An aggregation of our Blog Roll, made up of acmqueue authors.   more

Postings for July 2016:  (37 posts)
Thu, 21 Jul 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Home Computer?

Posted By Tim Bray

Weve got this big old Mac Pro in the living room, a 2008 model; I call it the family mainframe. Im thinking it might get replaced with a Windows box. Long-time readers may remember this computer; I caused a mild Web sensation back in 2008 back when I invited opinions on whether I should hack it. With a hacksaw, I mean. Do you even need one? The conventional wisdom is No, because everyone has a laptop and a mobile and many living rooms will have a tablet or two lying around. I think you do, especially if you have kids. Theyll be wanting screen time, and I like having them at a computer thats in the room with the family, not hidden away upstairs; using a screen thats facing the family, not the wall.

Thu, 21 Jul 2016 14:24:09 UTC

EFF is suing the US government to invalidate the DMCAs DRM provisions

Posted By Cory Doctorow

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has just filed a lawsuit that challenges the Constitutionality of Section 1201 of the DMCA, the “Digital Rights Management” provision of the law, a notoriously overbroad law that bans activities that bypass or weaken copyright access-control systems, including reconfiguring software-enabled devices (making sure your IoT light-socket will accept third-party lightbulbs; tapping... more

Thu, 21 Jul 2016 00:03:42 UTC

Debugging the Hugin/Linux problem

Posted By Greg Lehey

Gathered up my courage today and made another attempt at getting Hugin to work with Linux. Yesterday I had established that the images I took on Saturday didn't align at all. Hugin had decided that each was taken with a different lens. Those specific images had been assembled to HDR tone-mapped images by HDR Projects 4, with which I have still not come to terms. How about the alternatives merged with enblend? It worked! So what's different about the HDR Projects images? They're gaudier, of course, but that shouldn't interest the control point detector. EXIF issues? Ran exiftool against them and compared the output.

Wed, 20 Jul 2016 00:16:37 UTC

Hugin under Linux

Posted By Greg Lehey

Finally got round to running Hugin under Linux (Fedora 24). That, too, is irritating. First I needed to mount the NFS file systems, of course; at least Fedora, unlike Ubuntu, supplies NFS support out of the box. But of course the user IDs were different, and grog on twister (the name that the machine assigned itself before discarding my IP specifications and reverting to DHCP) proved to be benno on eureka. And of course my clever scripts didn't work because various programs were missing. But finally I got it: It doesn't take a trained eye to see that something is seriously wrong here.

Wed, 20 Jul 2016 00:16:03 UTC

Whose computer is it?

Posted By Greg Lehey

Yesterday I gave up on trying Hugin on Linux (Fedora 24) because it was too irritating. Came back today and found the machine telling me that I had lots of software updates, and would I like to reboot? Huh? First I need to download the updates. Ah, no, the system thought of that and did it for me, without asking. That's really irritating. OK, now I have more free traffic than I know what to do with, but it hasn't always been like that, and even today many people have separate allowances for on and off peak, and this is an obvious choice for off-peak traffic.

Tue, 19 Jul 2016 18:00:00 UTC

Survey on easy of use for configuration management languages

Posted By Tom Limoncelli

I'm reposting this survey. The researcher is trying to identify what makes configuration languages difficult to use. If you use Puppet/Chef/CfEngine/Ansible (and more importantly... if you DON'T use any configuration languages) please take this survey. I took it in under 10 minutes. Tom I would like to invite you to take a survey on configuration languages. The survey is about 10 minutes long and does not require any specific skills or knowledge, anyone can participate in it. The survey is a part of ongoing research at University of Edinburgh School of Informatics on configuration languages. As Paul Anderson has mentioned previously, we are interested in studying the usability of configuration languages and how it relates to the configuration errors.

Tue, 19 Jul 2016 00:48:54 UTC

Don't make me uncomfortable!

Posted By Greg Lehey

I've been using Unix and X on the desktop for over 25 years now. It took me several years to get my system set up the way I wanted it, but since about 1995over 20 yearsI've had essentially the same environment, despite well-meaning marketeers who know that I would like it better their way. Why? Yes, of course, if you change the user interface, you may be able to sell more hardware and software. But it seems that things are getting more and more restrictive. In particular, running X applications over the network is becoming painful, and changing programs around make life unnecessarily difficult.

