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Postings for October 2020:  (31 posts)
Thu, 22 Oct 2020 01:59:43 UTC

Flushing inactive memory

Posted By Greg Lehey

I've been grumbling relatively silently for some time that my system has so much memory in ?inactive? state. Here a typical view: last pid: 42544;  load averages:  1.53,  1.28,  1.20     up 407+02:00:35 12:00:29 1677 processes:1 running, 1663 sleeping, 4 stopped, 9 zombie CPU: 21.8% user,  0.6% nice,  3.0% system,  0.3% interrupt, 74.4% idle Mem: 3477M Active, 23G Inact, 3197M Wired, 176M Cache, 1656M Buf, 1750M Free Swap: 20G Total, 9799M Used, 10G Free, 47% Inuse On the one hand I have 23 GB of inactive memory, over 70% of total memory, but I'm also using nearly 10 GB of swap.

Thu, 22 Oct 2020 01:20:58 UTC

More calendar(1) investigations

Posted By Greg Lehey

What do we do with calendar(1)? What do other systems do? Took a look at Linux, Mac OS, NetBSD, OpenBSD, and to my surprise all of them had calendar(1) and a similar set of calendar files, in each case in the hierarchy /usr/share/calendar/. The data files themselves are clearly closely related?every single one had the incorrect entry for the Boston Shoemakers?but the Linux one also had additional files, like calendar.kazakhstan. To my surprise, the Linux file for Australia included the line:  * $FreeBSD: head/usr.bin/calendar/calendars/calendar.australia 345251 2019-03-17 22:26:50Z grog $ And that's the current version on FreeBSD.

Wed, 21 Oct 2020 01:38:13 UTC

Keeping FreeBSD up to date

Posted By Greg Lehey

FreeBSD has been around for nearly 30 years now, and most of its files base on 4.4BSD. The important ones have been updated, of course, but there were also a lot of historical files, like the calendar information for the calendar program. I have it set up so that it sends me email with all calendar entries for the day. A couple of days ago I got such an entry: Oct 18  Boston Shoemakers form first US labor org., 1648 Huh? The USA wasn't founded until 1776.

Tue, 20 Oct 2020 20:23:39 UTC

Thu, Nov 19 NYCDEVOPS meetup: John Allspaw on "Learning From Incidents"

Posted By Tom Limoncelli

November's nycdevops meetup speaker is John Allspaw, who will give a talk titled "Findings From the Field: 2 Years of Learning From Incidents". The talk starts at 5pm sharp! (NY is in US/Eastern) Please RSVP! See you there! (This is a virtual meetup. Everyone in the world is invited!)

Tue, 20 Oct 2020 19:00:00 UTC

Google Antitrust Notes

Posted By Tim Bray

I just read the US antitrust ?Complaint? against Google. This is obviously just the first chapter of a very long story, but here are early observations. Don?t get upset that this is going to take years to work through. Figuring out how to unclench Google?s stranglehold on the Internet wouldn?t be easy even without their army of excellent lawyers fighting tooth and claw every step of the way, which they will be. It?s still worth doing. I found the Complaint document to be well-written and well-argued. You don?t need to be an antitrust attorney, or any kind of lawyer at all, to understand its argument.

Mon, 19 Oct 2020 01:37:14 UTC

Still more X issues

Posted By Greg Lehey

Yesterday I established that the error message I was receiving when trying to display email attachments on firefox was genuine: the X server had too many clients. How many? === grog@eureka (/dev/pts/27) ~ 144 -> xlsclients |wc       45     661    5495 === grog@eureka (/dev/pts/27) ~ 146 -> xwininfo -root -children | wc -l      424 45 clients? That doesn't seem very likely. Clearly there are many more windows. Looking at the window list on my displays I found: Display       Number       of clients ...

Mon, 19 Oct 2020 00:57:21 UTC

Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 19)

Posted By Cory Doctorow

Here’s part nineteen of my new reading of my novel Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (you can follow all the installments, as well as the reading I did in 2008/9, here). This is easily the weirdest novel I ever wrote. Gene Wolfe (RIP) gave me an amazing quote for it: “Someone Comes to... more

Sun, 18 Oct 2020 18:25:23 UTC

Stop Techno Dystopia with SRSLY WRONG

Posted By Cory Doctorow

SRSLY WRONG is a leftist/futuristic podcast incorporating sketches in long-form episodes; I became aware of them last year when Michael Pulsford recommended their series on “library socialism”, an idea I was so stricken by that it made its way into The Lost Cause, a novel I’m writing now. The Wrong Boys invited me on for... more

Sun, 18 Oct 2020 18:20:55 UTC

My appearance on the Judge John Hodgman podcast!

