be a while before I can get to them.


Journalism in the aggregate [Scripting News]

I judge journalism in the aggregate.

In other words, I say "journalism" did this or that.

I do it that way for a number of reasons.

  1. They do act as a unit. You'll see basically the same stories on all websites and cable news stations. They often interview each other, which is pretty amazing if you think about it.
  2. To balance the way they treat online writers. They talk about us in the aggregate too.
  3. And to balance the way they view Facebook, with 2.7 billion users, they only consider one user when they talk about Facebook, as if we all are just Zuck-clones. I made a list of all the things Facebook is, and journalism rarely considers anything but the personality of one person when talking about "Facebook." Not that they really have any insight into his personality, btw.
  4. To tell journalism, to the extent that I can, how unthinking and automaton-like they are. There will come a day when computers do what they do, because they use so little of the intellect they certainly have.


CodeSOD: A Dash of SQL [The Daily WTF]

As developers, we often have to engage with management who doesn't have a clue what it is we do, or how. Even if that manager was technical once, their technical background is frequently out of...


1542 [Looking For Group]

The post 1542 appeared first on Looking For Group.

Wednesday, 22 September


GNU Parallel 20210922 ('Vindelev') released [stable] [Planet GNU]

GNU Parallel 20210922 ('Vindelev') [stable] has been released. It is available for download at: lbry://@GnuParallel:4

No new functionality was introduced so this is a good candidate for a
stable release.

Quote of the month:

  Take a look at GNU Parallel. It’s magnificent.
    -- Siira@ycombinator.com

New in this release:

  • Bug fixes and man page updates.

News about GNU Parallel:

Get the book: GNU Parallel 2018 http://www.lulu.com/shop/ole-tange/gnu-parallel-2018/paperback/product-23558902.html

GNU Parallel - For people who live life in the parallel lane.

If you like GNU Parallel record a video testimonial: Say who you are, what you use GNU Parallel for, how it helps you, and what you like most about it. Include a command that uses GNU Parallel if you feel like it.

About GNU Parallel

GNU Parallel is a shell tool for executing jobs in parallel using one or more computers. A job can be a single command or a small script that has to be run for each of the lines in the input. The typical input is a list of files, a list of hosts, a list of users, a list of URLs, or a list of tables. A job can also be a command that reads from a pipe. GNU Parallel can then split the input and pipe it into commands in parallel.

If you use xargs and tee today you will find GNU Parallel very easy to use as GNU Parallel is written to have the same options as xargs. If you write loops in shell, you will find GNU Parallel may be able to replace most of the loops and make them run faster by running several jobs in parallel. GNU Parallel can even replace nested loops.

GNU Parallel makes sure output from the commands is the same output as you would get had you run the commands sequentially. This makes it possible to use output from GNU Parallel as input for other programs.

For example you can run this to convert all jpeg files into png and gif files and have a progress bar:

  parallel --bar convert {1} {1.}.{2} ::: *.jpg ::: png gif

Or you can generate big, medium, and small thumbnails of all jpeg files in sub dirs:

  find . -name '*.jpg' |
    parallel convert -geometry {2} {1} {1//}/thumb{2}_{1/} :::: - ::: 50 100 200

You can find more about GNU Parallel at: http://www.gnu.org/s/parallel/

You can install GNU Parallel in just 10 seconds with:

    $ (wget -O - pi.dk/3 || lynx -source pi.dk/3 || curl pi.dk/3/ || \
       fetch -o - http://pi.dk/3 ) > install.sh
    $ sha1sum install.sh | grep c82233e7da3166308632ac8c34f850c0
    12345678 c82233e7 da316630 8632ac8c 34f850c0
    $ md5sum install.sh | grep ae3d7aac5e15cf3dfc87046cfc5918d2
    ae3d7aac 5e15cf3d fc87046c fc5918d2
    $ sha512sum install.sh | grep dfc00d823137271a6d96225cea9e89f533ff6c81f
    9c5198d5 31a3b755 b7910ece 3a42d206 c804694d fc00d823 137271a6 d96225ce
    a9e89f53 3ff6c81f f52b298b ef9fb613 2d3f9ccd 0e2c7bd3 c35978b5 79acb5ca
    $ bash install.sh

Watch the intro video on http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL284C9FF2488BC6D1

Walk through the tutorial (man parallel_tutorial). Your command line will love you for it.

When using programs that use GNU Parallel to process data for publication please cite:

O. Tange (2018): GNU Parallel 2018, March 2018, https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1146014.

If you like GNU Parallel:

  • Give a demo at your local user group/team/colleagues
  • Post the intro videos on Reddit/Diaspora*/forums/blogs/ Identi.ca/Google+/Twitter/Facebook/Linkedin/mailing lists
  • Get the merchandise https://gnuparallel.threadless.com/designs/gnu-parallel
  • Request or write a review for your favourite blog or magazine
  • Request or build a package for your favourite distribution (if it is not already there)
  • Invite me for your next conference

If you use programs that use GNU Parallel for research:

  • Please cite GNU Parallel in you publications (use --citation)

If GNU Parallel saves you money:


GNU sql aims to give a simple, unified interface for accessing databases through all the different databases' command line clients. So far the focus has been on giving a common way to specify login information (protocol, username, password, hostname, and port number), size (database and table size), and running queries.

The database is addressed using a DBURL. If commands are left out you will get that database's interactive shell.

When using GNU SQL for a publication please cite:

O. Tange (2011): GNU SQL - A Command Line Tool for Accessing Different Databases Using DBURLs, ;login: The USENIX Magazine, April 2011:29-32.

About GNU Niceload

GNU niceload slows down a program when the computer load average (or other system activity) is above a certain limit. When the limit is reached the program will be suspended for some time. If the limit is a soft limit the program will be allowed to run for short amounts of time before being suspended again. If the limit is a hard limit the program will only be allowed to run when the system is below the limit.


Link [Scripting News]

The Dems should run ads saying how much the average retirement account will go down if the Repubs crash America's credit. Make it concrete. Estimate how the market will react. Now is the time to run those ads. If the campaigns didn't go to sleep between elections...

Link [Scripting News]

As an experiment, I created a blog post out of a tweet stream, with no editing. Copy/paste.


Link [Scripting News]

I remember what I was doing at 24 and it wasn't dying of a completely and easily preventable disease.

Link [Scripting News]

Yesterday's Now & Then podcast, about the history of NYC, was the first episode that was disappointing. At one point Heather Cox Richardson said, almost proudly, that the only thing she knows about NYC is the line in the song New York, New York "If you can make it there you can make it anywhere." This is one of my big problems with podcasts, the thing that tunes me out, when people speak from a position of false expertise. They're having a grand time, while I (the listener) am deciding whether or not to cut them off, based on the probability that they'll ever say anything interesting before the end. Yesterday I cut them off and listened to music for the second half of my ride. It's the same reason I can't watch any MSNBC show for more than 3 minutes. They're filling the air, meantime I know there are things going on they should be informing me of, and add to things my mind can think about. Okay so N&T had a bad episode, not the end of the world, the other most recent episodes are totally worth listening to, I highly recommend them, and I will keep listening in the hope that the NYC episode was just a bad idea they followed through on instead of canning.

Link [Scripting News]

We are now all complete newbies when it comes to understanding how networks can be used to spread misinformation. We might look back in a few years and realize that our first line of defense was Facebook, Inc. Maybe tearing them down is like the press tearing down HRC in 2016. I don't trust their judgement on this stuff, do you?

A thread from my tweet stream, as captured by Drummer [Scripting News]

If only we had journalism covering itself we'd probably learn they've been doing the exact same thing since the dawn of journalism. This is a big defect in our system, no one is watching journalism. (link)

  • For example, what do you think the Pulitzer Prize is, other than a bunch of ads they do about journalism every year. No doubt the awards are highly politicized, and stories looking too deeply into corrupt journalism probably don't stand much chance of getting an award.
    • Until there's some way for journalism's corruption to be exposed, why would any intelligent person think there's anything but corruption in journalism? In an Occam's Razor sort of way. I'm watching The Wire, about to start Season 5, btw, if you know what that's about. ;-)
      • There's this great scene at the end of Season 4, with Bodie and McNulty on a park bench. Bodie is talking about how fucked up the bosses are in the drug mob in Baltimore. It sounds just like what McNulty would say about the police department. That's the point.
        • Here's the scene with Bodie and McNulty. (link)


Link [Scripting News]

The debt limit vote is filibusterable you say? Perfect time to nuke the filibuster.


Some Version of a Process [The Daily WTF]

When you're a large company, like Oracle, you can force your customers to do things your way. "Because we said so," is something a company like that can get away with. Conversely, a small...

Tuesday, 21 September


Link [Scripting News]

Om Malik: "In increments the civilization is built. In haste it is dismantled." A concise description of my experience in tech, I gather Om sees it that way too. We labor for years, often lifetimes, to build a community of software and users, and it's all gone in an instant, replaced by people who didn't take the time to understand what was learned, wanted to do it again, themselves. It's much more honorable, imho -- to use the best of what's already been done, as much as possible. That way you don't have to always start over. Another wise man once said be conservative in what you send, liberal in what you accept.

Link [Scripting News]

1996: "How much happier we would be if instead of crippling each other with fear, we competed to empower each others' creativity."


Link [Scripting News]

Have you tried Bose SleepBuds? What do you think?


Top Comments – Pages 1539 – 1540 [Looking For Group]

Tuesday, YOU are the star! We curate our favourites from the previous week’s comments on lfg.co and Facebook and remind you how clever you are. Here are your top comments for Looking For Group pages 1539 – 1540 Looking For […]

The post Top Comments – Pages 1539 – 1540 appeared first on Looking For Group.


Ethical Social Media: Oxymoron or Attainable Goal? [Radar]

Humans have wrestled with ethics for millennia. Each generation spawns a fresh batch of ethical dilemmas and then wonders how to deal with them.

For this generation, social media has generated a vast set of new ethical challenges, which is unsurprising when you consider the degree of its influence. Social media has been linked to health risks in individuals and political violence in societies. Despite growing awareness of its potential for causing harm, social media has received what amounts to a free pass on unethical behavior.

Minerva Tantoco, who served as New York City’s first chief technology officer, suggests that “technology exceptionalism” is the root cause. Unlike the rapacious robber barons of the Gilded Age, today’s tech moguls were viewed initially as eccentric geeks who enjoyed inventing cool new products. Social media was perceived as a harmless timewaster, rather than as a carefully designed tool for relentless commerce and psychological manipulation.

“The idea of treating social media differently came about because the individuals who started it weren’t from traditional media companies,” Tantoco says. “Over time, however, the distinction between social media and traditional media has blurred, and perhaps the time has come for social media to be subject to the same rules and codes that apply to broadcasters, news outlets and advertisers. Which means that social media would be held accountable for content that causes harm or violates existing laws.”

Ethical standards that were developed for print, radio, television, and telecommunications during the 20th century could be applied to social media. “We would start with existing norms and codes for media generally and test whether these existing frameworks and laws would apply to social media,” Tantoco says.

Taking existing norms and applying them, with modifications, to novel situations is a time-honored practice.  “When e-commerce web sites first started, it was unclear if state sales taxes would apply to purchases,” Tantoco says. “It turned out that online sales were not exempt from sales taxes and that rules that had been developed for mail-order sites decades earlier could be fairly applied to e-commerce.”

