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

Postings for September 2022:  (30 posts)
Tue, 27 Sep 2022 01:12:26 UTC

Cornering the UTF-8 issues

Posted By Greg Lehey

For months now I have been running two TV computers:, the ?real? computer with a dying disk, and with a valid disk and up-to-date but no display. And I've been dragging my heels. Why? The X installation requires me to have time when it's not recording something, and there isn't much of that. In addition, I've had some bad experiences with HDMI cables, and I want to be sure that I don't end up in a situation like last year, where the TV no longer worked. The other is more important, though: why can't I use normal keyboard bindings with bash on tiwi?

Mon, 26 Sep 2022 01:02:57 UTC

Making money with free software

Posted By Greg Lehey

An interesting thread on the Unix Heritage Society mailing list recently got me thinking. Andy Kosela wrote: That reminds me of the excellent dissertation of Gerald Holzmann on Code Inflation. The situation is even worse now and honestly I don't see it will improve in the future. My take on the code inflation problem is that today without paid "volunteers" (from IBM, Oracle, Google, etc.) a large chunk of our modern software landscape would just collapse. It is not 90s Internet anymore where hobbyists did it for fun, because frankly back then it was fun...

Sun, 25 Sep 2022 15:50:29 UTC

Something I implemented today: ?is void?

Posted By Herb Sutter

[Edited to add pre-publication link to next draft of P2392, revision 2] Brief background As I presented at CppCon 2021 starting at 11:15, I’m proposing is (a general type or value query) and as (a general cast, for only the safe casts) for C++ evolution. The talk, and the ISO C++ evolution paper P2392 it’s … Continue reading Something I implemented today: “is void” →

Thu, 22 Sep 2022 02:44:49 UTC

Quora apologizes

Posted By Greg Lehey

Unexpected mail from Quora moderation today: We are very sorry for this experience. Your content,, was mistakenly removed as a violation of our spam policy, but it is now reinstated. That's the response to my complaint on Monday. As I said at the time, I wasn't really expecting that. And since then I have received no more questions from the Spam Generator. Have they removed it, or just blocked me from seeing the questions?

Wed, 21 Sep 2022 19:00:00 UTC

Luxury media

Posted By Tim Bray

I was cruising through the supermarket when a shopping-cart traffic jam stalled me in front of the ?newsstand?. That word is in quotes because most things on offer aren?t news and in fact aren?t magazines in the traditional sense, but single-issue glossies about Princess Diana or Bruce Springsteen or Michelle Obama or Christmas. Anyhow, an awesome cover photo of an owl on the The Atlantic caught my eye; that cover also touted an article about Jack White, whose music I enjoy, so I impulse-bought it. Now I?m thinking about the quality-publishing business model.

Wed, 21 Sep 2022 01:56:45 UTC

Rare Space Phenomenon Alarms NASA

Posted By Greg Lehey

Mail from ABC today: 29 N + 19-09-2022 To groggyhimsel (  63) ABC News    N + Rare Space Phenomenon Alarms NASA Sensationalists! What's it about? From: ABC News <> Subject: Rare Space Phenomenon Alarms NASA Message-ID: <> izabeth was born at 02:40 (GMT) on 21 April 1926, during the reign of her paternal grandfather, ... Elizabeth's only sibling, Princess Margaret, was born in 1930. The two princesses were educated... I've seen that before, most recently 2 days ago. The URLs point to a different domain, but the layout and the spurious plain text are similar in concept.

Wed, 21 Sep 2022 01:35:27 UTC

The eternal system upgrade

Posted By Greg Lehey

Seen in my diary 20 years ago: More work on upgrading systems today. It's terrible work. I spent most of the day trying to find a clean way to upgrade /etc, and failed. mergemaster produced a lot of output, but didn't do very much else. Left me with about 80 files which had to be merged by hand, including such no-brainers as /etc/defaults/rc.conf. This system is just about unworkable. So I've been trying to get things right for over 20 years! Today, though, I did make some progress.

Tue, 20 Sep 2022 01:18:42 UTC

Goodbye Quora?