Posted By Cory Doctorow

I’ve been a fan of the Judge John Hodgman podcast for so many years, and often threaten my wife with bringing a case before the judge whenever we have a petty disagreement. I was so pleased to appear on the JJHO podcast (MP3) this week as part of the podcast tour for Attack Surface!

Sun, 18 Oct 2020 18:20:41 UTC

Talking writing with the Writing Excuses crew

Posted By Cory Doctorow

A million years ago, I set sail on the Writing Excuses Cruise, a writing workshop at sea. As part of that workshop, I sat down with the Writing Excuses podcast team (Mary Robinette Kowal, Piper J Drake, and Howard Taylor) and recorded a series of short episodes explaining my approach to writing. I had clean... more

Sun, 18 Oct 2020 00:43:03 UTC

Analysing X problems

Posted By Greg Lehey

After yesterday's catastrophe with X communication, my first thought was how to recover the situation to a point where I could continue working. What happens on server 1? Things work! In principle, I could stay there, but the rest of my environment is on server 0, and switching servers takes time. When I returned to server 0, without thinking I tried to view an email attachment. It worked! But not for long. After a while I ran into the old problem again. So I did some more investigation. The more I look, the clearer is that it doesn't directly relate to firefox.

Sat, 17 Oct 2020 02:13:59 UTC

More firefox pain

Posted By Greg Lehey

It's been over 6 months since I started a project to replace eureka with two machines, the other called dereel. It was slow going, and without real reasons I postponed things. One of the biggest reasons is the horror that is firefox. More and more web sites are refusing to talk to my old version, or placing severe restrictions on its usage. Today I discovered that I can no longer log in to eBay, or at least not under certain circumstances. OK, I have a more modern (and thus harder to use) firefox on dereel. Just get it to run on a eureka server.

Sat, 17 Oct 2020 01:06:29 UTC

Where's my failure report?

Posted By Greg Lehey

I have a daily cron job that reports grid power outages. But today there was none. Why? Off to look at my Heath Robinson power monitoring scripts. There are two main parts, apart from the MySQL database. ~/solar/suckdb fakes a web page to the inverter and creates a MySQL command with the help of a sed script: curl -N ''  -H 'Accept: text/event-stream' -H 'Referer:' -H 'Cookie: __utma=51177012.766199467.1486957619.1542435223.1545448630.4; __utmc=51177012; __utmz=51177012.1542145939.2.1.utmcsr=(direct)|utmccn=(direct)|utmcmd=(none); adblk=adblk_no' -H 'Connection: keep-alive' -H 'Cache-Control: no-cache' 2>/dev/null | sed -l -f frobdb.sed And ~/solar/insertdb runs suckdb and inserts the records into the database, politely ignoring errors: while :; do suckdb | grep --line-buffered ^Insert | mysql household; done So what went wrong?

Thu, 15 Oct 2020 19:00:00 UTC


Posted By Tim Bray

This is a recommendation for 2½ books and a just-launched TV series, and for the books? author, Eden Robinson. As a consequence of watching the TV pilot I?m now re-reading the books, which is strong testimony. While this is pretty Canadian stuff, I think the story of a disadvantaged and hard-pressed young aboriginal person, lost in strange spaces, would resonate in plenty of other landscapes. Anyhow, it?s dark and entertaining, with sex and drugs and rock ?n? roll and supernatural creatures you would not want to meet on a dark night. These are page-turners, keep-you-up-too-late stuff.

Wed, 14 Oct 2020 20:17:59 UTC

Oct 15 NYC DevOps Meetup: "Introduction to Site Reliability Engineering" by Nathen Harvey

Posted By Tom Limoncelli

This month's nycdevops meetup speaker is Nathen Harvey of Google, who will give a talk titled "Introduction to Site Reliability Engineering". The talk starts at 5pm sharp! (NY is in US/Eastern) Please RSVP! See you there! (This is a virtual meetup. Everyone around the world is invited!)

Wed, 14 Oct 2020 01:45:52 UTC

NBN maintenance: Becoming less obtrusive?

Posted By Greg Lehey

Another National Broadband Network scheduled outage notice today. There's nothing unusual about that, but this time there was a difference: during a 12 hour window from 23:00 on 5 November to 11:00 on 6 November, I may experience up to 5 one minute outages! I may, since I monitor the connectivity, but I doubt anybody else will. Hopefully this is an indication that they're becoming less obtrusive.

Wed, 14 Oct 2020 01:18:38 UTC

xpdf issues: blame svn!