Learning from AI

Christine Chambers Goodman, a professor at Pepperdine University’s Caruso School of Law, has written extensively on the topic of artificial intelligence and its impact on society. She sees potential in applying AI guidelines to social media, and she cited the European Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence’s seven key ethical requirements for trustworthy AI:1

  • Human agency and oversight
  • Technical robustness and safety
  • Privacy and data governance
  • Transparency
  • Diversity, non-discrimination and fairness
  • Societal and environmental well-being
  • Accountability

The commission’s proposed requirements for AI would be a good starting point for conversations about ethical social media. Ideally, basic ethical components would be designed into social media platforms before they are built. Software engineers should be trained to recognize their own biases and learn specific techniques for writing code that is inherently fair and non-discriminatory.

“It starts with that first requirement of human agency and oversight,” Goodman says. If ethical standards are “paramount” during the design phase of a platform, “then I see some room for optimism.”

Colleges and universities also can play important roles in training a new generation of ethical software engineers by requiring students to take classes in ethics, she says.

Economic Fairness and Equity

Social media companies are private business entities, even when they are publicly held. But the social media phenomenon has become so thoroughly woven into the fabric of our daily lives that many people now regard it as a public utility such as gas, electricity, and water. In a remarkably brief span of time, social media has become an institution, and generally speaking, we expect our institutions to behave fairly and equitably.  Clearly, however, the social media giants see no reason to share the economic benefits of their success with anyone except their shareholders.

“The large social media companies make hundreds of billions of dollars from advertising revenue and share almost none of it with their users,” says Greg Fell, CEO of Display Social, a platform that shares up to 50 percent of its advertising revenue with content creators who post on its site.

Historically, content creators have been paid for their work. Imagine if CBS had told Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz that they wouldn’t be paid for creating episodes of “I Love Lucy,” but that instead they would be allowed to sell “I Love Lucy” coffee mugs and T-shirts. If the original TV networks had operated like social media corporations, there never would have been a Golden Age of Television.

Most societies reward creators, artists, entertainers, athletes, and influencers for their contributions. Why does social media get to play by a different set of rules?

“Economic fairness should be part of the social media ethos. People should be rewarded financially for posting on social media, instead of being exploited by business models that are unfair and unethical,” Fell says.

From Fell’s perspective, the exploitive and unfair economic practices of the large social media companies represent short-term thinking. “Ultimately, they will burn out their audiences and implode. Meantime, they are causing harm. That’s the problem with unethical behavior—in the long run, it’s self-destructive and self-defeating.”

Transforming Attention into Revenue

Virtually all of the large social media platforms rely on some form of advertising to generate revenue. Their business models are exceedingly simple: they attract the attention of users and then sell the attention to advertisers. In crude terms, they’re selling your eyeballs to the highest bidder.

As a result, their only real interest is attracting attention. The more attention they attract, the more money they make. Their algorithms are brilliantly designed to catch and hold your attention by serving up content that will trigger dopamine rushes in your brain. Dopamine isn’t a cause of addiction, but it plays a role in addictive behaviors. So, is it fair to say that social media is intentionally addictive? Maybe.

“For many social media companies, addictive behavior (as in people consuming more than they intend to and regretting it afterwards) is the point,” says Esther Dyson, an author, philanthropist, and investor focused on health, open government, digital technology, biotechnology, and aerospace. “Cigarettes, drugs, and gambling are all premised on the model that too much is never enough.  And from the point of view of many investors, sustainable profits are not enough.  They want exits. Indeed, the goal of these investors is creating ever-growing legions of addicts. That starts with generating and keeping attention.”

Monetizing Misinformation

As it happens, misinformation is highly attractive to many users. It’s a digital version of potato chips—you can’t eat just one. The algorithms figure this out quickly, and feed users a steady supply of misinformation to hold their attention.

In an advertising-driven business model, attention equals dollars. With the help of machine learning and sophisticated algorithms, social media has effectively monetized misinformation, creating a vicious, addictive cycle that seems increasingly difficult to stop.

Social media has staked its fortunes to a business model that is deeply unethical and seems destined to fail in the long term. But could the industry survive, at least in the short term, with a business model that hews more closely to ethical norms?

Greg Fell doesn’t believe that ethical guidelines will slow the industry’s growth or reduce its profitability. “People expect fairness. They want to be treated as human beings, not as products,” he says. “You can build fairness into a platform if you make it part of your goal from the start. But it shouldn’t be an afterthought.”

Slowing the Spread of False Narratives

In addition to implementing structural design elements that would make it easier for people to recognize misinformation and false narratives, social media companies could partner with the public sector to promote media literacy.  Renée DiResta is the technical research manager at Stanford Internet Observatory, a cross-disciplinary program of research, teaching, and policy engagement for the study of abuse in current information technologies. She investigates the spread of narratives across social and traditional media networks.

“I think we need better ways for teaching people to distinguish between rhetoric and reality,” DiResta says, noting that tropes such as “dead people are voting” are commonly repeated and reused from one election cycle to the next, even when they are provably false. These kinds of tropes are the “building blocks” of misinformation campaigns designed to undermine confidence in elections, she says.

“If we can help people recognize the elements of false narratives, maybe they will build up an immunity to them,” DiResta says.

It’s Not Too Late to Stop the Train

The phenomenon we recognize today as “social media” only began taking shape in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It is barely two decades old, which makes it far too young to have developed iron-clad traditions. It is an immature field by any measure, and it’s not too late to alter its course.

Moreover, social media’s business model is not terribly complicated, and it’s easy to envision a variety of other models that might be equally or even more profitable, and represent far less of a threat to society. Newer platforms such as Substack, Patreon, OnlyFans, Buy Me a Coffee, and Display Social are opening the door to a creator-centric social media industry that isn’t fueled primarily by advertising dollars.

“Social media has its positives, and it isn’t all doom and gloom, but it certainly isn’t perfect and resolving some of these issues could ensure these applications are the fun and happy escape they need to be,” says Ella Chambers, UX designer and creator of the UK-based Ethical Social Media Project. “The majority of social media is okay.”

That said, some of the problems created by social media are far from trivial. “My research led me to conclude that the rise of social media has brought the downfall of many users’ mental health,” Chambers says. A recent series of investigative articles in the Wall Street Journal casts a harsh spotlight on the mental health risks of social media, especially to teen-age girls. Facebook has issued a rebuttal3 to the WSJ, but it’s not likely to persuade critics into believing that social media is some kind of wonderful playground for kids and teens.

Creating a practical framework of ethical guidelines would be a positive step forward. Ideally, the framework would evolve into a set of common practices and processes for ensuring fairness, diversity, inclusion, equity, safety, accuracy, accountability, and transparency in social media.

Chinese officials recently unveiled a comprehensive draft of proposed rules governing the use of recommendation algorithms in China.2 One of the proposed regulations would require algorithm providers to “respect social ethics and ethics, abide by business ethics and professional ethics, and follow the principles of fairness, openness, transparency, scientific rationality, and honesty.”

Another proposed regulation would provide users with “convenient options to turn off algorithm recommendation services” and enable users to select, modify or delete user tags. And another proposed rule would restrict service providers from using algorithms “to falsely register accounts … manipulate user accounts, or falsely like, comment, forward, or navigate through web pages to implement traffic fraud or traffic hijacking …”

Eloy Sasot, group chief data and analytics officer at Richemont, the Switzerland-based luxury goods holding company, agrees that regulations are necessary. “And the regulations also should be managed with extreme care. When you add rules to an already complex system, there can be unintended consequences, both at the AI-solution level and the macro-economic level,” he says.

For instance, small companies, which have limited resources, may be less able to counter negative business impacts created by regulations targeting large companies. “So, in effect, regulations, if not carefully supervised, might result in a landscape that is less competitive and more monopolistic, with unintended consequences for end consumers whom the regulations were designed to protect,” he explains.

Technology Problem, or a People Problem?

Casey Fiesler is an assistant professor in the Department of Information Science at University of Colorado Boulder. She researches and teaches in the areas of technology ethics, internet law and policy, and online communities.

“I do not think that social media—or more broadly, online communities—are inherently harmful,” says Fiesler. “In fact, online communities have also done incredible good, especially in terms of social support and activism.”

But the harm caused by unfettered use of social media “often impacts marginalized and vulnerable users disproportionately,” she notes. Ethical social media platforms would consider those effects and work proactively to reduce or eliminate hate speech, trolling, defamation, cyber bullying, swatting, doxing, impersonation, and the intentional spread of false narratives.

“I consider myself an optimist who thinks that it is very important to think like a pessimist. And we should critique technology like social media because it has so much potential for good, and if we want to see those benefits, then we need to push for it to be better,” Fiesler says.

Ultimately, the future of ethical social media may depend more on the behaviors of people than on advances in technology.

“It’s not the medium that’s unethical—it’s the business people controlling it,” Dyson observes. “Talking about social media ethics is like talking about telephone ethics. It really depends on the people involved, not the platform.”

From Dyson’s point of view, the quest for ethical social media represents a fundamental challenge for society. “Are parents teaching their children to behave ethically? Are parents serving as role models for ethical behavior? We talk a lot about training AI, but are we training our children to think long-term, or just to seek short-term relief? Addiction is not about pleasure; it’s about relief from discomfort, from anxiety, from uncertainty, from a sense that we have no future,” she adds. “I personally think we’re just being blind to the consequences of short-term thinking. Silicon Valley is addicted to profits and exponential growth. But we need to start thinking about what we’re creating for the long term.”


  1. https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/library/ethics-guidelines-trustworthy-ai
  2. ​​​​http://www.cac.gov.cn/2021-08/27/c_1631652502874117.htm
  3. https://about.fb.com/news/2021/09/research-teen-well-being-and-instagram/


CodeSOD: Globalism [The Daily WTF]

When Daniel was young, he took one of those adventure trips that included a multi-day hike through a rainforest. At the time, it was one of the most difficult and laborious experiences he'd ever...


Link [Scripting News]

One thing that makes The Wire so watchable is the huge number of fully developed characters interacting with each other.


Link [Scripting News]

All kinds of "twitterpro" names are available, somewhat amazingly. I've learned to control my domain name buying fetish, somewhat. I bought drummer.land recently. I found myself using that term when writing docs. I had to have it. Anyway. My name is Dave and I'm a domain name buying addict.

Link [Scripting News]

Omar Little is the most likeable character on The Wire. Marlo Stanfield is the coldest. For some reason I think of Marlo as Matt Mullenweg. I know that's weird. Matt is a very nice fellow. But I guess the parallel is that I am Avon Barksdale to his Marlo Stanfield? The Wire is good, but it's Season 1 that's great. The remaining four seasons kind of coast a little after the spectacular creative success of the first.

Link [Scripting News]

As summer winds down (tomorrow is the last day), I chose to listen to music instead of a podcasts on today's bike ride. I am loaded up with new ways of thinking from having gone through the archive of the Now & Then podcast. If you find your podcast fare is repetitive or shallow, dive into that podcast. It's a great college course in the history behind current affairs. Anyway, I've loaded up my iPhone SE, a very middle-class iPhone thank you, with lots of music history, and set it to shuffle the songs. The songs of my childhood. As this summer winds down, it feels like a metaphor for the summer of my own life winding down. The feelings from childhood that I re-experience with the music were the "other side" of the experiences of adulthood which is now passing just like summer. The dreams of a child were of the future, full of possibilities, are now balanced by the regrets of an old man. I'm doing my best to stay fit, but it gets harder every year. This fall, esp because the pandemic is now going into its third winter, has a grim feel to it. I know winter can be beautiful in the Hudson Valley. But this winter, unlike recent past winters, there's a sense of dread that hasn't been there before.

