Blog Archive: December 2016

Sat, 31 Dec 2016 23:31:05 UTC

Mobile phone cameras and timekeeping

Posted By Greg Lehey

I've had timepieces for as long as I can remember. Some time in mid-1957 my parents gave me a new watch with a sweep second hand. My previous watch had a separate small dial for the second hand. But that's nearly 60 years ago. Today my digital watch was going about 10 seconds fast at the first of the all-important midnights, as Chris confirmed from her Samsung Galaxy S7. That's presumably network synchronized. OK, let's use it to set my watch. But it only showed hours and minutes. Twenty minutes of searching later we came to the conclusion that the standard clocks on both Android and iPhone don't have the ability to display seconds.

Sat, 31 Dec 2016 22:56:41 UTC

technology, opinion

Posted By Greg Lehey

I still don't have any documentation for the relay board I bought over a month ago, and the seller only responds when I prod him. The last exchange was particularly useless. He pointed me to a web page, which rendered: It's not only Western web sites that forget their character encoding. Set for Simplified Chinese, it came out as OK, clearly they're trying to send me a file called SKU367002.rar.

Sat, 31 Dec 2016 22:55:49 UTC

Apple spam

Posted By Greg Lehey

Message today: Dear Customer, Your Apple ID ([email protected]) was used to sign in to iMessage If you have not recently set up an iPhone with your Apple ID, then you should change your Apple ID password. Learn More. Yes, I've seen and grumbled about this sort of thing in the past, in particular the lack of detail. This one was worse than most. But for some reason gmail had classified it as spam.

Sat, 31 Dec 2016 22:45:21 UTC

More sprinkler work

Posted By Greg Lehey

Spent some time looking at the garden sprinklers today, not helped by the lack of a sprinkler controllermaybe. After much messing around, discovered the problem with circuit 1: the solenoid on the solenoid valve was open circuit. How can that come? Of all the unreliable parts in the system, you'd think that it was the most reliable. Hopefully I can get a replacement that doesn't require me to replace the entire valve. ACM only downloads articles once.

Sat, 31 Dec 2016 01:20:00 UTC

UK company search

Posted By Greg Lehey

Once again I'm reminded of xkcd: 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.

Sat, 31 Dec 2016 01:15:20 UTC

Gratuitous GUI changes

Posted By Greg Lehey

I've grumbled so frequently about the way commercial GUI software keeps changing its interface on every release. Sometimes I think that the GUI change is the only real difference. And once again xkcd has said it for me: 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.

Thu, 29 Dec 2016 01:38:09 UTC

Yet another mobile phone comparison

Posted By Greg Lehey

Chris Bahlo here in the evening with her Samsung Galaxy Note 7, which the EXIF data calls a SM-G930F. DxOMark doesn't seem to have tested it, but the presumably similar Galaxy S7 edge gets 88 points, only one point shy of the top mark, and it seems to have the same camera. So of course I had to get her try the camera with my test shots. The comparison wasn't as good as it could have been because of the different lighting situation. The indoor photo is much better, but then there was about three times as much light. Here Apple, Samsung Galaxy 7 and Olympus; the Samsung I9100 isn't close to the same league: ...

Thu, 29 Dec 2016 01:35:59 UTC

Google Maps accuracy

Posted By Greg Lehey

The trip to Ballarat also gave me the first real test of my GPS location web page code, as the photos above show. Interestingly it seems that just about all the photos show me further east than I really was, though the latitude is variable. Here today's photos with the strange routes (by foot) that Google Maps makes from the actual location to the claimed location (the latter with the red pin): ...

Thu, 29 Dec 2016 01:25:42 UTC

Olympus geotagging: almost useless

Posted By Greg Lehey

My camera has a feature: Wireless shooting, just add smart phone. And with that I can add geotagging. I've already commented about how much of a pain it is to use OI.Share, but now I have the added interest of geotagging, so out into the garden to take a photo. The good news: it works. The bad news: it is such a pain that it's hardly worth it: First you set up the 802.11 connection: turn on camera, touch WiFi, start the OI.Share app, select connect as like as not (this after initial setup), then select remote control.

Tue, 27 Dec 2016 23:25:35 UTC

More smart phone and GPS stuff

Posted By Greg Lehey

Yesterday's camera comparisons had a number of issues that I could improve on, as well as many that I can't, for example the choice of phones. There are plenty of sites that address the latter, such as DxOMark, which ranks mobile phone cameras. Currently the top of the line is the Google Pixel, with 86 points. The worst is the Apple iPhone 4, with 50 points. Second last, with 57 points, is my Samsung, and my iPhone 5S comes in with 76 points (at the time of the review, it seems, in second place). That's consistent with my experience. In particular, of the Samsung they say the product was also plagued by strong color shading. Still, there are things I can do to improve my own measurements.

Tue, 27 Dec 2016 08:01:31 UTC

Kirkus just gave me an AWESOME Christmas present: this starred review for WALKAWAY

Posted By Cory Doctorow

Kirkus Reviews is one of the publishing industry’s toughest gauntlets, used by librarians and bookstore buyers to help sort through the avalanche of new titles, and its reviews often have a sting in their tails aimed at this audience, a pitiless rehearsal of the reasons you wouldn’t want to stock this book — vital intelligence... more

Tue, 27 Dec 2016 08:01:31 UTC

Kirkus just gave me an AWESOME Christmas present: this starred review for WALKAWAY

Posted By Cory Doctorow

Kirkus Reviews is one of the publishing industry’s toughest gauntlets, used by librarians and bookstore buyers to help sort through the avalanche of new titles, and its reviews often have a sting in their tails aimed at this audience, a pitiless rehearsal of the reasons you wouldn’t want to stock this book — vital intelligence... more

Tue, 27 Dec 2016 02:09:07 UTC

Reading [MP]TP file systems

Posted By Greg Lehey

Transferring images from a smart phone to a computer is a pain! FreeBSD doesn't seem to recognize the iPhone, and I can't use toys like gphoto2 to read them in. So off to the web to see what people have done in the past. This thread and this one describe pain trying to use sysutils/fusefs-ifuse, but this one talks about using usbmuxd, apparently from the same site. That sounded like a good idea, so I tried: === [email protected] (/dev/pts/0) /usr/src 4 -> mailme pkg install usbmuxd Updating FreeBSD repository catalogue... FreeBSD repository is up-to-date. All repositories are up-to-date.