Posted By Greg Lehey

Quora seems to be as good as dead. Just about all questions now come from the Quora Spam Generator, and I've been responding with my opinions of that. But it seems that I have offended the spambot. Today I got a message: Your answer has been deleted as it was found to be in violation of our Spam policy. To learn more about Quora's policy, click here: If you think this is an error, you can appeal here: Spam from me? ?Appealed?

Tue, 20 Sep 2022 00:57:15 UTC

Exploring rc again

Posted By Greg Lehey

As planned, spent some time reading up on /etc/rc and subsidiaries. They prove to go back to work done by Luke Mewburn in the NetBSD project. And it seems that both /etc/rc.d and /etc/rc.conf.d/ are intended to hold complete scripts, not just the definitions that I'm looking for. What I want is a way to include snippets like this only once: nfs_client_enable=YES           # This host is an NFS client (or NO). nfs_server_enable=YES           # This host is an NFS server (or NO). rpc_lockd_enable="YES"          # Run NFS rpc.lockd needed for client/server.

Mon, 19 Sep 2022 18:21:57 UTC

My CppCon 2022 talk is online: ?Can C++ be 10x simpler & safer ? ??

Posted By Herb Sutter

It was great to see many of you at CppCon, in person and online! It was a really fun conference this year, and the exhibitor hall felt crowded again which was a good feeling as we all start traveling more again. The talk I gave on Friday is now on YouTube. In it I describe … Continue reading My CppCon 2022 talk is online: “Can C++ be 10x simpler & safer … ?” →

Mon, 19 Sep 2022 02:15:56 UTC

rc revisited

Posted By Greg Lehey

Ever since 4BSD, BSD machines use a set of scripts, starting with /etc/rc, to start the machine. /etc/rc itself is invariant, but it reads a configuration file /etc/rc.conf to set the machine up. How do I set this up programmatically with my new system install scripts? My idea had been to create a directory /etc/rc.conf.d/ and put individual configuration routines in there, then modifying rc.conf to read them in and apply them. But rc is a moving target, and it's not clear where it's going. My recent installations all have a directory /etc/rc.conf.d/, but there's nothing in them, and there's almost no mention of it in the man page.

Mon, 19 Sep 2022 01:29:02 UTC

Spam: ain itself

Posted By Greg Lehey

Spam message today:  615 N + 18-09-2022 To groggyhimsel (  60) Delta Airlines Shopp N + Congratulations! You can get a $90 United Airlines gift card! OK, I was once a Delta airlines frequent flyer. Is it possible that it isn't spam? Look at the text version in case they're tracking me by URL: From  Sun Sep 18 16:35:31 2022 DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha1; c=relaxed/relaxed; s=k1;;         h=Mime-Version:Content-Type:Date:From:Reply-To:Subject:To:Message-ID;; Congratulations! You can get a $90 United Airlines gift card! attached by wires.

Mon, 19 Sep 2022 01:20:31 UTC

Android MAC addresses, continued

Posted By Greg Lehey

Mail from Bartosz today, who pointed me at this page. It explains that yes, indeed, Android uses random MAC addresses as a ?security? measure to make people harder to track. And it shows how to disable it on a per-network basis. OK, take a look. To my surprise, the method still works, but the settings I found were surprising: it was already set up for ?use device MAC?. So presumably the change only happens when the network is set up. Bartosz was surprised; he has checked the code and found no way that that could happen.

Sun, 18 Sep 2022 01:12:32 UTC

More Android fun

Posted By Greg Lehey

By this morning my reconfiguration of enzian, the Xiaomi Redmi 9A was complete. Well, almost complete. At least two of the apps that I use regularly, WiFi [sic] File Transfer and Mendhak GPS logger, weren't installed. And there were more surprises. My main intention was to maintain configuration, but that didn't happen. The FTP server was installed with default configuration, and for some reason it buzzes when I perform certain functions, like display home screen. That might actually be useful: the thing is so glacially slow that it's good to know that it has taken note. And the MAC address change? Yes, Andy Snow confirmed that this is a feature and not a bug, or that at least the Android developers think so.