Tue, 19 Jul 2016 00:28:58 UTC

Hugin regression and Linux

Posted By Greg Lehey

I sent a message about my errors with Hugin rc1 to the Hugin forum yesterday, but didn't get any reply. OK, how do I check whether the errors only occur on FreeBSD? I can't build on Microsoft, I don't have a real Linux box, and running Hugin on a VM is more pain than I can imagine. OK, let's install Linux on a real machine. Bruno Postle posted that he had built packages for Fedora, so it seemed a good start. Installing Fedora was interesting. It's not exactly the first time, but it seems that Linux distributors try to emulate Microsoft by making the user interface different for every release.

Sun, 17 Jul 2016 00:45:46 UTC

Hugin 2016.2.0-rc1

Posted By Greg Lehey

While doing my photo processing, decided to install the latest version of Hugin, 2016.2.0-rc1. It built nicely, but there were strangenesses, and at first I thought the strange colour rendering was one of them. But it certainly complains a lot when starting up: (hugin:99873): Gtk-WARNING **: gtk_widget_size_allocate(): attempt to allocate widget with width 0 and height -28 (hugin:99873): Gtk-WARNING **: gtk_widget_size_allocate(): attempt to allocate widget with width -5 and height 18 (hugin:99873): Gtk-CRITICAL **: IA__gtk_widget_set_size_request: assertion 'height >= -1' failed (hugin:99873): Gtk-CRITICAL **: IA__gtk_widget_set_size_request: assertion 'height >= -1' failed (hugin:99873): Gtk-CRITICAL **: IA__gtk_widget_set_size_request: assertion 'height >= -1' failed (hugin:99873): Gtk-WARNING **: gtk_widget_size_allocate(): attempt to allocate widget with width 146 and height -28 (hugin:99873): Gtk-WARNING **: gtk_widget_size_allocate(): attempt to allocate widget with width 370 and height -28 (hugin:99873): Gtk-CRITICAL **: IA__gtk_widget_set_size_request: assertion 'height >= -1' failed (hugin:99873): Gtk-WARNING **: gtk_widget_size_allocate(): attempt to ...

Sat, 16 Jul 2016 01:55:38 UTC

Understanding font rendering

Posted By Greg Lehey

Yesterday I took some photos of a display on the TV screen where black text was interspersed with lighter pixels: This gave rise to some discussion on IRC. Why wasn't it black? X server? Graphics card? TV monitor? Tried again again on the same hardware and server today, and came up with these images: The first is from an xterm, the second a link on firefox, and the third a recovery text from firefox.

Sat, 16 Jul 2016 00:32:32 UTC

Raw processing software

Posted By Greg Lehey

Somehow I'm finding RawTherapee to be a steep learning curve. And surely the camera manufacturers all provide their own software. Everybody else in the Camera Crew uses either Nikon or Canon, so went for them. Yes, it seems that the software comes with the camera in each case. Nikon has a program called ViewNI-i, which looks quite straightforward. Canon has a product called Digital Photo Professional, and they make you jump through hoops to get it. First you need to choose a camera model. That would imply that if you had multiple Canon cameras, you would need a separate installation for each camera, though of course that's incorrect.

Thu, 14 Jul 2016 23:11:26 UTC

New motherboard for tiwi

Posted By Greg Lehey, my TV display computer, has the slowest processor of all my computers, an AMD Sempron 145 with a CPUmark of 802. It's struggling with the newer, more bloated web browsers. And I have a motherboard lying around with an Athlon X2 II 4450e, rated at 1865. All I needed was to change the motherboard. And somehow that took me a long while to do. What if something goes wrong? I'll be without a TV. But how hard can it be? About the only real issue was that I didn't have the manual for the motherboard (which proved to be virtually identical to the old one).

Thu, 14 Jul 2016 22:50:28 UTC

Raw image processing

Posted By Greg Lehey

Spent much of the day working on my presentation of raw image processing, which is looking more and more like an image optimization presentation. Raw images are only part of the equation, and they're not even really necessary. The biggest question is: which software? I use DxO Optics Pro, but it's not without its faults, and it costs money. RawTherapee is free, and the results look good, but so far I have had trouble getting it to do exactly what I want it to do. Yes, there's a manual, and I've been working my way through it, but it's a lot of work.

Thu, 14 Jul 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Susan and her SQL Problem

Posted By Tim Bray

As usual, it all started out innocently enough. Susan [ed: names have been changed to protect privacy] had no way to meet the deadlines her bosses had set for her. Bob had recently and abruptly left the company, and Melissa was on an extended medical absence, leaving Susan to do the work of three people. That is, three people each trying to reconcile a few dozen 40,000+ row Excel spreadsheets representing the general ledger of the Fortune 1000 company they consulted for. She was about to brush off ever-chatty and annoying Michael from Compliance when, for once, he recognized the stress she was under and said something useful.