Tue, 27 Dec 2016 01:35:06 UTC

GPS position info from phone cameras

Posted By Greg Lehey

After yesterday's playing around, it seemed reasonable to look for EXIF data related to GPS position. Out to take some photos with the iPhone, and after remembering how to download the images, discovered a plethora of EXIF data relating to position: GPS Altitude                    : 350.2 m Above Sea Level GPS Altitude Ref                : Above Sea Level GPS Date Stamp                  : 2016:12:25 GPS Date/Time                   : 2016:12:25 07:14:05Z GPS Dest Bearing                : 218.0777385 GPS Dest Bearing Ref            : True North GPS Horizontal Positioning Error: 30 m GPS Img Direction               : 218.0777385 ...

Tue, 27 Dec 2016 01:11:19 UTC

Potential panorama viewer software?

Posted By Greg Lehey

While trawling the web came across this page, which promises interesting functionality. I haven't looked at it in detail yet. 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.

Mon, 26 Dec 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Florida Gothick Fun

Posted By Tim Bray

I refer to Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen, which I enjoyed more than any other single book I read this year. Not saying its the best book of the year; but in late 2016, reading something that makes you repeatedly laugh out loud over a span of hours is not to be sneezed at. Ive previously plugged Hiaasen in this space, although not in this decade. Previously I would have said that my fave Hiaasen was Sick Puppy, but I recently re-read it and its dated a bit. Dont know where Id rank this in the Hiaasen hit parade, but I sure enjoyed the hell out of it.

Mon, 26 Dec 2016 01:02:39 UTC

GPS coordinates in photos?

Posted By Greg Lehey

Juha Kupiainen posted a photo today of a landscape somewhat obscured by a motorbike: He had taken it with his iPhone, and he wondered where it was. I thought that's one of the reasons why these phones had GPS receivers. But no, after lots of poring through the EXIF data, we couldn't find any. Maybe the receiver was turned off? Out to play with my iPhone, something I've been meaning to do for a while. With the GPS receiver turned on, I got this display: So clearly it stores location data somewhere.

Sun, 25 Dec 2016 00:56:08 UTC

Navigation and location

Posted By Greg Lehey

Talking with Chris Bahlo after dinner. She came up with other issues about the way to Lethbridge. It seems that the road between Dereel and Mount Mercer is a roller coaster, and the road from Mount Mercer to Shelford is a gradual incline. Neither is of interest when going by car (which is why I had to think about the first stretch), but when towing a horse float (trailer), it makes a big difference. So she prefers the somewhat longer way via Rokewood, which has one climb on the way back to Dereel, but is otherwise relatively horizontal. And Google Maps?

Sun, 25 Dec 2016 00:32:30 UTC

Garden sprinklers

Posted By Greg Lehey

I still don't have my relay board working correctly, but I can't wait: today the temperature hit 35°, and there's more of same forecast. The garden needs watering. So I hacked something together to run the relays manually: That showed a number of unexpected problems. Apart from the hoses, which are still blowing apart at the joints, there were a number of badly mounted drippers, like this one: And a couple of the drippers themselves had blown apart, with spectacular results: ...

Sat, 24 Dec 2016 01:56:50 UTC

More relay board fun

Posted By Greg Lehey

The weather is getting hottertoday we had a maximum temperature of 34°, and the toy sprinkler controller is not working correctly. It's high time I got my new Ethernet-connected relay board working. I've located a program called RelayNet.exe, but the name is the only thing I recognize. It's in Chinese, and the display is only partially intelligible: Clearly the values on the left are IP address and (TCP) port number. But what does the rest mean?

Sat, 24 Dec 2016 00:55:28 UTC

Navigation and Android repairs

Posted By Greg Lehey

Going to town gave me another opportunity of testing some navigation apps, made necessary because Chris had taken my navigator to Lethbridge with her. For various reasons, it was not a success: iGO was a dead loss: it hung displaying the lie Starting.... That was funny, because it worked normally the last time I tried it. Some time later it occurred to me that I had moved it from device memory to the SD card.

Fri, 23 Dec 2016 02:51:37 UTC

Getting to the vet

Posted By Greg Lehey

The vet hospital is in Lethbridge, not a place I was even able to place accurately (it's between Ballarat and Bannockburn on the Midland Highway). How do we get there? With the aid of a GPS navigator, of course. I've been fighting navigation software for years, but in this case I just set up a route with my trusty el-cheapo navigator. Looking at Google Maps was instructive, though. Many of my friends on IRC think that it's good enough. Even Google puts in a disclaimer that the system is in beta, and well they may. It seems that the best way there is really via Mount Mercer and Shelford.

Thu, 22 Dec 2016 00:52:38 UTC

Finally! Display smart phone on external monitor

Posted By Greg Lehey

While trawling through web pages on Android, I came across this one (their bold text): The Screen Mirroring feature lets you wirelessly beam your photos, videos, presentations, or even your video games to your big screen. Sounds excellent. Butt then you read on and discover: You can connect to any HDTV using the AllShare Cast Wireless Hub for TV models earlier than 2013 (F Series), or you can connect directly to a supported Samsung Smart TV (newer models).