Sat, 17 Sep 2022 01:36:16 UTC

A change of pain

Posted By Greg Lehey

So what do I do with bde? The keyboard has a hardware CapsLock key that I can't remap. And my fingers are so used to having Ctrl in that position that that's a show-stopper. Yes, I can almost certainly connect an external keyboard, but that negates the purpose of a laptop. So: the obvious thing to do is finish setting up tiwi, which has been hanging for a couple of reasons. Here the change to UTF-8 breaks a number of things, including grep and my shell interface?the keyboard issue again. I also need to finish installing X on that machine, but that's nothing by comparison.

Fri, 16 Sep 2022 02:14:49 UTC

Off the Net!

Posted By Greg Lehey

Say what you will, mobile phones can be a source of information. This time last week I missed the news at 7:00, but when I got into the office I swiped my phone and got the startling news that Elizabeth II had died. This morning it beeped at me and told me that we were off the net. And so we were, sort of. More a case of extreme flakiness, which my scripts reported as no fewer than 26 outages with an average duration of 110 seconds. The reality was a little different: times of relatively good connection, times with very poor connection.

Thu, 15 Sep 2022 03:31:08 UTC

Laptop installation: impasse

Posted By Greg Lehey

Spent some time tuning my ?new system install? scripts today. Made reasonable progress until I tried my standard keyboard remapping, in particular Ctrl next to A, Alt in bottom left corner of keyboard. Then I got === grog@bde (/dev/pts/43) ~ 6 -> xmodmap ~/xmodmap.bde xmodmap:  /home/grog/.xmodmap-bde:2:  bad keysym in remove modifier list 'Caps_Lock', no corresponding keycodes xmodmap:  /home/grog/.xmodmap-bde:6:  bad keysym target keysym 'Caps_Lock', no corresponding keycodes xmodmap:  2 errors encountered, aborting. What's that? After some investigation, it seems that the laptop keyboard has a hardware CapsLock key which can't be remapped.

Wed, 14 Sep 2022 02:33:39 UTC

Fastest Internet service

Posted By Greg Lehey

Another statistic from Statista today: That's supposed to be the mean downlink (?download?) speed. I have a hard time believing that. I think I only know one person with a downlink of over 100 Mb/s (Jari Kirma). Certainly such speeds aren't generally available in Australia, and as long as they charge a premium for higher speeds, it's not clear why anybody would want them. I can get nominal 75 Mb/s, but I've chosen to stay with 25 Mb/s simply because of the price.

Wed, 14 Sep 2022 02:03:30 UTC

Installing BSD, 30 years later

Posted By Greg Lehey

It's been well over 30 years since I first installed BSD on a PC. It was challenging then, and in 1998 I did an all-day tutorial on the subject at the AUUG annual conference?and didn't finish. And of course I've written a book on the subject. In the course of the years, installing the base system has become trivial much easier. Everything that I described in September 1998 is now a matter of 10 minutes and a few almost routine inputs. But things don't end there. What I still can't completely get my head round is how to maintain continuity. At the very latest, I started writing configuration files such as ~/.bashrc and ~/.emacs when I did my first BSD installation, but there's also a chance that I started even earlier with my first Unix installation in about 1987.

Mon, 12 Sep 2022 16:00:00 UTC

Now Go Build -- Season 3

Posted By Werner Vogels

Today the first episode of season3 of Now Go Build is available

Mon, 12 Sep 2022 01:31:32 UTC

Device reliability pain

Posted By Greg Lehey

Into the office this morning to hear beep-beep-beep at regular intervals. My weather station software telling me that the internal unit wasn't getting any data from the external unit. Damn! This happens far too often. The units are only about 20 m apart, but from time to time they don't communicate. And then things come good again, for reasons that I don't understand. Took the internal unit into the lounge room, where it has direct 10 m line of sight through the windows. No data. Batteries in the internal unit low? Take them out and measure them. The readings were all over the place, from almost nothing to over 2 V!

Fri, 09 Sep 2022 03:26:17 UTC

Installing bde

Posted By Greg Lehey

I've been dragging my heels on my computer configuration for years now. In the meantime, I need to: Finally update eureka, my main machine. The current installation dates from 25 November 2015, and I've been procrastinating on this one for at least 2 years. Finally migrate tiwi to teevee. Continue the installation of bde, a laptop I inherited from Bruce Evans. I started this three months ago, but ran into problems and put it into the ?too hard?