Link [Scripting News]

I love to write. ❤️

Monday, 20 September


Link [Scripting News]

Twitter Pro probably seems like a weird idea. Could there be professional Twitter users? There are. It's a writer's platform. The name they chose makes such an idea uncomfortable, perhaps. But it's a for real idea.

Link [Scripting News]

The next round of changes in Drummer will be about organizing tweets, using Twitter as a source for your writing work. Here's the use-case. You're out and about, and get an idea that belongs on the to-do list for your latest project. Open up Twitter, and post a note about it. When you get back to your desktop the note will already be in a Drummer outline, ready for you to act on it. It doesn't matter what kind of writer you are, whether you write for yourself, as a note-taker, if you write docs, research, news reporting, a blog, or a great novel. If you're a writer and and a steady user of Twitter, and interested in tools for thought and outliners, I'd like to add you to the Drummer test group in a few days because I want to groom the product to your use of it. Send me an email, let me know if this interests you and we'll get you on board soon.


The Right Stuff – DORK TOWER 10.09.21 [Dork Tower]

ecome a DORK TOWER Patreon! Dork Tower is 100% reader-funded, and updated Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, thanks its generous Patreon supporters. The next goal is four strips a week! Enlist in the Army of Dorkness today, and help us reach that! We have a ton of fun! Also: swag!


09/20/21 [Flipside]

My scanner is still not working. It's kind of an old printer/scanner, and this has happened several times in the past, and usually after a couple of days it just mysteriously starts working again. But now it's been 4 days without it being able to connect to the wireless. I guess I will give it a little longer before I think about getting a new scanner!


CodeSOD: Expiration Dates [The Daily WTF]

Last week, we saw some possibly ancient Pascal code. Leilani sends us some more… modern Pascal to look at today. This block of code comes from a developer who has… some quirks. For example, they...


1541 [Looking For Group]

The post 1541 appeared first on Looking For Group.

Link [Scripting News]

Lovely day. The kind of day that makes California living so nice, except this is the Hudson Valley.

Link [Scripting News]

Programming lesson still being re-learned after 46 years of programming: If your program behaves like it has an infinite loop, consider the possibility that it actually has an infinite loop.

Link [Scripting News]

Another programming lesson I haven't forgotten. It's amazing how many bugs that you spend hours not finding at the end of the day are found first thing the next day.

Link [Scripting News]

I love house-shopping on Zillow, like a lot of people do. It's fun to dream about living in one place or another. This house in Great Barrington would be fantastic for a family, as a country home perhaps, or a place to live in the age of telecommuting.

It's time to login to Cat Twitter [Diesel Sweeties webcomic by rstevens]

this is a diesel sweeties comic strip

IN OTHER NEWS: I have a small print run of gonk gonk shirts in stock now

#746: Power Economics [Chasing the Sunset - Comics Only]

Storyline #83: Chapter Image

Feiht originally wanted to use her name backwards as her alias, but Ayne convinced her that was a bad idea.

#745: Defender of furies [Chasing the Sunset - Comics Only]

Storyline #83: Chapter Image

Judge dread and the hell's pixies were unavailable because they had to judge a diving competition. Since pixies can fly, every dive takes many minutes. Longer if the diving pixie gets distracted midway and just flies off.

#744: On monsters and safety [Chasing the Sunset - Comics Only]

Storyline #83: Chapter Image

Oh, these furies are kept in check by an agreement with a pixie? That's all right then. I'm sure we're all safe now.

#743: Possessing daisies [Chasing the Sunset - Comics Only]

Storyline #83: Chapter Image

Leave it to Leaf to ruin a nice DUN DUN DUN line

#742: Inconspicuous [Chasing the Sunset - Comics Only]

Storyline #83: Chapter Image

Pixies are of course masters of subterfuge. Briefly.

Sunday, 19 September


What does the small print really say? That you’ll never win | David Mitchell [David Mitchell | The Guardian]

A motorist’s recent ‘David and Goliath’ victory against a car park firm was nothing of the sort

Many people will have enjoyed reading the news last week that Linda Edwards, a 58-year-old artist who lives in Saddleworth near Oldham, has won a five-year legal battle to get an unfair parking ticket rescinded. Justice had finally been done in spite of the rapacious demands of an intractable parking services company, it was proclaimed. “I hope from this others will have the courage to stand up to these companies,” said Edwards. It was described in several newspapers as a “David versus Goliath” struggle.

This description is flawed. For a start, Goliath died. Meanwhile, Excel Parking Services Ltd is still, according to its website, managing “over 210 car parks”. (I’m going to hazard 212.) The awful truth is that this giant is something even Goliath wouldn’t stand a chance against because Goliath was just a tall human and humans, unlike parking services companies, inevitably die.

Continue reading...


Gift cards, serial numbers and hard technology [Seth's Blog]

I bought someone a digital gift card the other day. That’s generally a bad idea, since there’s so much waste and breakage, but it was the right answer to the problem in the moment.

The code the person would have to type in to redeem the card was: X5LMFP478DRYTHQY

I’m sure that the team who worked on creating a secure platform for the transfer of billions of dollars of transactions was proud of the hard work they did.

Except no one wants to type this in, and it’s incredibly impersonal.

It could have been just as secure if there was a list of 1,000 words and the code was five of the words. All the words could be positive and easy to spell and remember. Typing in “happy love birthday celebrate friend walrus” is going to be more memorable, fun and engaging, and the computer is smart enough to ignore the spaces.

The day before, the tech support folks at a different big company wanted me to read off the serial number on the bottom of a device. I’m sure the tech folks were proud of the check digits and other elements that were embedded in the serial number, which was printed in grey type considerably smaller than this blog is written in. It included a 0 and an O as well as a 1 and perhaps an l.

And the serial number for my oven requires lying on the floor to read it.

In all of these cases, the organizations failed because they decided that humanity and technical issues don’t overlap. These minor issues I’m complaining about are nothing compared to the life-changing impacts that technology that avoids the hard problems create.

In medical school, they spend days teaching people to operate on lungs, and no time at all helping young doctors learn how to get their patients to stop smoking and get vaccinated. The technologists forgot about the human issues.

This is most glaring when we go near the edges of a bell curve. Disabled people or folks who are out of the mean in any way are shunted aside by what the busy but blindered tech people think is important. A captcha that doesn’t work, machine learning that doesn’t learn well, systems that don’t serve the people who need them…

Technology that doesn’t solve a problem for the people using it isn’t finished yet.


Steam [Skin Horse]

Shaenon: Might as well indulge in an utterly self-serving post… I can officially announce that I have a new graphic novel in the works! It combines two subjects close to my heart, mad science and coffee, and Emily Holden’s art is adorable.

And as long as I’m shilling for my work, I may as well note that my first graphic novel, The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor, with art by the legendary Christopher Baldwin, is now available in both hardcover and paperback at the Couscous Store.

Channing: Super excited for this one, as both subjects are close to my heart as well. Can’t wait to see it!

Saturday, 18 September


Deathloop for PC is Awesome and I Absolutely Cannot Recommend It [Whatever]

Bethesda and Arkane have made some of my favorite video games in recent years, most notably the Dishonored series, which had a delightful balance of worldbuilding and the ability to magically hoist bad guys into the air, all the better to stab them in the neck. When they announced Deathloop, which promised all the stabby joy of Dishonored with a nifty retro sci-fi aesthetic and a wild time-loop mechanic, I was all in. Now that I’ve dived in for about twelve hours worth of gameplay on my PC, I can absolutely say that as a game, it lives up to its advertising and is a whole lot of fun to play. Also, there’s no way you should buy it right now, because getting it to run on a PC is a huge fucking nightmare.

I noted this yesterday on Twitter:

This is not an exaggeration. When I open up the game on Steam, it’ll get to the opening splash screen and then close, throwing up a huge dialog box of crash data. So I open it up again, and then again, and then again, and then again, and eventually if I open it up enough, it’ll work and I can play. Why does it work on the fifth or eighth or eleventh try? Got me. My PC, although not new, is not meagerly specced; it fits the game’s minimum system requirements with some headroom. So that’s not the issue. It’s just temperamental, and when I say temperamental, I mean I’ve discovered that Deathloop has a better chance of opening and being playable if, while I’m firing up the game, I also have Chrome open and am actively scrolling through a Web page. Why? Who the hell knows? I don’t and I imagine neither Bethesda nor Arkane knows, either.

Which, you know, is a problem. I shouldn’t have to rely on janky heuristics and finger-crossing to get a multimillion-dollar, AAA major studio game to open on a computer that fits the game’s minimum specs, and neither should anyone else. Some people are pointing fingers at the game’s DRM system, while others are noting it plays poorly with modern graphics cards, or whatever. At the end of the day, however, a new game should be able to be played out of the (these days virtual) box, or at the very least have a reasonable explanation for why it cannot.

When the game can be played, it’s pretty terrific. As a character named Colt, you wander about a time-looped island trying to figure out how you got there and why another character named Julianna is going out of her way to kill you. Along the way you discover that in order to break the time loop, you have to kill eight “visionaries” (think: level bosses), and you unlock various quasi-magical skills to do it as you go along. The gameplay is fun, the story is compelling, and it’s fun murdering a whole bunch of temporally-locked jerks who are trying to kill you. When it works, it’s probably my favorite game of 2021.

But it doesn’t work enough, and when it does work, it runs the risk of suddenly not working anymore (the latest crash involved the game telling me to “infuse” a weapon I didn’t have, and didn’t give me a way out of the screen it had put up to have me do it, and when I tried to alt-crtl-del my way out, it shut down). Given all the reports on the Internet about Deathloop, I know I am far from the only one having problems with the game on PC (I understand the PS5 version has its own problems as well). The excellent game experience is deeply and terminally compromised by the overall user experience.

Which is why I say: Deathloop on PC is awesome, and I absolutely cannot recommend it. This game needs to be patched waaaay the fuck out before I can suggest that anyone else spend $60+ dollars on it.

Further, game studios should not ship games that don’t work. I bought Deathloop on day one, because as a video game player, Bethesda and Arkane earned some credit for their previous terrific games. But here on out, I’ll be waiting a month or two (at least) before buying any game of theirs on PC, because they can’t be trusted to make a game that runs on day one. That’s bad news for both, since a game that’s not bought on day one has a much better chance of being a game that’s not bought at all. But them’s the breaks, when you ship a broken game.

— JS


Urgent: Freedom to Vote Act [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

US citizens: phone your senators to support the Freedom to Vote Act (which is a modified version of the For the People Act), and call for eliminating the filibuster to pass it over Republican opposition.

Common Cause said,

It will end gerrymandering along partisan or racial lines by requiring fair maps for congressional districts. And, it will take important steps to curtail secret money in elections and encourage small-dollar donors to reduce the influence of big money.

The Capitol Switchboard number is 202-224-3121.

If you call, please spread the word!

Urgent: Massachusetts H.135 [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Massachusetts residents: call on your Massachusetts state rep to support H.135, which would regulate the use of face recognition to track people.

Here's the personal message I sent.

Please support H.135 so as to prohibit using face recognition to identify people and track people in Massachusetts. Whatever your skin color, you deserve privacy in your movements.

China has already shown how face recognition serves the purposes of regimentation and repression. People who want to be tracked should move to China — please don't let them bring China here.

Urgent: Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

US citizens: call on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to advance the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act, which would forbid governments from tracking people by buying data about them from companies that track people.

Really we should stop companies from collecting data to track people at all.