Posted By Greg Lehey

I still couldn't understand why my xpdf build failed. Off to look at the source tree in more detail. Ran === grog@eureka (/dev/pts/42) /usr/ports/graphics/xpdf4/files 110 -> svn log patch-xpdf-qt_CMakeLists.txt svn: E155010: The node '/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/graphics/xpdf4/files/patch-xpdf-qt_CMakeLists.txt' was not found. Oh. svn update failed? === grog@eureka (/dev/pts/42) /usr/ports/graphics/xpdf4/files 111 -> svn up Updating '.' : At revision 552295. No. So why wasn't it deleted? svn is too modern to have a real man page, of course, and the suggestion in the excuse man page sounds like an insult: Documentation  for  Subversion  and its tools, including detailed usage explanations of the svn, svnadmin, svnserve and svnlook programs,  his- torical  background, philosophical approaches and reasonings, etc., can be found at .

Tue, 13 Oct 2020 16:43:37 UTC

Attack Surface is out!

Posted By Cory Doctorow

Today is the US/Canada release-date for Attack Surface, the third Little Brother book. It’s been a long time coming (Homeland, the second book, came out in 2013)! It’s the fourth book I’ve published in 2020, and it’s my last book of the year. When the lockdown hit in March, I started thinking about what... more

Tue, 13 Oct 2020 01:31:35 UTC

Investigating xpdf port

Posted By Greg Lehey

So why did my xpdf build fail yesterday? One of the patch files didn't apply cleanly. OK, take a look. The patch file's not big: --- xpdf-qt/CMakeLists.txt.orig 2017-08-08 23:22:50 UTC  *** +++ xpdf-qt/CMakeLists.txt @@ -86,6 +86,6 @@ if ((QT4_FOUND OR Qt5Widgets_FOUND) ${CMAKE_THREAD_LIBS_INIT}) set_property(TARGET xpdf PROPERTY WIN32_EXECUTABLE 1) -  install(TARGETS xpdf RUNTIME DESTINATION bin) -  install(FILES ${PROJECT_SOURCE_DIR}/doc/xpdf.1 DESTINATION man/man1) +  install(TARGETS xpdf RUNTIME DESTINATION libexec/xpdf) +  install(FILES ${PROJECT_SOURCE_DIR}/doc/xpdf.1 DESTINATION share/xpdf/man/man1) endif () And the file to be patched? The patch shows that the section in question starts at line 86:   target_link_libraries(xpdf ${QT_LIBRARIES} ${EXTRA_QT_LIBRARIES}                         ${PAPER_LIBRARY}                         ${FREETYPE_LIBRARY} ${FREETYPE_OTHER_LIBS}                  ...

Mon, 12 Oct 2020 15:26:01 UTC

Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 18)

Posted By Cory Doctorow

Here’s part eighteen of my new reading of my novel Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (you can follow all the installments, as well as the reading I did in 2008/9, here). Content warning for domestic abuse and sexual violence. This is easily the weirdest novel I ever wrote. Gene Wolfe (RIP) gave me... more

Mon, 12 Oct 2020 00:29:49 UTC

More ports pain

Posted By Greg Lehey

One of the things I've been meaning to do for some time is to learn about the Proto-Indo-European language. OK, after looking at the TV news, tried a document I have: === grog@teevee (/dev/pts/10) ~/Documentation/Language 172 -> xpdf An_outline_of_Proto_Indo_European.pdf Bus error Dammit, what's wrong now? It happened with every document. Update? OK, that worked, requiring a surprising number of Qt dependencies (aren't there a surprising number?) . Try again. === grog@teevee (/dev/pts/10) ~/Documentation/Language 172 -> xpdf An_outline_of_Proto_Indo_European.pdf Config Error: No paper information available - using defaults Cannot mix incompatible Qt library (5.13.2) with this library (5.15.0) Abort trap Dammit!

Sat, 10 Oct 2020 14:00:05 UTC

Danish Little Brother, now a free, CC-licensed download

Posted By Cory Doctorow

Science Fiction Cirklen is a member-funded co-op of Danish science fiction fans; they raise money to produce print translations of sf novels that Danes would otherwise have to read in English. They work together to translate the work, commission art, and pay to have the book printed and distributed to bookstores in order to get... more

Thu, 08 Oct 2020 01:30:53 UTC

Race condition, caught

Posted By Greg Lehey

I have a script for watching TV. It runs mpv to display the file and does some bookkeeping, including updating a list of files that we have seen. That's not completely transparent: it writes a temporary file foo in the current directory, arguably something that I should change. Today we watched the final episode in a directory. Can I delete the directory? Not yet: foo is still there. Let's check: === grog@teevee (/dev/pts/3) /spool/Series/90-min/Nord-bei-Nordwest 9 -> ls -l total 0 ls: ./foo: No such file or directory -rw-r--r--  1 grog  home  0  7 Oct 21:18 foo Somewhere between the second and first line (in that sequence), foo was removed.

