Items of interest, October 19, 2021

The Dutch magazine De Groene Amsterdammer has done a few articles on right-wing populism in the periphery, arguing that this populism is filling the gap where the ‘visible government’ disappeared. These are in Dutch but are of lasting interest, so I’m linking them here:

Hoe Den Haag uit Nederland verdween (How The Hague disappeared from the Netherlands – The Hague being the seat of government). This article talks to people from across the political spectrum, including the leader of the local PVV in Pekela, who is trying to win support by focusing on issues that are more like the old school labour party’s focus than that of a far-right anti-immigration party.

Nederland kent ook een geografische kloof (The Netherlands also has a geographic rift) offers more of the same, including some numbers on local school and library closures over the past few decades.

After the latest Apple Event, I had some thoughts on the value proposition of M1 Pro and Max chipsets and my own computer use. I’m reposting the thread here with minor revisions:

Once again, I have been successfully Marketed To in the sense that these new superpowered MacBook Pros are definitely Things I Want. However, I have no use case for them for as long as my 2013 iMac and 2015 MacBook Pro can handle everything I actually use them for, which are the same things I used them for in 2013 and 2015, apart from some simple music stuff that I’ve been doing this year.

Takeaways from the #AppleEvent :

  1. US prices less outrageous than I expected (NOTE: EU Prices actually as outrageous as I expected with EUR amounts greater than the USD amounts);
  2. Super-powerful laptops that are worth every penny IF you have the use case. If not, don’t bother;
  3. Apple is backtracking from bad decisions from the later half of the Jony Ive era by getting rid of the Touch Bar, reintroducing ports including HDMI, and generally not trying to make the lightest laptop ever;
  4. In that context, the notch is probably a fresh bad decision, but not one that matters that much. The notch is a minor quirk that you can mock for a few seconds and then move on. It won’t ruin the user experience like the Touch Bar and the lack of ports did. There’s even an odd charm to its bodgyness – proof that it’s not a form-over-function device. (That’s not quite the whole truth but it’s not far from it.)/li>
  5. Finally, Tim Cook’s presentation skills work so much better in these pre-recorded events than live. Let the guy have his tall grass and his room full of memojis. Like the notch, Tim Cook is often a bit ridiculous, so it’s arguably the case that the new MacBook Pros are the first that reflect the company CEO’s personality.

Asahi linux is not a distro but “an overall project to develop support for [M1] Macs” and as such may become more important as these Macs age.

Items of interest, October 15, 2021

OpenBSD 7.0 has been released (Openbsd.org). I’ve actually been back to trying to get an OS onto the old iBook from 2005 before all OSes stop supporting it, and OpenBSD is still on the list of candidates. But it’s gonna be whichever one is the first to actually successfully install and work.

Speaking of which, given the state of the website, I also checked the website of Matthew Graybosch to look for information on a very old technology that I might use to rebuild the website. That article has gone, as I thought it might when I last linked to it, but the tech I was thinking of was Makefiles. The advantage of using Makefiles is that it does away with the (technical and cultural) dependencies that make modern webdev unnecessarily complex: the Make command exists on every even vaguely Unix-like computer and works pretty much the same everywhere. When you learn to use it, you can apply that ability outside of the one-time task of generating 1200 static webpages. So if it keeps raining this weekend, I may study that a bit and see if it works. Another possibility may be using emacs org-mode, which I use from time to time anyway.
Even though the post I was looking for on Matthew Graybosch’s website was no longer there, I found plenty of inspiration there anyway. I was unaware of openbsd.amsterdam, which hosts a site for a static site generator that I was also unaware of and that I may try if the other options don’t work out. Matthew also has new features on their website such as Now and Uses, which I would like to create as well. I tend to hear about these things for the first time when they go on their comeback tour. Finally, their tagline “a face made for radio, a voice made for print” is something that I’ve said about myself quite often.

Items of interest, October 14, 2021

Since my diagnosis, I’ve had to admit to myself that I no longer have the spoons I used to. Even though I’m already working reduced hours, I am exhausted by the end of my working day and if there’s a crisis, this fatigue gets worse. My diagnosis itself was a crisis, as was my stepson’s sudden hospitalization last weekend.

This is why I don’t do this linklog in what I consider the ‘proper’ way anymore: I don’t post daily, don’t type the posts offline, don’t tag consistently and don’t go out of my way to track the source. All I try to accomplish is to store and distribute posts that I find interesting. I can’t make this thing as good as I used to be able to, but I can at least make it serve its purpose.

NOWHERE HERE: CYBERSPACE & THE ASSASSINATION OF THE UNREAL is a history of the concept of cyberspace as an actual space, and its conquest and arguable annihilation by dystopian surveillance capitalism.

Items of interest, October 9, 2021

I have just been diagnosed with Palindromic rheumatism, which at this point is mostly a fancy name for “exactly the weird symptoms I’ve had for twenty years, which I put up with until they started appearing more frequently, for longer and more severely”. For now, this diagnosis doesn’t change much for me; I don’t have to do anything or give up anything, except maybe sobriety. But in about a third to half of all cases, palindromic rheumatism develops into full-blown rheumatoid arthritis and so I will need to get checkups and have X-Rays taken every year or so.