Wed, 21 Dec 2016 17:18:32 UTC

Free audiobook of Car Wars, my self-driving car/crypto back-door apocalypse story

Posted By Cory Doctorow

Last month, Melbourne’s Deakin University published Car Wars, a short story I wrote to inspire thinking and discussion about the engineering ethics questions in self-driving car design, moving beyond the trite and largely irrelevant trolley problem. Shortly after, I went into Skyboat Media’s studio and recorded an audio edition of the story, which the Deakin... more

Wed, 21 Dec 2016 03:43:09 UTC

Mere mobile phone GPS apps

Posted By Greg Lehey

On several occasions I have compared the navigation apps available for mobile phones with the software on my el-cheapo GPS navigator, almost invariably unfavourably. But the same software, iGO, is available for Samsung phones (only). Tried downloading it today. It's really difficult to use it outside a car: in the house there's no GPS coverage, and outside it's too bright. But it seems to work quite similarly to the way it does on the dedicated navigator. It's free, but the maps costabout $27 for Australia. That might even be worth it, but the question is whether the phone version offers anything that the standalone version doesn't.

Wed, 21 Dec 2016 03:08:39 UTC

Block Pirate Bay

Posted By Greg Lehey

The Australian Federal Court has ruled that Australian ISPs must block access to The Pirate Bay. On the face of it, that makes sense. The Pirate Bay assists copyright infringement. And the Federal Court rules that the copyright owners should come up with the funding for blocking it. But does it really makes sense? A number of things suggest that it doesn't: What is copyright? Is it still a valid concept in its 20th century invocation? At the moment I have a choice when watching films for: free-to-air TV or download the video.

Wed, 21 Dec 2016 00:59:06 UTC

Reviving Galaxy S2

Posted By Greg Lehey

Finally found time to re-flash the Samsung GT-I9100T. I've been planning it for a week, but finally I had all the pieces together and the time for something to go wrong. I followed this page, which could do with some improvement, but basically is correct. Here's the procedure: Download Odin3 and maybe the Samsung Galaxy S2 USB driver. The latter URL points to, which I strongly recommend avoiding, but I haven't found (or needed to find) an alternative site.

Tue, 20 Dec 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Network Storage

Posted By Tim Bray

A couple days ago in New Home Network I posted a request for advice on a home NAS box and networking hardware. Now I have the storage box, and boy was it ever easy and straightforward and anxiety-relieving. If you havent done this already, you might want to. The online reviews favor QNAP and Synology; the comments on my blog suggested Synology or build-your-own-its fun. I have opinions about fun and about storage for my irreplaceable digital life and they dont intersect. So I bought a Synology DS416j and two Western Digital Red 6T drives from fave local retailer NCIX  if youre in Canada, you cant beat em.

Tue, 20 Dec 2016 01:05:40 UTC

Repairing mobile phones

Posted By Greg Lehey

On Saturday Chris Bahlo brought me another mobile phone, her last Samsung. It failed on her watch: it seems that the charging circuitry failed. It's a considerably better one than the GT-I9100T that I'm trying to re-flash, but clearly replacing parts is beyond my ability. So I looked up repair places, and came up with no less than two of them, iAdrenalin and Ballarat iPhones. Despite the name, both of them also do Samsung, and they're both located at 4 Vine Street, which is a residential address and the reason for my search described above. Along to take a look. As expected, one man (David), two companies, though the card he gave me was for Ballarat iPhones.

Mon, 19 Dec 2016 23:36:45 UTC

GPS on iPhone

Posted By Greg Lehey

Today I had to go to Ballarat for yet another doctor's appointment. Time to try out GPS apps on the iPhone. I found one last week before I reset it to factory defaults, but I've forgotten what it was called. How do I find it again? Impossible. In fact, finding anything on this tiny screen is impossible. How can I access the App Store from a real computer? You'd think Apple would have a method, since they sell real computers too. But they seem to have identity issues between the App Store and iTunes, and the best I could find was this page.

Mon, 19 Dec 2016 23:33:00 UTC

Notes on implementing flags for flag flips

Posted By Tom Limoncelli

Someone recently asked me how the flags in "flag flips" are implemented in actual software. There are a couple different techniques that I've seen. Command-line flags: Normal command line flags. To change a flag, you have to kill and restart the process. These flags are usually implemented in libraries that come with the language, though I have a preference for gflags. A/B flags: When doing A/B testing, a cookie is set with a random number (often a value 0-999). The code then uses the number to partition the tests: A=0-499, B=500-999. To enroll 1 percent of all users, one might use A=0-4 and B=5-9 and everyone else gets the default behavior.

Mon, 19 Dec 2016 01:10:46 UTC

Updating MythTV

Posted By Greg Lehey

Yet another pain is MythTV, which has been so painful that I haven't done anything about it in months. But one issue is that it currently saves the recordings as MPEG transport streams, which don't have correct elapsed time information. My attempts to run it manually failed with some obscure error hidden deep in some disinterested library. So today I ran mythtv-setup to try to get it to run automatically after recording. I'm not convinced I was successful, but after that the backend was catatonic. How to stop? There's a program called mythshutdown, so I ran that. It shut down the computer into a catatonic state, and I had to press the Big Red Button.

Mon, 19 Dec 2016 00:46:23 UTC

Updating Android firmware, yet again

Posted By Greg Lehey

So now I have the firmware for my Samsung GT-I9100T. All I need to do is transfer it to the phone, and I have the instructions for that. But that includes downloading a USB driver and an upgrade program. The instructions refer to an Odin3_v3.07 Flasher too/ and a Samsung Galaxy S2 USB driver, both ultimately leading to, which I am leaning to hate with a passion. Downloading the driver gave me continual advertising popups that obscured what I was trying to do, and at one point it claimed that my Captcha had expired, and I had to wait 60 minutes.

Mon, 19 Dec 2016 00:43:55 UTC

Updating iPhone firmware, again

Posted By Greg Lehey

I only upgraded the firmware on my iPhone last week, not surprising in view of the fact that I had just got it. And today I was asked again. Is this a coincidence, or do they bring out weekly updates? As before, the update was successful, but I had to enter my password again! Why? No idea. At first I thought it had deleted the fingerprints, but they're still there. And once again I had to go through far too many setup functions again before I could use it. And once again indications of access restrictions: So they have deliberately restricted access.