Thu, 14 Jul 2016 00:19:02 UTC

Computer music and CSIRAC

Posted By Greg Lehey

Chris Bahlo sent me a URL from which I was able to extract this video: I'm not sure I believe that this equipment is really creating the music, but it gave me the opportunity to look for something better. Clearly we really want classical music, something like this: At least the sound quality suggests that this is really generated by the printer. And in the process I discovered an interesting video about CSIRAC: This may have the distinction of being the first machine to ever have generated music.

Wed, 13 Jul 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Corporate Pride

Posted By Tim Bray

Theres this nice video message in the elevators at work, about the Pride Parade. And its making me uneasy. I took a picture of the message and its a fine thing; gives me a warm glow. Especially since theres going to be a big Amazon contingent in Vancouvers parade, which is a powerful, uplifting occasion. I have some history here: back in the Seventies, I was on the colleges student-paper staff and we sponsored and hyped up the first ever Gay Dance. Pretty radical at the time; you cant imagine the freakout among the Engineering jocks and Aggies. Three decades later, I have the coolest-ever rainbow-flag sticker over the glowy apple on my Mac.

Tue, 12 Jul 2016 17:24:16 UTC

My interview on Utah Public Radios Access Utah

Posted By Cory Doctorow

Science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist Cory Doctorow joins us for Tuesdays AU. In a recent column, Doctorow says that all the data collected in giant databases today will breach someday, and when it does, it will ruin peoples lives. They will have their houses stolen from under them by identity thieves who forge... more

Mon, 11 Jul 2016 23:55:27 UTC

More lens profile investigations

Posted By Greg Lehey

Yesterday I found lens profiles for some of my lenses via the Lens Profile Downloader. But there's a second source, via the Adobe DNG converter. Are they the same? Fought my way through the mess that is the Microsoft directory hierarchy and found nearly 300 MB of profiles, over 1520 individual ones. And none of them were for Olympus lenses! There were a total of 49 profiles for third-party lenses to fit Olympus, but none at all for Olympus' own lenses. That reminded me of something: I've been there before while considering Lightroom, and it was one of several reasons I decided against Lightroom.

Mon, 11 Jul 2016 23:25:13 UTC

ALDI mobile pain

Posted By Greg Lehey

While in town, tried to ring Yvonne. But I had a message on my phone: my credit has run out. Why wasn't I told? Maybe they were too polite. Back home, I went to the web site and tried to log in. According to my notes, the login was really my 6 digit account number, and the password was BrokenSite. But the login screen wanted a Mobile Number, presumably meaning the calling number of the mobile phone. Didn't work. Put in the account number instead. Still didn't work. How do I fix it? Tried to call them up, once I found the well-hidden phone number.

Mon, 11 Jul 2016 04:04:08 UTC

Clear error messages

Posted By Greg Lehey

As if I didn't have enough fun with browsers, Chrom* also died on me. When I tried to restart it, I got: === grog@eureka (/dev/pts/18) /Photos/Tools 27 -> chrome [27830:440427520:0710/] Failed to create socket directory. [27830:440427520:0710/] Failed to create a ProcessSingleton for your profile directory. This means that running multiple instances would start multiple browser processes rather than opening a new window in the existing process. Aborting now to avoid profile corruption. It was repeatable. What does that mean? Didn't have time to look for it then, so fired up a firefox instead.

Mon, 11 Jul 2016 03:46:18 UTC

Clear error messages

Posted By Greg Lehey

As if I didn't have enough fun with browsers, Chrom* also died on me. When I tried to restart it, I got: === grog@eureka (/dev/pts/18) /Photos/Tools 27 -> chrome [27830:440427520:0710/] Failed to create socket directory. [27830:440427520:0710/] Failed to create a ProcessSingleton for your profile directory. This means that running multiple instances would start multiple browser processes rather than opening a new window in the existing process. Aborting now to avoid profile corruption. It was repeatable. What does that mean? Didn't have time to look for it then, so fired up a firefox instead.