"Compromise" voting rights bill [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

A new "compromise" voting rights bill has the ostensible support of all 50 Senate democrats, including Manchin and Sinema.

Despite not being as strong as the For the People Act, it will make a big difference.

There are many problems with US elections that this bill will not fix. It is not enough.

Will Manchin and Sinema turn around and kill the bill they just agreed to support, by insisting it needs to win 10 Republican supporters to avoid a filibuster? Or will they agree to eliminate that obstacle?

The author grew up with national ID cards and doesn't understand how they increase government power for repression. In addition, the existence of national ID cards leads to indexing all sorts of person data by them, so that all databases are automatically cross-indexed by default.

Bonding over wars [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

We must reject the idea of seeing wars as opportunities for Americans to bond with each other.

It is difficult to avoid killing civilians in a war, but how difficult depends on the way the fighting is done. When fighting with swords, it's not hard to see whether someone is a soldier. With air strikes, it is not easy to avoid mistakes, as Nigeria has discovered.

War without a front line (that civilians can keep away from) is especially likely to mean killing them. And we saw, a few weeks ago in Kabul, that this is still true for the US military.

French medical workers [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

France has suspended some workers in the medical system for not being vaccinated.

Requiring their vaccination is important to reduce the risk of Covid-19's spreading in clinics and hospitals. If the fraction suspended is around 5%, the system can cope, and many will get vaccinated and resume work in a couple of months.

Having all staff vaccinated could reduce the number of staff that at any time must stay home due to detected or possible Covid-19 infection. It will also contribute to reducing the country's general level of infection.

US thug departments acquiring tracking data [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

US thug departments can get, from tracking companies such as Google, a list of everyone that was in a certain area in a certain period of time.

Then they can cite that as grounds for investigating anyone and everyone who was there.

That obtaining the list requires a warrant is a step forward, but there needs to be other limits on launching a "fishing expedition" against people simply for being on the list. Either some limit on the data they can get, or some other grounds to suspect an individual, or both.

Induction stoves [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Replacing gas stoves with induction stoves increases efficiency, so it can reduce energy use even if the electricity is itself made from fossil fuels. In addition, it reduces toxins in the indoor air.

Adequate standard of living [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

The UN rapporteur on extreme poverty says that the UK's planned welfare cuts would violate the human right to an adequate standard of living.

Distance at funerals [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

The strict Covid-19 regulations in Sydney properly do not allow people to mingle at funerals. A number of people tried to participate in funerals in a safe way, by remaining in their cars and watching from a distance. Thugs came and ordered them to drive away.

Is there a reason to think they might spread Covid-19 this way? The article doesn't show one. If they parked side-by-side, with open windows, there could be a danger; did they do that?

I tend to think that the official regulations have loopholes that have thwarted the effort to end the outbreak there. But increasing strictness has to be designed with care. Random rigidity in enforcement won't correct the problem, it will only cause pointless hurt, or worse.

Agreement not to enter Kabul [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

* Zalmay Khalilzad says [the Taliban] agreed not to enter Kabul and to discuss future government before president [Ghani]’s swift departure.*

I accidentally typed "Talkiban" when writing the line above. That's what they might have developed into.

Aurora police [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

*Aurora police have a pattern of racially biased policing, Colorado AG says.*

Vaccinated for UN session [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

New York City wants to require everyone attending the UN session to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

I am surprised that the diplomats are concerned with what the city government says, because of their diplomatic immunity. The city can't make them pay parking tickets, much less get vaccinated.

However, I am concerned for the diplomats themselves. The vaccines are effective but not perfect, so the presence of unvaccinated diplomats in the meetings increases the danger that vaccinated diplomats will get infected.

Back pay for temps [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

*Google workers demand back pay for temps company underpaid for years.*

They are doing the right thing, standing up for better treatment of other workers.

However, the wording of their petition was careless. It calls for paying the unjustly withheld pay to all the temps "who were knowingly underpaid by Google." That means, all those who knew they were being underpaid. But I suspect that none of then knew it, at that time.

I think the employees meant to say, those "that Google knowingly underpaid."


09/17/21 PHD comic: 'The COVID-19 Virus Explained' [PHD Comics]

Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "The COVID-19 Virus Explained" - originally published 9/17/2021

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!


Mike Gabriel: X2Go, Remmina and X2GoKdrive [Planet Debian]

In this blog post, I will cover a few related but also different topics around X2Go - the GNU/Linux based remote computing framework.

Introduction and Catch Up

For those, who haven't come across X2Go, so far... With X2Go [0] you can log into remote GNU/Linux machines graphically and launch headless desktop environments, seamless/published applications or access an already running desktop session (on a local Xserver or running as a headless X2Go desktop session) via X2Go's session shadowing / mirroring feature.

Graphical backend: NXv3

For several years, there was only one graphical backend available in X2Go, the NXv3 software. In NXv3, you have a headless or nested (it can do both) Xserver that has some remote magic built-in and is able to transfer the Xserver's graphical data to a remote client (NX proxy). Over the wire, the NX protocol allows for data compression (JPEG, PNG, etc.) and combines it with bitmap caching, so that the overall result is a fast and responsive desktop experience even on low latency and low bandwidth connections. This especially applies to X desktop environments that use many native X protocol operations for drawing windows and widget onto the screen. The more bitmaps involved (e.g. in applications with client-side rendering of window controls and such), the worse the quality of a session experience.

The current main maintainer of NVv3 (aka nx-libs [1]) is Ulrich Sibiller. Uli has my and the X2Go community's full appreciation, admiration and gratitude for all the work he does on nx-libs, constantly improving NXv3 without breaking compatibility with legacy use cases (yes, FreeNX is still alive, by the way).

NEW: Alternative Graphical Backend: X2Go Kdrive

Over the past 1.5 years, Oleksandr Shneyder (Alex), co-founder of X2Go, has been working on a re-implementation of an alternative, less X11-dependent graphical backend. The underlying Xserver technology is the kdrive part of the X.org server project. People on GNU/Linux might have used kdrive technology already: The Xephyr nested Xserver uses the kdrive implementation.

The idea of the X2Go Kdrive [2] implementation in X2Go is providing a headless Xserver on the X2Go Server side for running X11 based desktop sessions inside while using an X11-agnostic data protocol for sending the graphical desktop data to the client-side for rendering. Whereas, with NXv3 technology, you need a local Xserver on the client side, with X2Go Kdrive you only need a client app(lication) that can draw bitmaps into some sort of framebuffer, such as a client-side X11 Xserver, a client-side Wayland compositor or (hold your breath) an HTMLv5 canvas in a web browser.

X2Go Kdrive Client Implementations

During first half of this year, I tested and DEB-packaged Alex's X2Go HTMLv5 client code [3] and it has been available for testing in the X2Go nightly builds archive for a while now.

Of course, the native X2Go Client application has X2Go Kdrive support for a while, too, but it requires a Qt5 application in the background, the x2gokdriveclient (which is still only available in X2Go nightly builds or from X2Go Git [4]).

X2Go and Remmina

As currently posted by the Remmina community [5], one of my employees has been working on finalizing an already existing draft of mine for the last couple of months: Remmina Plugin X2Go. This project has been contracted by BAUR-ITCS UG (haftungsbeschränkt) already a while back and has been financed via X2Go funding from one of their customers. Unfortunately, I never got around really to finalizing the project. Apologies for this.

Daniel Teichmann, who has been in the company for a while now, but just recently switched to an employment model with considerably more work hours per week, now picked up this project two months ago an achieved awesome things on the way.

Daniel Teichmann and Antenore Gatta (Remmina core developer, aka tmow) have been cooperating intensely on this, recently, with the objective of getting the X2Go plugin code merged into Remmina asap. We are pretty close to the first touchdown (i.e. code merge) of this endeavour.

Thanks to Antenore for his support on this. This is much appreciated.

Remmina Plugin X2Go - Current Challenges

The X2Go Plugin for Remmina implementation uses Python X2Go (PyHoca-CLI) under the bonnet and basically does a system call to pyhoca-cli according to the session settings configured in Remmina session profile UI. When using NXv3 based sessions, the session window appears on the client-side Xserver and immediately gets caught by Remmina and embedded into the Remmina frame where its remote sessions are supposed to appear. (Thanks that GtkSocket is still around in GTK-3). The knowing GTK-3 experts among you may have noticed: GtkSocket is obsolete and has been removed from GTK-4. Also, GtkSocket support is only available in GTK-3 when using its X11 rendering backend.

For the X2Go Kdrive implementation, we tested a similar approach (embedding the x2gokdriveclient Qt5 window via Xembed/GtkSocket), but it seems that GtkSocket and Qt5 applications don't work well together and we did not succeed in embedding the Qt5 window of the x2gokdriveclient application into Remmina, so far. Also, this would be a work-around for the bigger problem: We want, long-term, provide X2Go Kdrive support in Remmina, not only for Remmina running with GTK-3/X11, but also when Remmina is used natively on top of Wayland.

So, the more sustainable approach for showing an X2Go Kdrive based X2Go session in Remmina would be a GTK-3/4 or a Glib-2.0 + Cairo based rendering client provided as a shared library. This then could be used by Remmina for drawing the session bitmaps into the Remmina session frame.

This would require a port of the x2gokdriveclient Qt code into a non-Qt implementation. However, we are running out of funding to make this happen at the moment.

More Funding Needed for this Journey

As you might guess, such a project as proposed is a project that some people do in their spare time, others do it for a living.

I'd love to continue this project and have Daniel Teichmann continue his work on this, so that Remmina might soon be able to provide native X2Go Kdrive Client support.

If people read this and are interested in supporting such a project, please get in touch [6]. Thanks so much!

Mike (aka sunweaver)

[0] https://wiki.x2go.org/
[1] https://github.com/ArcticaProject/nx-libs
[2] https://code.x2go.org/gitweb?p=x2gokdrive.git;a=tree
[3] https://code.x2go.org/gitweb?p=x2gohtmlclient.git;a=tree
[4] https://code.x2go.org/gitweb?p=x2gokdriveclient.git;a=tree
[5] https://remmina.org/x2go/
[6] https://das-netzwerkteam.de/

The Best-Laid Plans [George Monbiot]

The Conservatives promised that communities could reshape their own towns. As the shocking case of Totnes shows, it’s a con.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 15th September 2021

Among the most important democratic questions is how the land surrounding us is used. Is it providing homes we can afford, public services and green spaces, or is it being used by a few to impose damaging schemes on the rest of us and extract profits at our expense?

In a lively democracy, we would be allowed to design our own communities to meet our own needs. But while we are invited to participate in the planning system, this often means little more than approving or objecting to plans put forward by property developers, whose interests seldom align with ours. Instead of democracy, there’s a veneer of public consent.

David Cameron’s government promised to put this right. The 2011 Localism Act would allow communities to take back control. It included a Community Right to Build Order, through which local people would automatically obtain planning permission for a project if they won a referendum.

People in the town of Totnes in Devon took him at his word. Since 2007, they had been working to transform a big derelict site, previously a milk-processing factory run by Dairy Crest, into a community project called Atmos. They turned their plans into England’s most advanced and ambitious use of a right to build order. They sought to build 62 genuinely affordable homes, 37 retirement homes, workspaces providing employment for at least 160 people, a hotel, community and youth facilities, and an arts centre.

It was a massive undertaking. Derelict factory sites are notoriously hard to develop. But while Totnes has a reputation for harbouring woolly hippies, it’s also home to some determined and very well-organised people. They put in thousands of unpaid hours, canvassing opinion, developing their plans with the community, architects and other professionals, and raising money.