Mon, 19 Dec 2016 00:02:53 UTC

Copying: a non-word

Posted By Greg Lehey

Copying files from my iPhone to my computer was suboptimal at best: send them round the world and back again. But Edwin Groothuis and Daniel O'Connor gave me another suggestion: it seems that if you plug the USB cable into a Microsoft or Apple computer, it just shows up as a file system. OK, but let's try FreeBSD first. Dec 18 09:53:00 eureka kernel: ugen0.4: <Apple Inc.> at usbus0 Dec 18 09:53:00 eureka root: Unknown USB device: vendor 0x05ac product 0x12a8 bus uhub3 That's not exactly an out-of-box success, though I'm surprised that the system doesn't recognize the device.

Sun, 18 Dec 2016 20:00:00 UTC

New Home Network

Posted By Tim Bray

Holiday project: Redesign the domestic infastructure. Looking for: Network and storage gear. Got any advice? Our current setup, a Mac Pro and Apple Airport, work fine. But their combined age is approaching 20 years, disks are getting full, and Im losing faith that Apple really wants that part of my business. Requirements The Internet comes in through a cable modem in the basement in a horrible spot for networking. Its rated at 150M and measures a little faster than that. The modem has dorky wireless feature which weve turned off, and theres Cat5 coming upstairs to a nice central-but-unobtrusive spot for broadcasting Wifi from.

Sun, 18 Dec 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Snow Studies

Posted By Tim Bray

Vancouvers last two winters had no snow, and never even got very cold. Just now weve had a week of white pre-Christmas, with lows down to -8°C. But tonight the rain starts and well hit 9 above tomorrow. So I went out to take snow pictures. Our magnolia is never not beautiful Lets step back from it, enlarge our view enough to see the big evergreen behind it. At dusk I walked to the corner for groceries and fresh air, and saw this, photographed it, then came home and overprocessed it.

Sun, 18 Dec 2016 15:37:00 UTC

Blacksmithing and Youtube HDR

Posted By Niels Provos

Sun, 18 Dec 2016 02:32:24 UTC

iPhone image quality

Posted By Greg Lehey

Once I got the images, I put them through my normal work flow, using DxO Optics Pro, which knew all about the camera, and did image correction, showing it to be one of the few lenses I know with pincushion distortion. Here the original and as processed: In fact, the images are surprisingly good. The lighting of the scene is quite complicated, and I suspect that Apple is doing quite a bit of processing internally.

Sun, 18 Dec 2016 02:23:23 UTC

Your mail ID has been used!

Posted By Greg Lehey

Using Gmail for sending my photos (why did I need to log in? Why, did I need to log in?) brought another of these silly messages from Google: What earthly use is that? Last week I ranted about the lack of useful information in a warning about this kind of login. Now, at any rate, they haven't included useless information: they have included no information whatsoever, just a bit of advertising. What use is that?

Sun, 18 Dec 2016 02:13:18 UTC

Android? iOS?

Posted By Greg Lehey

Peter Jeremy has bought one of the ALDI Android tablets that I bought last month. He's actually less happy with it than I was, for completely unrelated reasons: it seems it's really slow, and the battery has a very limited life. Maybe there is an issue with the batteries: after all, I returned mine because it wouldn't charge at all, though at the time I blamed it on Instagram. But speed? Somehow not a thing that I have noticed one way or another with portable devices. And it's not as if he's playing games or similar: just launching an app, it seems, is too slow.

Fri, 16 Dec 2016 23:36:22 UTC

iPhone: success!

Posted By Greg Lehey

Two days ago I went through a bizarre method of authentication to register the SIM card for my iPhone: they were to deduct a small sum from my credit card, and I was to use this sum as evidence that I exist (or at least that I am an entity having access to my bank statements). That went ahead, and the system acknowledged that it had debited something from my credit card. But my bank didn't want to know. Plenty of other transactions, but nothing from ALDI. After two days, finally called them up and spoke to a human, who was able to complete the transaction.

Fri, 16 Dec 2016 02:29:31 UTC

Android: next firmware attempt

Posted By Greg Lehey

The firmware download for my Samsung GT-I9100T finally completed, but I still wasn't really happy. What is it? It's not the official release for Australia. More searching, and I found something that looked more plausible. The link took me to another file on, along with the silly Captchas and slow download, but at least it looked more convincing. Another day of waiting, made easier by all the other things I had to do. ACM only downloads articles once.

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 02:09:53 UTC

ALDI SIM registration

Posted By Greg Lehey

I went out and spent big on a new SIM card for the iPhone 5S: $5 for ALDI's best. And once again I had fun trying to access their appalling web site. I have had an account with them for several years (how long? They don't keep track of the years, so it's hard to tell from there, but it seems that I've had fun in the past in June 2014 and a few months back). On the second occasion I had to reset my password, because they had changed the rules and my current password no longer worked, and they would not tell me the rules they required to limit the difficulty of a brute-force attack.

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 00:59:53 UTC

TeamViewer for iOS

Posted By Greg Lehey

And then I thought of another option for less painful keyboard access: TeamViewer is available for the iPhone. I've used it in the past for access to other systems. It seems a little silly to send all the traffic between keyboard and display round the world and back, but hey, we're modern. So I installed TeamViewer. The good news: it works. The bad news: it's upside-down. It reduces my 2510×1390 dischord window to the 800×480 or whatever of the iPhone, requiring many gestures to scroll the screen. What an amazing idea. The gesture I chose is not for publication. ACM only downloads articles once.

Wed, 14 Dec 2016 23:58:39 UTC

Phone pain: iOS

Posted By Greg Lehey

So I'm stuck with the iPhone 5S, at least for the moment. I might as well try it out in more detail. I had already reset everything, so I set it up again, which was not quite as painful as last time. This time I read some of the stuff that I skipped last time, including touch ID. And how about that, with my fingerprint I can bypass all this emetic password entry! It took me a while to realize that I needed to hold the finger over the Home button (the unmarked button at the bottom), and that I really needed a thumbprint and not the print of my index finger).