Mon, 05 Oct 2020 16:49:28 UTC

Free copies of Attack Surface for institutions (schools, libraries, classrooms, etc)

Posted By Cory Doctorow

Figuring out how to tour a book in the lockdown age is hard. Many authors have opted to do a handful of essentially identical events with a couple of stores as a way of spreading out the times so that readers with different work-schedules, etc can make it. But not me. My next novel, Attack... more

Mon, 05 Oct 2020 14:50:02 UTC

Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 17)

Posted By Cory Doctorow

Here’s part seventeen of my new reading of my novel Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (you can follow all the installments, as well as the reading I did in 2008/9, here). This is easily the weirdest novel I ever wrote. Gene Wolfe (RIP) gave me an amazing quote for it: “Someone Comes to... more

Mon, 05 Oct 2020 01:56:37 UTC

US military attack decoded

Posted By Greg Lehey

Juha Kupiainen came up with an insight on the presumed attack from the US military last week. The URL was:;cGPM5qAnLsbMaV7KZOmgdpyLReLuEGTO7yFyD9dPYd0= He put that through and came up with:^G^F<j^Brl?N^Gi?^.^FL^W t^] Now why was that used? And what's the trailing junk? It does, however, suggest that it wasn't as malicious as I might have expected.

Sun, 04 Oct 2020 19:00:00 UTC

Long Links

Posted By Tim Bray

Welcome to the fourth monthly ?Long Links? instalment, in which I take advantage of my lightly-employed status to enjoy high-quality long-form pieces and point out a few that seem worthwhile in the hope that you might fit one or two into your busier lives. Truth has long been one of my obsessions and is a recurring theme in this blog. I?m contemplating something really long-form on the subject. It occurred to me that there might be a Wikipedia entry on Truth and wow, is there ever. I enjoyed reading it. The only systems of thought I know of that dare a claim to dispense absolute truth are religions.

Sun, 04 Oct 2020 01:48:29 UTC

Strange spam

Posted By Greg Lehey

From time to time I see spam subject lines that make me sit back and think. Here are two:   29 N + 03-10-2020 Home Solar Installat (  87) N + Home Solar Panel Incentives For Local Residents   30 N + 03-10-2020 AmericanPatriotCo Co (  58) N + Honor Your Favorite President With A Trump Coin Turn the first one around. Home Solar Panel Incentives For Non-Local Residents? What did they think when they used the word ?local?? Geographically close to the spammer? People who live near their houses?

Sat, 03 Oct 2020 02:59:45 UTC

US Military: unreachable

Posted By Greg Lehey

Not completely unexpected mail today: Date: Fri,  2 Oct 2020 02:10:55 +0000 (UTC) From: Mail Delivery System <> To: Subject: Undelivered Mail Returned to Sender This is the mail system at host I'm sorry to have to inform you that your message could not be delivered to one or more recipients. It's attached below. <>: connect to[]:25: Operation timed out Somehow this all demonstrates a level of incompetence that I hadn't expected from the most powerful military in the world.

Sat, 03 Oct 2020 02:48:30 UTC

Bloody ?smart? phones, ipHone edition

Posted By Greg Lehey

Tried to call Petra Gietz on her mobile phone this morning. It diverted immediately to voice mail. OK, not a problem, she came by a few minutes later, so I told her about the diversion. Oh yes, she knew about that, but she didn't know what was wrong. It's an iPhone 5, something I have had (and rejected) before. How hard can it be? Took a look, in the process also, at Petra's request, to disable the requirement for a pass code when powering on. I couldn't manage it and had to enlist Daniel O'Connor's help. The real issue is the menu system (why does the icon for ?Settings?

Fri, 02 Oct 2020 19:00:00 UTC

I Hate My MacBook

Posted By Tim Bray

In March I bought a 16" MacBook Pro, reasonably well tricked out: 2.3GHz 8-core Intel i9, 32G RAM, Radeon 5500M with 8G, 4T of disk. I hate it. It is slow and buggy enough that I wonder if maybe it?s a lemon? Herewith the gripes, for no particular reason other than it makes me feel like shouting at the world. Bluetooth It?s lame. I tried to broadcast music to the audio system in my boat and it sounds like dogshit and disconnects all the time. The car/boat audio guy said ?Oh yeah, everyone knows the Mac Bluetooth is useless.?