In 2014 they formed the Totnes Community Development Society (TCDS). It secured an agreement with Dairy Crest for the sale of the site. This gave it the same protection that any developer would enjoy. In 2016, TCDS held a local referendum on the Atmos plans, in which 86% of voters supported the scheme, giving it planning permission. Given the difficulties of working with such a site, pulling this off in just two years was a remarkable achievement.

In 2019, Dairy Crest was bought by the Canadian company Saputo Inc. This didn’t seem to affect the sale. TCDS and Saputo had the site independently valued. After negotiations between their lawyers, Saputo UK confirmed that it would accept £460,000 for the site, and “overage” agreements for the developments TCDS would build, taking the total to almost £5m. This enabled TCDS to secure £2.5m from the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

In late 2019, Saputo’s lawyers told TCDS that the firm was considering another offer for part of the site. Then Saputo UK terminated two of its agreements with TCDS, citing technicalities. However, the negotiations continued. Then, in January last year, just as TCDS expected to exchange contracts with Saputo, the president of Saputo UK, Tom Atherton, phoned to say that the company had decided to sell the site to someone else. On the same day, Saputo’s lawyers confirmed that it had exchanged contracts with what appeared to be a mastics firm based in Essex, called FastGlobe Ltd.

The community members, who had worked so hard for 13 years, were dumbfounded. They were even more surprised when they later discovered the site had been sold for a total of £1.35m, considerably less than the £5m that they would have paid.

The sale had been brokered by a land agent called Patrick Gillies. In March this year, local people had a meeting with him, which they recorded with his permission. He told them something extraordinary. FastGlobe Ltd was, for the purposes of the deal, “a purchase vehicle. That’s all. It’s like a bank.” Gillies explained that he was the coordinator, project manager and partner of the site. Now the community has discovered something else. Patrick Gillies was, until Atherton got divorced, Tom Atherton’s brother-in-law.

There is nothing illegal in this arrangement, though Saputo, which prides itself on its ethical standards and publishes a code of conduct covering such matters, might ask itself whether in this case those standards have been met. None of my questions – directly to Gillies and, through Saputo UK to Atherton – have yet been answered, but Saputo Inc, the parent company,told me: “TCDS has made us aware of these allegations. We are taking the matter very seriously and are looking into them.”

TCDS is appealing to Saputo Inc to buy back the land and honour the original agreement. Because Saputo is a reputable company, and the founding family’s charitable foundations support community groups, it has hopes of being heard.

What this story shows is that the famous Community Right to Build is feeble and tokenistic. It gives communities no protection against having the ground sold from under them, and therefore gives them no real rights. The thousands of hours and £800,000 that the community has spent developing its bid might have been entirely wasted. The rest of the UK needs the kind of right-to-buy legislation that Scotland has: strong legal rights that cannot be suddenly rescinded by landowners and developers.

They said we could take back control. It’s time to honour the promise.



Link [Scripting News]

Added an item to yesterday's list of things Facebook is. "All the content -- video, images, posts, comments, live events, current and past."

Link [Scripting News]

Frank Mitloehner: "It’s been two decades since British Petroleum and the marketing agency then named Ogilvy & Mather deceived lots and lots of unwitting Americans into believing the hands of fossil fuel companies are clean of contributing to climate change through imaginative messaging. To this day, their marketing campaign continues to be highly effective in getting the public to take on the weighty responsibility of halting climate change. We’ve cut back on meat, upped our recycling game and made the creative campaign’s key phrase – 'carbon footprint' – part of our vernacular. All in an attempt to make a positive difference – and yes, to clear our consciences.

Facebook is at least eight things [Scripting News]

Here's the list.

  1. Mark Zuckerberg.
  2. A public corporation.
  3. 60K employees.
  4. Servers, software, other tech.
  5. An advertising platform.
  6. A user community.
  7. Connections to the rest of the web.
  8. All the content -- video, images, posts, comments, live events, current and past.

When journalism refers to "Facebook" I don't think they're ever clear on which Facebook they're talking about.

Each of the different Facebooks are limited by the others.

But if you are aware of all the different things "Facebook" is, their stories are usually mush.


A few weekend stable kernels [LWN.net]

The relatively large 5.14.6, 5.13.19, and 5.10.67 stable kernel updates have been released; each contains another set of important fixes. Note that this is the final update for the 5.13.x series.


Tidyquant: An Open-Access Tool for Studying the Stock Market [Economics from the Top Down]

They say that knowledge is power. Well, in capitalism, knowledge is also money … but only if you keep it under lock and key. Hence, researchers who study capitalism are often faced with a dilemma: the best data is kept behind a hefty paywall. The only way to get access is if your institution pays for a subscription. And if you’re not lucky enough to work for a university, you’re out of luck.

Given this problem, I’m always on the look out for open-access data, and for tools that facilitate access to said data. This week I discovered an R package called ‘Tidyquant’ that does a nice job of giving access to stock market data (which it pulls from Yahoo Finance).

Here’s a brief tutorial. Install Tidyquant with this command:


Then load it:


Next, find the stock ticker for the company you want to look up. As an example, let’s do Exxon Mobile, who’s ticker is XOM. The code below will pull daily Exxon stock prices from the beginning of 1990 to today.

           from = '1990-01-01',
           to = today(),
           warnings = FALSE,
           auto.assign = TRUE

The function returns a table called XOM that looks like this:

That’s pretty nifty. Let’s plot some of the data. To plot the closing price, we enter:


Here’s what the plot looks like. It’s not something I’d publish. But it’s good enough to explore the data.

Suppose we want to compare Exxon’s stock price to the S&P 500. That’s easy enough. On Yahoo Finance, the S&P 500 symbol is ^GSPC. Plug that into our function:

           from = '1990-01-01',
           to = today(),
           warnings = FALSE,
           auto.assign = TRUE

You’ll get a table called GSPC containing daily data for S&P 500 prices.

Next, let’s do some simple differential analysis. Let’s see how Exxon’s stock price has changed relative to the S&P 500. That’s another one liner:

plot(XOM$XOM.Close / GSPC$GSPC.Close)

Here’s the result, the ratio of Exxon’s price to the S&P 500:

As you can see, Exxon hasn’t been doing so well since oil prices peaked in 2008.

Tidyquant is a nifty little tool that gives you quick access to Yahoo Finance data. While it’s no replacement for the paywalled data that is closely guarded by Bloomberg and the likes, it’s a decent package for doing exploratory research.

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Link [Scripting News]

BTW, if you get Scripting News via email, you are welcome to forward copies to friends. There's a subscribe link at the bottom of every email. And don't worry they can't unsubscribe on your behalf.


Raining on your picnic (on your birthday) [Seth's Blog]

A friend just got handed an unreasonable rejection. It came on a platter, delivered with very little in the way of kindness and no hints at all about what to do next.

It is not personal.

Not about her.

She did nothing wrong. It might not even be about her idea.

No one wants exactly what you want, sees what you see, believes what you believe. That’s normal.

Oh, that happened. Now what?

Go plan another picnic.


Home computing pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair dies aged 81 [OSnews]

Sir Clive Sinclair, the inventor and entrepreneur who was instrumental in bringing home computers to the masses, has died at the age of 81.

His daughter, Belinda, said he died at home in London on Thursday morning after a long illness. Sinclair invented the pocket calculator but was best known for popularising the home computer, bringing it to British high-street stores at relatively affordable prices.

One of the greatest.

Apple, Google cooperate with Putin to steal Russia’s elections [OSnews]

Alphabet’s Google and Apple have removed jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s tactical voting app from their stores, his team said on Friday, after Russia accused the U.S. tech firms of meddling in its internal affairs.

Russia goes to the polls on Friday to elect a new parliament in a three-day vote that the ruling United Russia party is expected to win despite a ratings slump after the biggest crackdown on the Kremlin’s critics in years.

Apple, only a few weeks ago during the CASM debacle, adamantly told the world it would never bow to government pressure. Unsurprisingly, that was a bold-faced lie.

Google publicly commits itself to human rights, but apparently, that does not extend to Putin critics and the Russian opposition.

AMD: we stand ready to make Arm chips [OSnews]

AMD’s CFO Devinder Kumar recently commented that AMD stands ready to manufacture Arm chips if needed, noting that the company’s customers want to work with AMD on Arm-based solutions. Kumar’s remarks came during last week’s Deutsche Bank Technology Conference, building on comments from AMD CEO Lisa Su earlier in the year that underscored the company’s willingness to create custom silicon solutions for its customers, be they based on x86 or Arm architectures. Intel also intends to produce Arm and RISC-V chips, too, meaning that the rise of non-x86 architectures will be partially fueled by the stewards of the dominant x86 ecosystem.

This is entirely unsurprising news. You don’t have to build Snapdragon or Apple-level ARM chips to make a lot of money with Arm, and companies like Intel and AMD would be stupid not to look into it.


Two Millennia of Centuries [Nina Paley]

If you’ve wondered why my creative output this summer has been relatively thin, it’s because I spend most of my energy and time biking (and recovering, eating, bike maintenance, route planning, looking at maps, etc.) in the warmer months. Once it gets cold and I’m stuck inside again with no place to go but inward, I hope to continue work on my Animated Apocalypse.

In the Book of Revelation, the Millennium is a thousand-year reign of peace prior to the “second resurrection” and end of the world. If a Millennium needs to pass before the Apocalypse can be completed, maybe my own Millennium would enable my little animation project to be completed. So, I set out to bicycle 10 centuries (hundred-mile rides).

The First Century

The Second Century

The Third Century

The Fourth Century

The Fifth Century

The Sixth Century

The Seventh Century

The Eighth Century

The Ninth Century

The Tenth Century

I reached my goal in July, but instead of getting back to work on my project, I rode yet another century, initiating a Second Millennium:

The Eleventh Century

Just as the world didn’t end a thousand years after Christ, my project stalled too. Here in Reality we’re already in the Twenty-First Century, and Time hasn’t stopped yet, although it certainly feels like The End Is Near. So I figured, what the hell, I’ll do another ten centuries, that’ll put my Apocalypse more in sync with the mythological one.

The Twelfth Century

The Thirteenth Century

The Fourteenth Century

The Fifteenth Century

The Sixteenth Century

The Seventeenth Century

The Eighteenth Century

The Nineteenth Century

The Twentieth Century

Now that two Millennia have passed, will my Apocalypse proceed? Maybe, but first I need a nap.


The post Two Millennia of Centuries appeared first on Nina Paley.

Friday, 17 September


Friday Squid Blogging: Ram’s Horn Squid Shells [Schneier on Security]

You can find ram’s horn squid shells on beaches in Texas (and presumably elsewhere).

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.


New Books and ARCs, 9/17/21 [Whatever]

Another Friday, another fine stack of new books and ARCs to peruse! What here is catching your eye? Share your thoughts in the comments.

— JS



Link [Scripting News]

A bee flew into my mouth while I was riding my bike today. I quickly swatted it out of there, but I got stung anyway. That was 1/2 hour ago, and the swelling went down quickly. Whew good thing I didn't inhale the little fucker.

Link [Scripting News]

Everything we think is a new low in American governance is far from it. We were taught a lot of crap in school. The people whose egos were being protected are all long-dead. Was it worth it? No, of course not. It would have been much better if they taught the unvarnished truth.