Wed, 14 Dec 2016 23:56:26 UTC

Phone pain: Android

Posted By Greg Lehey

So it seems that it is possible to download a firmware image to the Samsung GT-I9100T. I just need to find an image. OK, off for a search, which came up with a lot of useless information, but also some promising ones. looked promising, and found the apparently correct firmware after an amazing amount of suppressed advertising and a Captcha to end all Captchas: It requires not one, but two steps, and the first time round I got it wrong. And then I had to put up with one of these silly download screens: free download at 15 kB/s, or fast download for 10 ¬.

Wed, 14 Dec 2016 16:00:00 UTC

InfoQ's interview with the co-authors of TPOSANA 3rd edition

Posted By Tom Limoncelli

Ben Linders interviewed Tom, Christine and Strata about the 3rd edition of The Practice of System and Network Administration: See what's new in the 3rd edition of The Practice of System and Network Administration. Learn how to steal DevOps practices for use in enterprise IT and desktop support. What's better than beta testing IT services? Many small batch launches. Learn how bi-directional empathy creates a collaborative IT culture. What can go wrong when launching a new service? Everything! Here's how to avoid surprises. Plus: InfoQ readers can download a book extract with a discount code.

Wed, 14 Dec 2016 08:00:00 UTC

Expanding the AWS Cloud: Introducing the AWS Europe (London) Region

Posted By Werner Vogels

In November 2015, Amazon Web Services announced that it would launch a new AWS infrastructure region in the United Kingdom. Today, I'm happy to announce that the AWS Europe (London) Region, our 16th technology infrastructure region globally, is now generally available for use by customers worldwide. UK companies are using AWS to innovate across diverse industries, such as energy, manufacturing, medicaments, retail, media, and financial services and the UK is home to some of the world's most forward-thinking businesses. These include startups like Fanduel, JustEat, and Monzo to enterprises such as British Gas, Trainline, Perkins, News UK, the Financial Times. The British Government is also helping to drive innovation and has embraced a cloud-first policy for technology adoption.

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 23:18:26 UTC

Reinstalling Android firmware

Posted By Greg Lehey

A little more investigation of how to recover the Samsung GT-I9100T today. It seems that they have a maintenance tool, Kies that runs on Microsoft and communicates with the phone via 802.11 or USB. So I installed that and tried it out. Not the most convincing program I've seen: it didn't detect the phone set to recovery mode, and offered a Troubleshoot connection error function which required the phone to be disconnected! It ran and found no error (nor, for that matter, anything else). I had at least expected it to want the phone to be reconnected at some point, but no, that won't be necessary, thank you.

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 23:02:48 UTC

KVH Industries Tour

Posted By James Hamilton

As part of my home blog, I often describe visit to plants, factories, and ships in the “Technology Series“. Over the years, we’ve covered mining truck manufacturers, sail boat racing, a trip on a ship-assist tug boat, a tour of Holland America’s Westerdam, a visit to an Antarctic ice breaker, a tour of a Panamax container...

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 22:53:08 UTC

Nobody wants an iPhone

Posted By Greg Lehey

Helen Miller along this morning to pick up the iPhone. Looked at it and said It's an iPhone 5S. Yes, as advertised. But not what she had expected: she thought it was a iPhone 6S. She already has a 5S, so she doesn't need it. Damn! I only bought the thing with the safety net of being able to sell it to her if I didn't want it. What do I do now? Take it back to Carol? Sell it on eBay? For the moment I'll give it another try. ACM only downloads articles once.

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 01:24:58 UTC

Your System has been blocked

Posted By Greg Lehey

When I got home, Yvonne called me to a problem on her machine: What's that? The browser displayed the URL Called up the number (which was an Australian free call) and was connected to somebody who, as usual, didn't understand what was going on. He was fully locked in to the Microsoft mentality, asked me to press the Broken windows key and R (I think) and was surprised when nothing happened. Then he wanted me to download a Microsoft executable and run it, but this screen wouldn't take no (or Cancel) for an answer: it kept opening a new tab with the same URL and the same messages, and my browser was effectively dead.

Mon, 12 Dec 2016 23:35:19 UTC

Repairing mobile phones

Posted By Greg Lehey

In the last few days I've tried various things to repair the Samsung GT-I9100T using the recovery functions I found the other day: So far I have tried the wipe functions, without success. But there are two Apply update functions there, either from ADB (what's that? Obsolete debugger?) or external storage, whatever that may mean. Went looking on the web and found little reliable information, just pages like this, but it seems that the ADB is an Android Debug Bridge. It seems not to be a piece of hardware, but so far I haven't found any description detailed enough to be able to use it.

Mon, 12 Dec 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Gall bladder Removal

Posted By Tom Limoncelli

Today I say goodbye to my gall bladder. I'll miss you, little guy. I scheduled this blog post to appear around the time I should be coming out of surgery. Recovery should be pretty fast (a few days). Here's the story told in cartoon form: Prequel Pancreatitis Gall bladder's Last Day Kidney Hears The News Organ Craft Fair You can read all of The Awkward Yeti's cartoons involving gall bladder here. See you soon!

Sun, 11 Dec 2016 23:21:30 UTC

Do I need an iPhone?

Posted By Greg Lehey

Today's playing around with the iPhone made me step back and think: why do I need an iPhone? Why, do I need an iPhone? Apart from all the pain it causes, the display is so minuscule that it's not worth using for many purposes. Tried reading a Wikipedia page on it, which conveniently folded and hid data to make things not too painful. But I wouldn't use that format except in an emergency. I've already grumbled at length about the keyboard. And another size-related issue is that I have to hold it much closer. The monitors on my desk top are between 70 and 80 cm away.