Mon, 11 Jul 2016 03:43:04 UTC

Browser update: sting in the tail

Posted By Greg Lehey

One of the things I did while trying to recover the browser configuration on tiwi was to rename the ~/.mozilla directory and restart firefox. It didn't help. But by accident I first renamed the corresponding directory on eureka, where I had four browser instances running. No worries, quickly rename it back before I do anything with those browsers. It didn't help. They all crashed, and when I restarted, the new instance overwrote everything that they had ever known. Complete restore of the directory from backups needed. Yes, it was my fault. But somehow the error recovery was not very appropriate. ACM only downloads articles once.

Mon, 11 Jul 2016 03:34:18 UTC

Politicians and private mail servers

Posted By Greg Lehey

Nobody can have missed the fuss that people in the USA are making about Hillary Clinton's private mail server. But what does it really mean? Why should a private mail server be a security threat in itself? What is the approved network topography for sending classified emails? Are they encrypted? Who has the keys? Are they allowed to use mobile devices to send the mail, for example? Are they allowed to keep private copies on their servers PC's? Who has access to the official mail servers? Edward Snowden's successors perhaps? There are so many questions that need to be answered before we can have any idea how much of a security breach it might have been.

Sun, 10 Jul 2016 19:00:00 UTC


Posted By Tim Bray

This morning we went to the Mount Pleasant Farmers Market, which is small and good, if kind of pricey. Its soup-to-nuts where by soup-to-nuts, I mean meat, vegetables, and booze. I approve of all three, but it was the vegetables in the sun that wanted to be photographed. We bought everything wed need for dinner, including the potatoes in the second-last photo, which werent bad; but the highlight was the sockeye salmon the guy had caught the day before just off Port Alberni.

Sun, 10 Jul 2016 01:05:28 UTC

tiwi upgrade: still not done

Posted By Greg Lehey

In the evening, sat down to watch the (recorded) news on tiwi. /usr/local/lib/ Undefined symbol "_nv016glcore" Damn! I had just fixed that yesterday. Why was it back? Nothing had changed. More messing around, not in the best of moods, and in the end reinstated the current version of libGL. And how about that, everything worked! I still have no idea what happened, but it seems that the problem was not directly related to my hacked version of mplayer, nor to the version of libGL. But what was it? And is it now gone? ACM only downloads articles once.

Sun, 10 Jul 2016 00:22:00 UTC

Formatting SD cards with Microsoft

Posted By Greg Lehey

Paul Shires had asked us to bring the photos we took last time with us for our meeting today. OK, put them on an SD card. I had one lying around, but it was formatted with NTFS, and photo cards should be FAT. Reformat. mformat wouldn't do it because it wanted to know cylinders, tracks and things. And Microsoft Windows wouldn't do it; the only options were NTFS and exFAT, whatever that may be. I tried it but ended up with a non-FAT format. Did I do something wrong, or can Microsoft no longer format vanilla FAT file systems? ACM only downloads articles once.

Sat, 09 Jul 2016 19:00:00 UTC

The REST Report

Posted By Tim Bray

We were talking at work about Serverless: Whats the right tooling for developers building that kind of app? One of the businesspeople in the room said Wont developers need s special UI construction kit for Serverless apps? The technical people all looked blank, because REST. Browser code doesnt care (nor does a new-fangled React thingie, nor an iOS/Android app) whats hiding behind that HTTP POST. REST is more or less totally dominant among app builders today. Is there any prospect of that changing? What we talk about when we talk about REST HTTP CRUD. Well, HTTPS actually these days, thank goodness.

Sat, 09 Jul 2016 02:48:31 UTC

Web browser woes

Posted By Greg Lehey

The problem with mplayer wasn't the only issue I had with tiwi. Trying to watch Al Jazeera News and discovered I couldn't set full screen. Why not? YouTube had some helpful hints. For firefox I need to go to about:permissions. But that doesn't work. What about Chrom*? It has instructions for that too. And again they fail early. I finally found a page that told me that the permissions could be set, but they no longer have any effect. What's Google for? Off to search, and found many suggestions and videos, all either wrong or not applicable. I couldn't find out how to fix it.

Sat, 09 Jul 2016 02:38:01 UTC

Port upgrade: the sting in the tail

Posted By Greg Lehey

Yesterday's package upgrade on stable went well, so today while Yvonne was away, I upgraded her machine lagoon and our TV computer tiwi. Yvonne had no problems, but it was a different matter with tiwi. I have a special version of mplayer which got overwritten. OK, no worries, copy the version from eureka. But that has old, worn-out libraries. So I had to build it on tiwi. But how? Last time I had lots of fun, and I wrote down quite a bit of detail. But not enough. As a result, I ran into many of the same traps. Here's how I ended up, though the method could do with improvement: In /home/grog/src/ports/mplayer-export-2015-12-19/, run genpatch.