News Post: Scroffeur [Penny Arcade]

Tycho: Everything is good downstairs. Upstairs is a complete mess! But that's been true for decades. I guess it's true what they say - you never really know what's going on in another person's scrotum. It's just as true today as it was whenever it was said the first time. That might literally be two sentences before this one. I guess what I would say is that I thought everybody being able to talk all the time about everything was more or less gonna be an unmitigated good, and being up to my ass in it now for a couple decades I think there are probably hard limits on what we…


09/17/21 [Flipside]

Sorry, the scanner is once again not working so today's page may be late.


Universities competition [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

New algorithms enable universities to compete successfully for students by offering more loans and less in scholarship grants. This increases what students will typically have to pay — a burden already unbearable for most Americans.

Getting phone call [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

(satire) *Police Officer's Wife Still Dreads Getting Phone Call That Her Husband Has Been Vaccinated.*

Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

*2,180+ Scientists Worldwide Demand 'Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty'.*

This includes no new expansion of fossil fuel extraction.

PR think tanks [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Federal "intelligence" funds are going to militarist think tanks that in effect do PR for more military spending.

Falling short of climate pledges [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

*Governments falling woefully short of Paris climate pledges, study finds.* This dilatory approach is leading to 3C of global heating.

Big spike despite high vaccination rate [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

*Singapore reports biggest spike in Covid cases in a year despite 81% vaccination rate.*

This is disappointing news, because it indicates that current vaccines alone are not enough to make Covid-19 disappear, even vaccinating 90% of adults, without taking some additional measures.

However, New Zealand seems to be on the home stretch of eradicating an outbreak.


News Post: ASUS x Gundam [Penny Arcade]

Gabe: I am ridiculously excited to announce that coming up on Saturday the 25th (my birthday!) I’m doing an ASUS x Gundam PC build with my son Gabe on the PA Twitch channel.  Thankfully Chris Barr from ROG North America will join us to supervise and provide valuable info. Also Jerry will be there. -Gabe Out


Schaller: Cool happenings in Fedora Workstation land [LWN.net]

Here's a post from Christian Schaller describing a number of the desktop-oriented improvements that can be expected in the Fedora 35 release.

And I know some people will wonder why we spent so much time working with NVidia around their binary driver, but the reality is that NVidia is the market leader, especially in the professional Linux workstation space, and there are lot of people who either would end up not using Linux or using Linux with X without it, including a lot of Red Hat customers and Fedora users. And that is what I and my team are here for at the end of the day, to make sure Red Hat customers are able to get their job done using their Linux systems.

Conill: The long-term consequences of maintainers’ actions [LWN.net]

Ariadne Conill looks at the difficulties caused by the OpenSSL 3 transition in the context of Alpine Linux.

For distributions, however, the story is different: cryptography moved to using Rust, because they wanted to leverage all of the static analysis capabilities built into the language. This, too, is a reasonable decision, from a development perspective. From the ecosystem perspective, however, it is problematic, as the Rust ecosystem is still rapidly evolving, and so we cannot support a single branch of the Rust compiler for an entire 2 year lifecycle, which means it exists in community. Our solution, historically, has been to hold cryptography at the latest version that did not require Rust to build. However, that version is not compatible with OpenSSL 3, and so it will eventually need to be upgraded to a new version which is. And so, since cryptography has to move to community, so does paramiko and Ansible.

[$] Key Rust concepts for the kernel [LWN.net]

The first day of the online Kangrejos conference was focused on introducing the effort to bring the Rust programming language into the Linux kernel. On the second day, conference organizer Miguel Ojeda shifted to presenting the Rust language itself with an emphasis on what Rust can provide for kernel development. The result was a useful resource for anybody who is curious about this project, but who has not yet had the time to become familiar with Rust.


Link [Scripting News]

I thought this would make an interesting screen shot. Each tab is an outline I have open in Drummer all the time. Every idea can be slotted into each of these. And sometimes they move from one to the other as they get more "done." Most but not all are calendar structured. People often ask how I use outliners, this is at one level, the answer.

What I'm learning from The Wire [Scripting News]

I have no idea how many times I've watched The Wire from beginning to end, but it's probably more than five. The last time I remember watching it was in 2010 when I just moved to NYC. I was living in the West Village, and had an active social life, and The Wire was something nice to do calmly, alone, just to get absorbed by a fictitious yet very familiar culture, again. Like coming home in a way.

That's the thing about all good series that achieve suspension of disbelief, you feel like you're in the story, you're part of the family. And The Wire with five seasons of 13 shows each, each show an hour, with all the characters and their stories, and relationships, makes for very absorbing reality-shifting and an emotionally satisfying experience.

Sometimes I know what's coming, and amazingly, sometimes I've forgotten. But some big events, you remember, and experience them in full fidelity now, as you did the first time.

Also if I recall correctly the first seasons were only available in low-rez, they came out before 4K, but somehow they've upgraded the source material and it's all up state of the art, at least to my eyes, which aren't the strongest.

Anyway, I'm toward the end of season 2. Not even close to half way through. Looking forward to the end of the day when I might watch a couple of epsiodes.

And get this, while I'm working through The Wire, I can't watch cable news. It's just too sad, slow, repetitive and just wrong. On one hand you see how great we can be as story-tellers, and the stories told on MSNBC and CNN aren't stories at all. The characters say nothing. Even the ones with reputations for saying a lot. There's absolutely no human connection. And you can see that the things they're saying are repeats, just like watching The Wire for the 5th or 10th time, but there's never a question about what the characters might say or do, it's always exactly the same. Yet it's supposed to be The News which would lead you to believe their intention is to say new things.

I keep asking the question -- does news have to be as bad as it is? Could imagination bet part of it, curiosity, intellect, depth of knowledge about something other than politics or law? Maybe this is just what happens when you become older and more experienced than everyone on the news. They all seem flat and boring, and just plain stupid, bored with their jobs, but keeping the seat warm. But does it have to be this way?

I turned off Maddow last night [Scripting News]

I turned off Maddow last night as she was reporting a leak of software for elections. She left out the vital part of the story, was this the first time the software had leaked? If not, all it tells you is the people who are doing the "recount" in Arizona are bad people. This is not news. If they were new leaks, I doubt I'd be hearing about it first on Maddow.

Come to think of it for all their breathess breaking stories, I can't remember Maddow ever cited by another news org as the source of a major story. Yet they often present their work as such.

And the dishonesty when it comes to tech reporting, gives me an idea of how dishonest their other reporting must be.


Adventures in application compatibility: The case of the wild instruction pointer that, upon closer inspection, might not be so wild after all [The Old New Thing]

Application compatibility testing as well as Windows Insiders discovered that Windows began crashing randomly if you upgraded to a specific build and had a specific program installed. Uninstalling that program stopped the crashes.

The crash dumps were spread out over a large number of processes unrelated to the program, so it’s not that the program itself was crashing, but rather that the presence of the program was causing other programs to start crashing. If you looked at the crash dumps, you found that the instruction pointer was just hanging out in the middle of nowhere:

rax=00007ffc1f8d0dc0 rbx=0000000000000010 rcx=0000000e194fa970
rdx=0000000000000000 rsi=0000000e194fa728 rdi=0000000e194fa428
rip=00007ffd9d1c5f2c rsp=0000000e194fa3e8 rbp=0000000000000001
 r8=0000011c610f6a30  r9=0000000e194fa150 r10=0000000e194fa760
r11=0000000e194fa9ec r12=0000000000000000 r13=00000000ffffffff
r14=0000000000000000 r15=0000000e194fa650
iopl=0         nv up ei pl nz na po nc
cs=0033  ss=002b  ds=002b  es=002b  fs=0053  gs=002b             efl=00010204
00007ffd`9d1c5f2c ??              ???

There were some clues on the stack:

0:008> dps @rsp
0000000e`194fa3e8  00007ffc`9d1c6219 ntdll!DestroyWidget+0x9
0000000e`194fa3f0  0000007c`a92fb098
0000000e`194fa3f8  00000000`00000000
0000000e`194fa400  0000000e`194fa4c8
0000000e`194fa408  0000011c`6382b440
0000000e`194fa410  00000000`00000246
0000000e`194fa418  00007ffc`763e3573 contoso+0x23573
0000000e`194fa420  0000011c`6102f690
0000000e`194fa428  00000000`00000000
0000000e`194fa430  0000011c`6382b460
0000000e`194fa438  00000000`00000000
0000000e`194fa440  00000000`00000000
0000000e`194fa448  0000000e`194fa4c8
0000000e`194fa450  00000000`00000000
0000000e`194fa458  00000000`00000000
0000000e`194fa460  00000000`00000000

According to the stack, the jump-into-space came from ntdll!DestroyWidget+0x9, but if you look at the code in ntdll!DestroyWidget+0x9, there is no jump into space. It’s calling into another nearby function.

00007ffc`9d1c6210 4883ec28        sub     rsp,28h
00007ffc`9d1c6214 e813fdffff      call    ntdll!DestroyWidgetWorker (00007ffc`9d1c5f2c)
00007ffc`9d1c6219 85c0            test    eax,eax

Notice that the wild instruction pointer differs from the intended jump target by a single bit:

Intended 00007ffc`9d1c5f2c
Actual 00007ffd`9d1c5f2c

This is not a return address stored on the stack, so it’s not rogue memory corruption. The jump target is not stored on the stack at all; it’s encoded directly in the instruction stream. So we can rule out a use-after-free bug here.

Hey, it’s not much, but it’s good to be able to rule out stuff so you can focus on the stuff that is still in play.

Another thought is that this was caused by overclocking. However, the reports were coming from a large number of systems, and the crash was consistent, which is atypical of overclocking, since overclocking crashes tends to be random.

Could something in the code stream be triggering a CPU erratum that caused jump targets to be miscalculated? Perhaps, but the close correlation with a specific program being installed suggests that the problem is in the software, not the hardware.

Inspection of more crash dumps show that the error is not actually a single-bit error after all. It’s an “off by 4GB” error.

Intended 00007ffc`9d1c5f2c 00007ff9`33605f2c
Actual 00007ffd`9d1c5f2c 00007ffa`33605f2c
XOR 00000001`00000000 00000003`00000000
Difference 00000001`00000000 00000001`00000000

There are different levels of crash dumps. Some time ago, I mentioned the triage dump, which is an extremely lightweight dump file that captures only a little bit of stack information, just enough to generate a stack trace but not much else. The dumps we’ve been looking at here are “minidumps”, which contain more complete stack information. But now it’s time to bring out the big guns: The full process dump.

Full process dumps are very large, so Windows Error Reporting doesn’t capture them most of the time. But developers can specifically request that the next N crashes be captured as full process dumps, and Windows Error Reporting will oblige.

Opening a full process crash dump shows something very telling: The code at ntdll!DestroyWidget looks different:

0:008> u ntdll!DestroyWidget
00007ffc`9d1c6210 e96bab7082      jmp     00007ffc`1f8d0d80
00007ffc`9d1c6215 13fd            adc     edi,ebp
00007ffc`9d1c6217 ff              ???
00007ffc`9d1c6218 ff85c0740bb8    inc     dword ptr [rbp-47F48B40h]

The function has been detoured!

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.