Sun, 11 Dec 2016 23:08:54 UTC

A keyboard for an iPhone

Posted By Greg Lehey

By far the worst thing about this iPhone is the appalling touch-screen keyboard. Yes, Android phones have something similar, but for some reason many (most) Apple apps are stuck in portrait mode, giving me a keyboard rather less than double the width of my thumb. At least on Android, most apps will let you turn the thing on its side, at least doubling the width. In addition, the keyboard is a typical toy with separate shift keys for numerics and capitals. On Android I used the Hackers Keyboard, which made things marginally less painful. Is it available for Apple? It was, but it seems to no longer be supported.

Sun, 11 Dec 2016 23:04:19 UTC

OI.Share revisited

Posted By Greg Lehey

So, finally I had the phone vaguely functional. Download a couple of apps, first OI.Share. Getting it to work was the usual pain, mainly not the fault of Apple. To get it to run you first need to disconnect from the network, and OI.Share doesn't do this automatically. Neither do the instructions help. You need to go to the Settings menu and select the camera as network. After that, OI.Share worked as well as it has ever donenot very. ACM only downloads articles once.

Sun, 11 Dec 2016 22:28:58 UTC

iPhone pain, day 2 of 2

Posted By Greg Lehey

Yesterday my attempts to set up my iPhone 5S created a maximum amount of pain in less than an hour. But I learnt from that and followed the explanation, signing up for the App Store via a normal web session. That was easier, but not much. The signup seemed to be a collection of (from my perspective) worst practice for web forms: First, it set rules for passwords. Mine (Excruc1at2ng) was accepted, but why must I have upper case, lower case, and digits?

Sun, 11 Dec 2016 00:40:32 UTC

Mobile phones: small choice in rotten apples

Posted By Greg Lehey

At the Camera Crew meeting people started talking about mobile phones. It occurred to me that maybe somebody had an old one to get rid of, so I asked. Yes, indeed, Carol Moyse had a iPhone 5S that she no longer needed, and offered it to me for $200. Almost before I could answer, Helen Miller said I'll take it. But I had first choice, and it seemed all the better because Helen would take it if I didn't like it. So up to Carol's place a little later, in the process recognizing the house: I was there three years ago helping her diagnose a failed ADSL2 modem.

Sun, 11 Dec 2016 00:32:31 UTC

Google is watching you

Posted By Greg Lehey

Mail from Google today: Your Google Account [email protected] was just used to sign in from Firefox on Windows. Windows Saturday, December 10, 2016 9:06 AM (Australian Eastern Daylight Time) Ballarat VIC, Australia* Firefox*Don't recognize this activity?* Review your recently used devices <URL> Why are we sending this? We take security very seriously and we want to keep you in the loop on important actions in your account. We were unable to determine whether you have used this browser or device with your account before.

Sat, 10 Dec 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Another successful LISA!

Posted By Tom Limoncelli

Congrats to the LISA organizing committee for another successful conference! The Usenix LISA conference was in Boston this year, and ran Sunday to Friday as usual. This was the 30th conference. Highlights: I learned that the coming generation of servers from Dell/HP/etc. will have terabytes of persistent RAM (RAM that retains info between reboots). Operations will have to radically change how they do operations (rebooting won't clear RAM). Software engineers will be re-thinking software designs. (John Roese, Dell EMC) I learned that Homomorphic encryption lets you do math on encrypted data, and you get encrypted results. No need to decrypt the source material.

Thu, 08 Dec 2016 23:49:36 UTC

Android pain, day 3

Posted By Greg Lehey

The good thing about my Android pain of the last couple of days is that the Android tablet failed and got returned to ALDI. End of pain. Well, no. Today the replacement battery arrived for Chris Bahlo's Samsung GT-I9100T mobile phone, also known (but not on the phone itself) as Galaxy S2. It wasn't quite clear what to do with it, since I needed to be authorized to open the package, and I needed to take unspecified static electricity precautions: Unlike the claim on the eBay page, it wasn't an aftermarket battery after all, or if so, it was a very good copy of the original: ...

Thu, 08 Dec 2016 22:01:50 UTC

Everything is a Remix, including Star Wars, and thats how I became a writer

Posted By Cory Doctorow

Kirby Ferguson, who created the remarkable Everything is a Remix series, has a new podcast hosted by the Recreate Coalition called Copy This and he hosted me on the debut episode (MP3) where we talked about copying, creativity, artists, and the future of the internet (as you might expect!). Are you one of the many... more

Thu, 08 Dec 2016 18:30:00 UTC

Expanding the AWS Cloud: Introducing the AWS Canada (Central) Region

Posted By Werner Vogels

Earlier this year, Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced it would launch a new AWS infrastructure region in Montreal, Quebec. Today, I'm happy to share that the Canada (Central) Region is available for use by customers worldwide. The AWS Cloud now operates in 40 Availability Zones within 15 geographic regions around the world, with seven more Availability Zones and three more regions coming online in China, France, and the U.K. in the coming year. The Canadian opportunity Canada has set forth a bold innovation agenda grounded in entrepreneurship, scientific research, growing small and medium-sized businesses with a focus on environmentally friendly technologies, and the transition to a digital economy.

Wed, 07 Dec 2016 22:38:37 UTC

Android rant, day 2

Posted By Greg Lehey

Not surprisingly, people on IRC disagreed with yesterday's second rant. Firstly, people claimed that PTP does show directory structure. So I tried. It worked yesterday, but today I got: === [email protected] (/dev/pts/5) ~/Photos/20161206 364 -> gphoto2 --list-files *** Error (-52: 'Could not find the requested device on the USB port') *** For debugging messages, please use the --debug option. Debugging messages may help finding a solution to your problem. If you intend to send any error or debug messages to the gphoto developer mailing list , please run gphoto2 as follows:     env LANG=C gphoto2 --debug --debug-logfile=my-logfile.txt --list-files After a couple of other attempts, tried that and got lots of output, ending in: 0.019349 gp_abilities_list_detect_usb(2): Auto-detecting USB cameras...