Thu, 08 Sep 2022 00:51:35 UTC

More exploit blocking

Posted By Greg Lehey

Spent some time tidying up yesterday's code for the web exploit, greatly hampered by web browsers that cache old contents. It seems to work now. And then there's another! I wish I understood how this stuff gets executed before I refer to it.

Wed, 07 Sep 2022 02:42:34 UTC

Understanding the web exploit

Posted By Greg Lehey

I've worked around yesterday's security issue, but I didn't really understand. But today it came clear, at least partially. The page in question has input fields, and they look like: <form action="$me" method="get">           <td>    <input type="submit" value="Search keywords in description:"/> ...         </form> $me is set in a header file: $me = $_SERVER ["PHP_SELF"];                    /* name of this script */ And $_SERVER ["PHP_SELF"] includes all the trailing nonsense that the crackers used.

Wed, 07 Sep 2022 02:31:01 UTC

Maths for the masses, part 2

Posted By Greg Lehey

The Reserve Bank of Australia has raised the interest rate again, for the 5th time in 5 months, and this time by 0.5%, as the ABC reports. To help understand what it means, they write: According to analysis by RateCity, the latest increase will add a further $216 a month to a $750,000 mortgage. OK, I'll bite. 0.5% interest on $750,000 are $3,750. You don't need an ?analysis? to come to that conclusion: you should be able to do it in your head. And that's $312.50 per month.

Wed, 07 Sep 2022 02:06:49 UTC

Maths for the masses, part 1

Posted By Greg Lehey

Another almost meaningless statistic from Statista today: Africa Leads the World in Solar Power Potential. What does that mean? They provided this image: What does ?kWh/kWp per day? mean? kWh is clear: it's a kilowatt hour, a marginally metric way of saying 3.6 mJ. But ?kWp?? They're too polite to assume that I don't know. After a lot of searching it proved to mean ?Kilowatt peak?, the rated output of the panels. But in my experience that's not the peak: it's (barely) possible to exceed that value.

Tue, 06 Sep 2022 02:02:11 UTC

Web security breach

Posted By Greg Lehey

Mail from openbugbounty today, telling me of a security breach on the URL"><svG onLoad=prompt(9)> gave rise to this result: Huh? What's that? The URL makes no sense to me at all. Where do I find something that explains it? About the only interesting thing is that this part of the URL: photos.php/x. I didn't know that you could extend a PHP script URL beyond the final .php. But a bit of examination shows that phpinfo() returns that part as $_SERVER ["PATH_INFO"].

Mon, 05 Sep 2022 02:11:10 UTC

Best Asian supermarkets in Ballarat

Posted By Greg Lehey

There aren't many grocers in Ballarat that cater for non-Western food. The only ones I regularly visit are the Fruit Shack, the ?Ballarat Asian Grocery? next door and the Indian place next to the Curry Star in Dana Street. But while looking for something else, advertising caught my mind: ?Find the best Asian Supermarkets [note that plural] in Ballarat?. OK, I'll bite: BEST Asian Supermarkets in Ballarat VIC Need an Asian grocery store? These 0 results are waiting for your call.

Fri, 02 Sep 2022 19:00:00 UTC

Hello, Ruler

Posted By Tim Bray

Hey, look what?s been open-sourced: AWS Event Ruler! Check out the announcement blog. I built v1.0 of this Java library while I was at AWS, and wrote about it in Filtering Lessons. Tl;dr: It offers APIs for declaring pattern-matching Rules, as many as you like, then for presenting data records called Events and finding out which Rules each Event matches, very quickly. It?s in production in multiple Amazon (not just AWS) services, notably EventBridge. Also see: Content-based Filtering. I wrote the Quamina library because I liked the Ruler concept so much that I wanted a do-over in another language.

Thu, 01 Sep 2022 00:03:40 UTC

Welcome, new RACV member!

Posted By Greg Lehey

Received a strange letter in the (snail) mail yesterday: a membership card from RACV. I've been a member since this month! Problem: I have another card with the same membership number which says that I've been a member since May 1997. It's also a pretty gold colour, while the new one is blue. Should I care? Yes. RACV has proved to be the cheapest car insurance, and the discount I get depends on years of membership. OK, bite the bullet, call up their help line and fight my way through the menu (4, 7). ?Hello, welcome to RACV. This is mumble.