When the detour wants to call the original function, it needs to replicate the original instructions that were overwritten and then jump to the first non-overwritten instruction. This is made more complicated by the fact that the last overwritten instruction was a call instruction. The replicant is rather messy but it boils down to

    ; replicate the "sub rsp,28h"
    sub     rsp,28h

    ; replicate the "call ntdll!DestroyWidgetWorker"
    mov     rax,7FFD9D1C6219h
    push    rax             ; fake return address
    mov     rax,7FFC9D1C5F2Ch
    jmp     rax             ; jump to ntdll!DestroyWidgetWorker

To replicate the call instruction, the detour pushes a fake return address and then jumps to the start of the called function. This, of course, messes up the return address predictor since the call and ret instructions no longer balance. Sorry for your system performance, but hey, at least our program got its detour!¹

Upon looking at the replicated code, you may spot the error: They miscalculated the fake return address.

What happened is that their detour generator incorrectly decoded the call instruction and treated the 32-bit immediate as an unsigned 32-bit offset rather than a signed 32-bit offset. The call to Destroy­Widget­Worker has a negative offset:

00007ffc`9d1c6214 e813fdffff      call    ntdll!DestroyWidgetWorker (00007ffc`9d1c5f2c)
                    ^^^^^^^^                                         ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
         offset = 0xfffffd13                                 lower address than caller

Their instruction decoder zero-extended the offset to a 64-bit value, resulting in a miscalculated jump target that is 4GB too high:

  Correct Incorrect
Return address 00007ffc`9d1c6219 00007ffc`9d1c6219
Plus offset ffffffff`fffffd13 00000000`fffffd13
Equals target 00007ffc`9d1c5f2c 00007ffd`9d1c5f2c

My guess is that the instruction decoder was ported from a 32-bit decoder, and in 32-bit code, it doesn’t matter whether you treat the offset as signed or unsigned because the sum is truncated to a 32-bit value. But when doing 64-bit decoding, those upper 32 bits are important, and failing to extend negative values correctly results in an off-by-4GB calculation.

Even though this problem has always existed, it requires two triggers:

  • The detoured function must have a call instruction within the first 5 bytes.
  • The destination of the call must be at a lower address than the caller.

The program’s detour code was lucky, but recently its luck ran out.

We contacted the vendor, who released a patch. The crashes started to abate, but they don’t go away completely because not everybody is diligent about installing patches.

Bonus chatter: A reminder that Windows does not support detouring the operating system. This program has wandered into unsupported territory. Not that their customers will know or care.

¹ A version that preserves the return address predictor stack might go something like this:

    ; replicate the "sub rsp,28h"
    sub     rsp,28h

    ; replicate the "call ntdll!DestroyWidgetWorker"
    call    @F              ; push a slot onto the return address predictor
@@: mov     rax,7FFC9D1C6219h
    mov     [rsp], rax      ; change the return address to our fake one
    mov     rax,7FFC9D1C5F2Ch
    jmp     rax             ; jump to ntdll!DestroyWidgetWorker

The ret from Destroy­Widget­Worker will be mispredicted, but at least all the remaining return addresses will be predicted correctly.

The post Adventures in application compatibility: The case of the wild instruction pointer that, upon closer inspection, might not be so wild after all appeared first on The Old New Thing.


Security updates for Friday [LWN.net]

Security updates have been issued by CentOS (firefox and thunderbird), Fedora (haproxy, wordpress, and xen), openSUSE (apache2-mod_auth_openidc, fail2ban, ghostscript, haserl, libcroco, nextcloud, and wireshark), Oracle (kernel and kernel-container), Slackware (httpd), SUSE (crmsh, gtk-vnc, libcroco, Mesa, postgresql12, postgresql13, and transfig), and Ubuntu (libgcrypt20, linux-gcp, linux-gcp-4.15, linux-hwe-5.4, linux-oem-5.13, python3.4, python3.5, and qtbase-opensource-src).

The Big Idea: Lee Matthew Goldberg [Whatever]

Sometimes, the killer hook for a thriller isn’t a plot point, or even the first line of the novel, but something else… something that comes even before that. Lee Matthew Goldberg explains in this Big Idea for his latest story, The Stalker Stalked.


The first germ of a Big Idea I had for my novel Stalker Stalked was the title. After writing eight books, none of them summed up the plot so succinctly: What if a stalker finds herself stalked as well?

My last novel The Ancestor had recently come out, a historical thriller about a man who wakes up in the wilderness with amnesia, believing he was frozen in time from the Gold Rush era. It required a lot of research, since a good chunk takes place in the late 1800s. I’d also written it after my father passed away and death really permeates throughout the book. So, coming off that, I needed to write something lighter. I’ve penned Sci-fi and YA too, but I’m most at home writing thrillers, and luckily, the title just popped into my mind.

From there, the novel began to form. My stalker Lexi would be obsessed with reality TV and fixate on the star of a horrible show called Socialites about six rich frenemies navigating the NYC socialite scene, everything Lexi aspires to be. She’s a pharma rep, hawking drugs to doctors, and addicted to Monolopins, little blue pills which she refers to as her “my blue heavens”. After her boyfriend breaks up with her, Lexi’s splits from her own reality: hallucinating and imagining herself as one of the Socialites, with the star Magnolia Artois as her best friend.

But while she’s stalking Magnolia, Lexi begins to see a shadow of a person outside her window, following her on the train, staring at her from across the club. Is it the “my blue heavens” causing these visions, or is someone after her for nefarious reasons? One of her exes, a doctor who knows she’s stolen pills, her best friend Pria, a detective investigating her case, or maybe, Magnolia herself turning the tables? If Lexi wants to survive, she needs to use her own stalking prowess to overcome her pursuer. 

After heavy research for The Ancestor, the research for Stalker Stalked was very different. I watched a lot of really terrible reality TV. I wanted to get in the headspace of the self-absorbed people who are on these shows, but also those addicted to them. On TV, a heightened reality is created that’s not entirely fake, but played up for the cameras, all with the notion of keeping eyeballs glued and sponsors happy.

With social media these days, anyone is accessible in some form. It’s how Lexi stalks Magnolia, and how she becomes stalked as well. We put up a shiny version of our lives on display, a sliver of our realities to gain likes and followers. For lonely Lexi, it becomes her means of interacting with the world. It’s something I struggle with as well. As an author, you’re meant to have a social media presence. I’ve had publishers ask how many followers I have to do promotion, and it never seems enough. Gone are the days of a J.D. Salinger or Thomas Pynchon who don’t need to promote their work. We’re required to feed this system now, but at what price?

For Lexi, the journey she goes on in Stalker Stalked is one of self love. How did her past shape her into the needy individual she became, and is there happiness waiting for her at the end? She wants to be noticed so much that she enjoys being stalked. It gives her a purpose, a never-ending cycle where she feels safe and loved. For her to move forward in life, she needs to break this cycle, turn off the TV, cancel her social media accounts, and fully unplug.

Sometimes that doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. 

The Stalker Stalked: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|iBooks|Kobo

Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.


Dirk Eddelbuettel: tidyCpp 0.0.5 on CRAN: More Protect’ion [Planet Debian]

Another small release of the tidyCpp package arrived on CRAN overnight. The packages offers a clean C++ layer (as well as one small C++ helper class) on top of the C API for R which aims to make use of this robust (if awkward) C API a little easier and more consistent. See the vignette for motivating examples.

The Protect class now uses the default methods for copy and move constructors and assignment allowing for wide use of the class. The small NumVec class now uses it for its data member.

The NEWS entry (which I failed to update for the releases) follows.

Changes in tidyCpp version 0.0.5 (2021-09-16)

  • The Protect class uses default copy and move assignments and constructors

  • The data object in NumVec is now a Protect object

Thanks to my CRANberries, there is also a diffstat report for this release.

For questions, suggestions, or issues please use the issue tracker at the GitHub repo.

If you like this or other open-source work I do, you can now sponsor me at GitHub.

This post by Dirk Eddelbuettel originated on his Thinking inside the box blog. Please report excessive re-aggregation in third-party for-profit settings.


Zero-Click iMessage Exploit [Schneier on Security]

Citizen Lab released a report on a zero-click iMessage exploit that is used in NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.

Apple patched the vulnerability; everyone needs to update their OS immediately.

News articles on the exploit.


Error'd: In Other Words [The Daily WTF]

We generally don't like to make fun of innocent misuses of a second language. Many of us struggle with their first. But sometimes we honestly can't tell which is first and which is...


The programmatic ask [Seth's Blog]

Favors are part of the glue of our culture. It’s not easy to ask for a favor, it’s not always easy to say yes, but when the two people engaged in this dance find a connection, it means something.

Alas, the modern hustle, amplified by databases and computers, has turned this equation upside down.

“It doesn’t hurt to ask,” the hustling spammer says, using second-order connections to “reach out” to hundreds of people. “No pressure,” they add, as if this diminishes the coarsening of the conversation.

If you ask 100 people for a favor to “get the word out,” then of course you don’t care so much if 80 or 90 people decline. The problem is that you’ve just hurt the relationship you had with these people (as thin as it was) as well as made it more difficult for the next person, the one who actually put some effort and care into making a connection.

The honest first line of the programmatic ask is, “I’m using you to get what I want right now, because I didn’t plan ahead, care enough or show up with enough generosity to do it the old way.”

No one wants to be hustled.

Just because you are in a hurry, know how to use mailmerge and have figured out how to hustle people doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.


Reproducible Builds (diffoscope): diffoscope 184 released [Planet Debian]

The diffoscope maintainers are pleased to announce the release of diffoscope version 184. This version includes the following changes:

[ Chris Lamb ]
* Fix the semantic comparison of R's .rdb files after a refactoring of
  temporary directory handling in a previous version.
* Support a newer format version of R's .rds files.
* Update tests for OCaml 4.12. (Closes: reproducible-builds/diffoscope#274)
* Move diffoscope.versions to diffoscope.tests.utils.versions.
* Use assert_diff in tests/comparators/test_rdata.py.
* Reformat various modules with Black.

[ Zbigniew Jędrzejewski-Szmek ]
* Stop using the deprecated distutils module by adding a version
  comparison class based on the RPM version rules.
* Update invocations of llvm-objdump for the latest version of LLVM.
* Adjust a test with one-byte text file for file(1) version 5.40.
* Improve the parsing of the version of OpenSSH.

[ Benjamin Peterson ]
* Add a --diff-context option to control the unified diff context size.

You find out more by visiting the project homepage.


Comic: Scroffeur [Penny Arcade]

New Comic: Scroffeur



Giant sequoia trees [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

A California wildfire is running straight towards the remaining giant sequoia trees.

Bogus Johnson plan [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

For the first time, Bogus Johnson presents a serious plan for dealing with a problem. Specifically, for Covid-19 in the UK this winter.

Whether he will set another first, by keeping a promise, remains to be seen.

Fraud before losing [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

The leading Republican in the California governor recall election started complaining about "fraud" even before he lost.

Trap for the US [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Robert Fisk on 16 Sep 2001 wrote that the invasion of Afghanistan was a trap for the US.

It turned out more or less that way, though if it is correct that the Taliban tried to surrender in December 2001 it implies that the US chose to be trapped.

Ray DeMonia [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Ray DeMonia of Alabama had heart trouble and needed intensive care. None was available nearby, because covidiots had filled the hospitals in his region. Doctors sent him to a hospital 200 miles away, but he died.

The article doesn't assert that he died specifically because he couldn't get an ICU bed quickly, but we know that some cardiac patients will die from such delay.

Climate mayhem [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Forecasting advancing climate mayhem will compel 200 million people to leave their homes (but not flee to another country) by 2050.

I expect additional millions will be compelled to flee to other countries — if they get permission to enter those countries.

Patent and secrecy rules [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

WTO patent and secrecy rules are a matter of death for poor countries.