Wed, 07 Dec 2016 22:33:22 UTC

Instagram kills Android tablet

Posted By Greg Lehey

Overnight I had a problem with my new Android tablet: it wouldn't charge. In the evening it was at 39% charge, and after being powered off and charged overnight, it was up to 44%. It claimed to be charging, but the lightning flash symbol near the battery display was absent. What caused that? My guess is a combination of poor design and poor quality. The charger connection is on the right-hand side, and I've already had an ALDI tablet die because of poor contact from not one, but two connectors.

Wed, 07 Dec 2016 17:14:28 UTC

Mr Robot has driven a stake through the Hollywood hacker, and not a moment too soon

Posted By Cory Doctorow

Mr Robot is the most successful example of a small but fast-growing genre of “techno-realist” media, where the focus is on realistic portrayals of hackers, information security, surveillance and privacy, and it represents a huge reversal on the usual portrayal of hackers and computers as convenient plot elements whose details can be finessed to meet... more

Wed, 07 Dec 2016 01:33:42 UTC

The pain of modern software, part 2

Posted By Greg Lehey

I was just about calming down when, also on IRC, Andy Snow mentioned that his father (retired software engineer, 70 years old, so pretty much the same demographic as myself) has just got a new smart phone. Curious, I asked what he thought of it. Not much, but Andy is sure that he will get to like it when he sees all the nice things he can do with it, including sending photos. My own experience with sending photos has been one of intense pain, so I carried on the discussion. Like most people, Andy is doomed to moving around a lot, so having something to play with while he's on the move makes senseI use my Android tablet for the same purpose, for example in doctor's waiting rooms.

Tue, 06 Dec 2016 23:30:28 UTC

The pain of modern software, part 1

Posted By Greg Lehey

Somehow I spent most of the day today fighting modern software. I've ranted about this before countless times, but far from going away, the problem gets worse. The first issue was one of the basic problems of graphics software, at least the way it is currently implemented: all programs get started from the same environment. In X it's the Window manager; other environments seem to be so amorphous that I can't say what part starts them. In either case, the concept of working directory is lost. So programs like firefox note the last used directory and offer it again. I'll use firefox as the example here, but it's by no means unusual in its behaviour.

Tue, 06 Dec 2016 02:23:21 UTC

Oh look, a new site!

Posted By Joel Spolsky

I’ve moved to WordPress. There may be some bugs!

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 17:04:27 UTC

A new edition of the Information Doesnt Want to Be Free audiobook featuring Neil Gaiman

Posted By Cory Doctorow

“Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free” is my 2014 nonfiction book about copyright, the internet, and earning a living, and it features two smashing introductions — one by Neil Gaiman and the other by Amanda Palmer. I released an audio edition of the book in 2014, read by the incomparable Wil Wheaton, who also read... more

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 00:40:18 UTC

Backup disk woes

Posted By Greg Lehey

A couple of days ago /dump, the 2 GB external backup disk that I use for other machines on the local network, somehow went offline. Power cycling it and reconnecting it showed no errors, and GEOM created device nodes /dev/da2 and /dev/da2p1, but the system couldn't make any sense of the latter node. Damaged? Today I tried it out on lagoon, Yvonne's machine. No qdifficulty recognizing it. Since lagoon is one of the machines that back up to it, it made sense to leave it there. And since I had missed the level 0 dump at the beginning of the month, decided to repeat it.

Sun, 04 Dec 2016 23:53:03 UTC

More relay board fun

Posted By Greg Lehey

Spent some time looking for documentation and code for my relay board, with insufficient success. There's a download page with various software, partially in source form (C#). Some of it was clearly unsuitedNTP server, for examplesome was in Microsoft executable format, and others again required registration. But I couldn't find any registration. In the end, found three packages that looked like they might make sense, but none of them had much source code.

Sun, 04 Dec 2016 23:23:08 UTC

Mobile phones and batteries

Posted By Greg Lehey

Maybe because of the way I talked about it the other day, my mobile phone has decided to die in the way that most do: the battery won't recharge. After a couple of days on charge, it has enough charge to boot up, present the message Low battery shutdown, and do just that. Should I replace the battery? It's not a mainstream phone, so even if I could find one, it would probably cost more than the phone is worth. So I'll keep the phone in case Yvonne's identical phone gets damaged, in which case we could use the battery from that phone.

Sun, 04 Dec 2016 00:09:54 UTC

Talking to the relay board

Posted By Greg Lehey

Yesterday I got as far as seeing evidence of my relay board on the LAN: it was trying to talk to, and wouldn't talk to anybody else. So I changed the alias on eureka's em0 interface, and sure enough, I could talk to it. First, I needed to log in, but fortunately this page tells me the details: user admin, password 12345678. After that, I got an encouraging screen: So at least I got a possibility of an English interface, where I was able to set more sane IP addresses.

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 22:36:09 UTC

Solaris being canned.

Posted By Tom Limoncelli

"Solaris being canned, at least 50% of teams to be RIF'd in short term. Hardware teams being told to cease development. There will be no Solaris 12, final release will be 11.4. Orders coming straight from Larry." The crazy people that said that Oracle bought Sun just to shut it down and use the patents to sue Google are looking pretty non-crazy now. I guess once the lawsuit was lost (and boy was it expensive) the shutdown was inevitable. Of course, not funding SPARC development so that it could stay competitive with Intel didn't help much either.

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 20:00:00 UTC

On Loving Rock and Roll

Posted By Tim Bray

Put another dime in the jukebox, baby. I like more or less all the music, at least all of its that written by humans and performed by musicians, which excludes most modern industrial. But Rock is the music of my time and tribe, and while other kinds can make me dream and weep, its the only one where the first guitar chord makes me smile and before long I cant not dance. Half a century In 1966, shrimpy 11-year-old me was on a pre-Christmas visit to my uncle in Drumheller, Alberta, and then we drove back to Edmonton, only a few highway hours but his car heater was on the blink and it was like -20°, so we stopped in a diner at least once an hour to warm up.