Sat, 09 Jul 2016 02:03:43 UTC

Spamassassin: past use-by date?

Posted By Greg Lehey

Six years ago I noted that SpamAssassin was not really up to date any more. But I fixed that problem, and left it as the third step in my spam filtration system. First I reject certain domains, then I filter it through Gmail, and then I filter it again locally with SpamAssassin. I'm expecting a message from Karl Schaefer, but it hasn't arrived. It wasn't in the the spamassassin folder either. And neither was there any spam that I could see. Some spam still does get through, but SpamAssassin didn't catch it. Instead it filters about 3 or 4 false positives per day, including this one: From: Subject: State Library card renewal notice (Final Notice) Date: Tue, 14 Jun 2016 01:00:13 +1000 X-Spam-Flag: YES Content preview:  Dear Greg, Thank you for being a registered card holder with    the State ...

Fri, 08 Jul 2016 17:08:30 UTC

As browsers decline in relevance, theyre becoming DRM timebombs

Posted By Cory Doctorow

My op-ed in today’s issue of The Tech, MIT’s leading newspaper, describes how browser vendors and the W3C, a standards body that’s housed at MIT, are collaborating to make DRM part of the core standards for future browsers, and how their unwillingness to take even the most minimal steps to protect academics and innovators from... more

Fri, 08 Jul 2016 00:43:43 UTC

Package upgrade

Posted By Greg Lehey

The new FreeBSD pkgng system is getting much better, but it's still not perfect. As a result, my packages are getting more and more behind. Upgrading isn't difficult: === root@stable (/dev/pts/4) /home/grog 1 -> mailme pkg upgrade The following 1 package(s) will be affected (of 0 checked): Installed packages to be UPGRADED:         pkg: 1.7.2 -> 1.8.7 2 MiB to be downloaded. Proceed with this action? [y/N]: y It seems that every time I do an upgrade, I first have to upgrade pkg. This time I have clearly missed no fewer than 7 intermediate updates.

Wed, 06 Jul 2016 00:26:46 UTC

Why I hate Android, revisited

Posted By Greg Lehey

It's been over four years since I bought my first Android tablet. It was a great disappointment, and I returned it to ALDI. A year later I tried again, particularly since it was becoming apparent that I could use one to control the camera that I was going to buy. But I still couldn't make friends with it. I've ranted about this repeatedly in the past, and after six months I came up with a summary of my problems, and six months later I compared it with the Microsoft offeringto Microsoft's advantage! In the meantime I hardly use it at all.

Mon, 04 Jul 2016 01:57:40 UTC

Peak indifference: privacy as a public health issue

Posted By Cory Doctorow

My latest Locus column, “Peak Indifference”, draws a comparison between the history of the “debate” about the harms of smoking (a debate manufactured by disinformation merchants with a stake in the controversy) and the current debate about the harms of surveillance and data-collection, whose proponents say “privacy is dead,” while meaning, “I would be richer... more

Fri, 01 Jul 2016 15:00:00 UTC

"The Martian" made me depressed

Posted By Tom Limoncelli

Have you seen/read The Martian? What's so sad about the movie/book is that it is a reminder of what could have been. Part of the premise is that after the Apollo program, the U.S. continued their plans for landing on Mars. Such plans were dropped for the less ambitious Shuttle program. Think about it. In most science fiction the science is unbelievable. In The Martian, the science was pretty darn accurate and the unbelievable part is that U.S. politicians had the audacity to continue NASA's funding level.

Fri, 01 Jul 2016 04:31:27 UTC

Backup: finished!

Posted By Greg Lehey

After about 3½ days, the first run of my backup is finally finished. In the meantime, of course, more data has been added, and so I needed to run a normal backup again. To my surprise, it ran in about normal time. Maybe things aren't that bad after all. ACM only downloads articles once. It's possible that this article has changed since being downloaded, but the only way you can find out is by looking at the original article.

Fri, 01 Jul 2016 03:50:40 UTC

Microsoft Windows 10, continued pain

Posted By Greg Lehey

Into the office this morning. My remote desktop session with despair, the machine I was upgrading to Microsoft Windows 10, had closed. On investigation it seems that it had finally completed the upgrade, and without so much as a by your leave, had rebooted. It was now asking me to accept default settings for things I've never heard of and which it didn't volunteer. About the only thing that struck me was the formatting of the page: Clearly a modern operating system.