The WTO treaty allows a country to issue "compulsory licenses" permitting production of life-saving medicines for use within the country. But many countries are not capable of supporting the sophisticated production needed to make RNA vaccines, so they need a more advanced country to make vaccines for them. (Often this would be India.) The treaty offers no escape hatch to allow that.

That is one of many changes called for in the TRIPES agreement (Trade-Restricting Impediments to Prodiction, Education and Science).

There is hope that the next German government will change position on this.

Meanwhile, some of Pfizer's secrets have leaked, which could be a step in teaching the rest of the world how to make equivalent vaccines.

Such information should never be secret.

Discourage Chinese learning English [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

China is reportedly trying to discourage Chinese from learning and using English.

This might reduce the influence of foreign philosophical and political views in China, though with a practical cost.

Roadblocks to social progress [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

*So-Called Democratic "Moderates" Are Actually Right-Wingers Who Have Always Thrown Up Roadblocks to Social Progress.*

That may be the underlying reason why Covid-19 caused more financial difficulties for old people in the US than in other wealthy nations.

(satire) *Democrats Sick Of Being Blamed For Cowardice On Issues They Actually Just Don’t Care About.*

I think this is unfair to Senator Schumer. He has little leverage to pressure the plutocratist Democrates in the Senate, including Coal Magnate Manchin and Semi-Republican Sinema.


Girl Genius for Friday, September 17, 2021 [Girl Genius]

The Girl Genius comic for Friday, September 17, 2021 has been posted.


Trial Ends in Guilty Verdict for DDoS-for-Hire Boss [Krebs on Security]

A jury in California today reached a guilty verdict in the trial of Matthew Gatrel, a St. Charles, Ill. man charged in 2018 with operating two online services that allowed paying customers to launch powerful distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against Internet users and websites. Gatrel’s conviction comes roughly two weeks after his co-conspirator pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to running the services.

The user interface for Downthem[.]org.

Prosecutors for the Central District of California charged Gatrel, 32, and his business partner Juan “Severon” Martinez of Pasadena, Calif. with operating two DDoS-for-hire or “booter” services — downthem[.]org and ampnode[.]com.

Despite admitting to FBI agents that he ran these booter services (and turning over plenty of incriminating evidence in the process), Gatrel opted to take his case to trial, defended the entire time by public defenders. Facing the prospect of a hefty sentence if found guilty at trial, Martinez pleaded guilty on Aug. 26 to one count of unauthorized impairment of a protected computer.

Gatrel was convicted on all three charges of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, including conspiracy to commit unauthorized impairment of a protected computer, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and unauthorized impairment of a protected computer.

Investigators say Downthem helped some 2,000 customers launch debilitating digital assaults at more than 200,000 targets, including many government, banking, university and gaming Web sites.

Prosecutors alleged that in addition to running and marketing Downthem, the defendants sold huge, continuously updated lists of Internet addresses tied to devices that could be used by other booter services to make attacks far more powerful and effective. In addition, other booter services also drew firepower and other resources from Ampnode.

Booter and stresser services let customers pick from among a variety of attack methods, but almost universally the most powerful of these methods involves what’s known as a “reflective amplification attack.” In such assaults, the perpetrators leverage unmanaged Domain Name Servers (DNS) or other devices on the Web to create huge traffic floods.

Ideally, DNS servers only provide services to machines within a trusted domain — such as translating an Internet address from a series of numbers into a domain name, like example.com. But DNS reflection attacks rely on consumer and business routers and other devices equipped with DNS servers that are (mis)configured to accept queries from anywhere on the Web.

Attackers can send spoofed DNS queries to these DNS servers, forging the request so that it appears to come from the target’s network. That way, when the DNS servers respond, they reply to the spoofed (target) address.

The bad guys also can amplify a reflective attack by crafting DNS queries so that the responses are much bigger than the requests. For example, an attacker could compose a DNS request of less than 100 bytes, prompting a response that is 60-70 times as large. This “amplification” effect is especially pronounced if the perpetrators query dozens of DNS servers with these spoofed requests simultaneously.

The government charged that Gatrel and Martinez constantly scanned the Internet for these misconfigured devices, and then sold lists of Internet addresses tied to these devices to other booter service operators.

Gatrel’s sentencing is scheduled for January 27, 2022. He faces a statutory maximum sentence of 35 years in federal prison. However, given the outcome of past prosecutions against other booter service operators, it seems unlikely that Gatrel will spend much time in jail.

The case against Gatrel and Martinez was brought as part of a widespread crackdown on booter services in Dec. 2018, when the FBI joined with law enforcement partners overseas to seize 15 different booter service domains.

Federal prosecutors and DDoS experts interviewed at the time said the operation had three main goals: To educate people that hiring DDoS attacks is illegal, to destabilize the flourishing booter industry, and to ultimately reduce demand for booter services.

The jury is still out on whether any of those goals have been achieved with lasting effect.

The original complaint against Gatrel and Martinez is here (PDF).


Link [Scripting News]

It seems to me if there aren’t enough hospital beds, unvaccinated Covid-19 patients should be the first denied service.


Shavasana [QC RSS]

you had to know it was coming


GNOME to prevent theming, wider community not happy [OSnews]

If you’ve been paying attention to recent chatter in the GNOME and surrounding communities, you may have noticed there’s a lot of disgruntled developers within certain communities that rely on parts of the GNOME stack, such as Pop!_OS and Budgie. I’ve been trying to follow most of these discussions and have been itching to write about it, but with the discussions still ongoing and my own lack of knowledge on the intricacies of the interplay between distribution maintainers, desktop environment developers, application programmers, and GNOME itself, I figured I should stay away from it until someone with more knowledge stepped in.

Well, thanks to Joshua Strobl, experience lead of Solus and one of the main developers of Budgie, I now have a great in-depth story to link to. I urge you to read the whole article, but here’s Strobl’s conclusions:

1. GTK4 has not met our expectations since its release in December of 2020, nor have we been satisfied with its state as of the writing of this post.

2. Current plans by GNOME for changes to how theming works is viewed as regressive for desktop Linux, developers, and user choice.

3. We do not believe that GNOME is treating its community, from individual users to entire operating systems, in a manner that is equitable and respectful of their choice on how they want to curate their own experience.

4. Budgie 11 will not be written in GTK4.

5. For Budgie Edition: we will be working on replacing software developed by GNOME with that of alternative software developers as well as “in-house” solutions. These will not necessarily be under the GetSolus organization nor will they be associated with Budgie. Adopting Budgie going forward (at least until 11, when we have our own control center) does not and will not require using our own apps. This has even remained true even for Budgie Desktop View, we support alternatives like Desktop Folder as alternative “desktop” implementations in Budgie.

6. GNOME Edition will be demoted to a non-curated edition and moved to a lesser position on our Downloads page in a future release of Solus.

There are various problems non-GNOME GTK developers are running into, but as a user, my biggest problem is GNOME’s adoption of libadwaita. GNOME is going to ship a library, libadwaita, that when used by an application, will force it to use the default light Adwaita theme, with no option to change it to dark mode or a different theme. The end result is that if you use GNOME, you’re going to start seeing applications – both from GNOME itself as well as from third parties – that do not respect your choice of GTK theme, and instead always default to light Adwaita.

But of course, this problem extends beyond GNOME itself, as other popular GTK desktops, such as MATE, Cinnamon, and Budgie, also make use of both GTK applications, as well as components and applications from GNOME. On top of that, countless popular distributions, such as Linux Mint, Ubuntu, and Pop!_OS, all use custom themes. Their desktops will be severely broken since GNOME and GTK applications will no longer use their custom themes.

As a result, Solus and Budgie will start transitioning to using EFL instead of GTK for various components, which is a pretty big shift. As far as I know, other distributions, such as Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and Pop!_OS, have not made any plans yet as to how to handle this new reality, but I would assume they, too, will start to replace any offending applications and components, or hack GTK altogether as a workaround.

This is a shitty situation, and the GNOME developers are causing a lot of bad blood and rifts here that really could have been avoided. Theming and customisation are a core aspect of the Linux desktop, and breaking it like this is going to make a lot of non-GNOME developers as well as users very, very unhappy.

Sailfish OS 4.2.0 released [OSnews]

Sailfish OS 4.2.0 has been released, and it packs a completely reworked sharing systems, improvements to the browser and camera application, further work on application sandboxing, and more. Read the full release notes for more details.

Intel Seamless Update: Intel preparing for system firmware updates without the reboot [OSnews]

Intel Seamless Update” is a forthcoming feature for Intel platforms seemingly first being exposed by their new Linux kernel patches working on the functionality… Intel is working on being able to carry out system firmware updates such as UEFI updates but doing so at run-time and being able to avoid the reboot in the process.

Pretty cool, but sadly, it’s only for enterprise machines and upcoming Xeon processors.


Hibiscus, 9/16/21 [Whatever]

Our hibiscus plant nearly died because after keeping it in a heated garage all winter, we replanted it too early in the spring and it got snowed on, so the hibiscus flowers this year have been few and far between. It just makes me appreciate the ones we have gotten. Here’s today’s.

— JS


Thursday, 16 September



Link [Scripting News]

Something to think about. While we're debating all kinds of things, so far 4.5 million have killed by Covid in the last two years. In four years, 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.


This is what gaslighting sounds like. [WIL WHEATON dot NET]

TRIGGER WARNING: ABUSE. I saw this image a few days ago and WOW it hit me so hard. This is how my shitty, manipulative, narcissist parents talked to me for […]


Deep Dork Truthful Mirror – DORK TOWER 08.09.21 [Dork Tower]

ecome a DORK TOWER Patreon! Dork Tower is 100% reader-funded, and updated Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, thanks its generous Patreon supporters. The next goal is four strips a week! Enlist in the Army of Dorkness today, and help us reach that! We have a ton of fun! Also: swag!


Four stable kernels [LWN.net]

Four new stable kernels, 5.14.5, 5.13.18, 5.10.66, and 5.4.147, have been released.

This, and the other stable kernels released today, consist of only some reverts to solve some reported problems with the last round of stable releases. Upgrading is not required, but highly recommended.


Call the shots. [Humble Bundle Blog]

Humble Bundle and Unity have joined forces to bring you top-notch tools and art packs for your next FPS project

Continue reading

The post Call the shots. appeared first on Humble Bundle Blog.


Link [Scripting News]

Pet peeve: People who are too frazzled to read an email carefully enough to correctly determine its meaning, even though the words are simple and direct. I've done this myself. And when I realize I've done it, I feel like crap.


Drone Attack [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

*Investigations of US Drone Attack That Killed 10 Afghans Find No Evidence of Explosives in Vehicle.*

Money laundering [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Afghanistan's central bank is no longer trying to prevent money-laundering there, according to people that work or worked there.

It is not clear to me whether the Taliban wanted this to stop this activity, or the staff fled pre-emptively and brought it to a halt.

Wearing cameras [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Facebook is trying to manipulate us to treat it as acceptable to wear cameras (and microphones) on one's face when spending time around other people.

I suggest insist people put them away in an opaque container that insulates sound pretty well, before we agree to talk with them.

Vaccine requirement mandate [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Biden's vaccine requirement mandate shouldn't be controversial, with Covid-19 killing a thousand people per day in the US.

Encountering other people without vaccination is like driving a car without learning how to drive safely: it endangers oneself and others. Everyone who can get vaccinated has a duty to do so.

5 cents raise [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

CVS is offering workers a raise of 5 cents per hour.

I think the workers deserve more.


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XML 16:49, Tuesday, 28 September 17:30, Tuesday, 28 September
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