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 17:26:56 UTC

AWS re:Invent 2016

Posted By James Hamilton

Last week we held the 5th annual AWS re:Invent conference. This conference is my favorite opportunity to get into more detail with customers and partners and to learn more about some of the incredible innovations AWS customers are producing. The first year, I was impressed by the conference scale. Back in 2012 it still felt like...

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 03:03:53 UTC

Identity theft: the proof

Posted By Greg Lehey

Found in my spam folder today: From: Card SafeGuard RFID Bloc. Re: Your identity can be hacked - Your identity can be hacked Your identity could be stolen To stop all Ads follow Un_sub_scribe extended/ TD /may /mercer /090 /sizes /Lemon /russia /accepts' Barclays /plastic /s /Ha /dogg's / From: [email protected] Re:Viagra,Cialis,Levitra - ACM only downloads articles once.

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 02:41:57 UTC

Second guessing Ethernet relay board

Posted By Greg Lehey

Finally got round to connecting up my Ethernet relay board to the network. It was wise to wait until I had some time. How would a generic board with no instructions connect to an unknown network? That's what DHCP is for. Of course, there's the question how normal users can then know the IP address of the device, but I wasn't too worried about that at the moment. I just connected it up and checked with arp: === [email protected] (/dev/pts/41) ~ 1 -> arp -a ( at 10:f3:11:e9:9f:01 on xl0 expires in 884 seconds [ethernet] ( at 00:50:da:cf:07:35 on xl0 permanent [ethernet] ( at 8c:89:a5:7a:a7:bf on em0 expires in 1183 seconds [ethernet] ( at bc:5f:f4:c9:9b:bf on em0 permanent [ethernet] ( at 00:25:9b:6e:34:36 on em0 expires in 869 seconds [ethernet] ( at 00:1f:d0:20:4e:7f on em0 expires ...

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 22:26:38 UTC

Computer vs Human 0-1

Posted By Diomidis D. Spinellis

Earlier today the Athens State Orchestra played the Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78 by Camille Saint-Saens, which is also known as the Organ Symphony . The French organist and composer Thierry Escaich was supposed to play the organ. There was a slight delay at the beginning: a lady appeared on stage and explained that there were technical problems with the organ's "brain".

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Things about re:Invent

Posted By Tim Bray

The AWSpalooza took me to Vegas for four nights, with thirty thousand or so other cloud-heads. Herewith notes and sparkly Vegas pictures. Growth The numbers tell the story: from 12K to 19K to 32K, and I dont see any reason itll slow down. While the organization and logistics were formidable, obviously the work of seasoned pros, were getting close to the limit of what those venues can bear. Im pretty relaxed about life, but had a couple of little claustrophobia flashes, when the crowds overfilled those huge hallways. I took along the Achromat lens because its good at sparkly things and Vegas has lots of those.

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 23:51:39 UTC

My keynote from the OReilly Security Conference: Security and feudalism: Own or be pwned

Posted By Cory Doctorow

Here’s the 32 minute video of my presentation at last month’s O’Reilly Security Conference in New York, “Security and feudalism: Own or be pwned.” Cory Doctorow explains how EFF is battling the perfect storm of bad security, abusive business practices, and threats to the very nature of property itself, fighting for a future where our... more

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 22:18:05 UTC

Ethernet relay card

Posted By Greg Lehey

My complaint to the eBay seller of the Ethernet relay card, asking for documentation, didn't bring much in the way of a result: Please don't worry,I have submit your question to the product department,they will reply us in 1-2 working days. Could you kindly contact us after 2 working day?We will try our best to solve the problem. I can see that's going to be a dead end.

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 21:54:19 UTC

Recovering dumb phone videos

Posted By Greg Lehey

So yesterday I managed to sideload Yvonne's video from her dumb phone to my new Android tablet. Uploading it to a real computer was no more pain than usual, though the image quality is appalling: There are a couple of reasons there. First, it wasn't taken well, but the rolling shutter effect is amazing. But then we never bought the phones for such purposes. If Yvonne had had her camera with her, she could have got reasonable quality images. But what about the USB interface on the phone?

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 21:45:50 UTC

Posted By Greg Lehey

After my scammer experience on Tuesday, I noted a button to report abuse to, so reported that, along with the code, which might help. And I got a reply: Thank you for contacting LogMeIn Customer Care, and for sharing the recent experience you had with a third party using our LogMeIn Rescue product. We encourage anyone who believes that someone is using LogMeIn software maliciously to report it, as we investigate each claim filed. We take abuse of our software very seriously and would appreciate collecting more information from you in efforts to identify who was attempting to initiate that Rescue session.

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Transforming Development with AWS

Posted By Werner Vogels

In my keynote at AWS re:Invent today, I announced 13 new features and services (in addition to the 15 we announced yesterday). My favorite parts of James Bond movies is are where 007 gets to visit Q to pick up and learn about new tools of the trade: super-powered tools with special features which that he can use to complete his missions, and, in some cases, get out of some nasty scrapes. Bond always seems to have the perfect tool for every situation that he finds himself in. * At AWS, we want to be the Q for developers, giving them the super-powered tools and services with deep features in the Cloud.

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Validating State Machines

Posted By Tim Bray

This morning we released AWS Step Functions, a Serverless Distributed Cloud Microservices Polyglot Workflow Orchestration Coordinator thingie. Its cool; you want to read about it, visit Jeff Barrs joint. Step Functions uses state machines specified in a JSON DSL called the States language. This piece is about the two validators I wrote for States documents, one of which is interesting. Not that many people care about validators and parsers; so if you think you probably wont be interested in the rest of this piece, youre probably right. The validator in the service Like most AWS Services, Step Functions has a front-end that handles the API calls and dispatches the work.