Here’s a well-written write-up of the condition.

Firefox now sends your address bar keystrokes to mozilla and how to stop that.

Imagine The End OF Facebook. Librarian Shipwreck on how it’s more complicated than just #deleteFacebook.

Items of interest, October 7, 2021

Last Friday, my MacBook Pro wouldn’t finish booting up and it took me until Tuesday to troubleshoot and solve the problem. In my experience, Macs fail less than other consumer-grade operating systems, but when they do, it’s bad. At the same time, Aggie and I were working on prepping a 2013 MacBook Air that we weren’t using (until my MB Pro stopped working) to give away to a friend and we encountered weird issues with that system as well. Those issues came from how the previous owner had set up multi-booting on it.
The problem with the MacBook Pro could not be resolved without creating a bootable recovery system on a USB thumb drive, so for future reference, here’s how to do that. I now have USB thumb drives for the OS version that the MacBook Pro runs on (Mojave at the time of writing), and the two that came after it. Will also update my older iMac here shortly. It still runs on Yosemite which means I can run Photoshop CS4 on it (just!) but all Chromium-based software is giving me trouble.

THE ECLECTIC LIGHT COMPANY is a Mac blog (mostly) with a strong focus on booting, installing, security and volumes – all the under the hood stuff that you don’t think about until you have to. Author has been using Macs for a very long time and knows them inside and out.

9 horrifying facts from the Facebook whistleblower’s new 60 Minutes interview. I could add any of a dozen links like this, but one is as good as another.

How AT&T helped fund far-right One America Network. All companies are bad, because capitalism is bad. But some are worse than others.

Items of interest, September 29, 2021

A DIY Calorie Counter More Accurate Than A Smartphone. IEEE Spectrum. It’s not hard to make a calorie counter more accurate than a smartphone because smartphones are terrible at calorie counting. But this is still cool.

My wife rescued her 10-year-old Dell computer that was giving her trouble by installing plain vanilla Ubuntu on it. She’s very pleased with how it looks and works, and with the progress linux has made in the gaming area, but she thinks for the long run, she’ll want to use Pop OS.

Trom is “A trade-free video hosting platform for science/technology/nature videos in the English language. You do not have to trade your currency, data, attention, freedom or anything else, in order to use it.” and has a well-run Peertube instance. Among others, it’s host to Topless Topics, which has been banned or restricted on all the commercial platforms for no good reason. Here’s her Interview with the Just Naked Podcast about Nudism/Naturism vs Topfree Equality.

Bitcoin’s Growing E-waste Problem. Literally nothing about cryptocurrency is good.

Sarah Taber has a few thing to say about how we’re all refusing to understand the history of homesteading in the US.

State of the website, September 28, 2021

The state of the website as of last night is that the webcomic part of it, the section that contains Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan and some other comics, is down. You can still find most of my comics on ComicFury, including new Danish translations of several of them.

I’ve had to take this step after getting an excess resource consumption message from my hosting provider, Hostpapa (formerly Lunarpages). Normally, this is the signal for me that it’s time to do some maintenance, so I updated my robots.txt to disallow the crawlers that were misbehaving, deleted a whole number of outdated scripts files they were misbehaving on (all of the Movable Type installation from way back when is now gone, including the content), and updated PHP to version 8.0. The latter of which broke Willowcms again, if only mildly. It still works, but it generates a very large number of error messages, which is one thing that may cause future excess resource consumption messages.

So this put the need to replace Willowcms on the agenda again, because it’s a one-person project and that person has enough on her plate right now. When I discussed this with Aggie, she became very interested, so I told her what I had looked into the last time I did reactive maintenance, and what my plans for the website would be if I had time/energy to implement them (I don’t – I barely have time for the things I want to do and do not want another time-sucking project in my life. However, I cannot imagine not self-hosting the bulk of my work, because you can never trust a platform not to sell you out).

So, I recapped what I did the last time this became anywhere near top-of-mind, which wasn’t as long ago as I thought it was: July of 2019. Then, the plan was to rebuild the webcomics archives with a static page generator like Jekyll or Hugo. I had even been in contact with a cartoonist/developer who had worked on a set of webcomic templates for Jekyll and who was willing to take input and feedback from me (thanks again, Yncke!) and experimented with building a site using files from Spun Off.

I also explained what frustrated me away from working on this migration at the time, which basically boiled down to feeling that I was replacing complexity in site management (PHP + SQL + Willowcms itself) with complexity in tooling: it’s one thing that I had to install the programming language Ruby to be able to run scripts that were written in Ruby, but while looking into how to work with it, I ran into a set of cultural expectations that made the process of web page creation in 2021 seem unnecessarily complex. It seemed to be not so much technically required as culturally expected that web developers stored both their code and their content in repositories such as Gitlab or Github, and that they built their HTML and CSS using frameworks like SaSS or Bulma (Bulma in particular does things that as an old school website author, I find abominable, such as using the HTML <i> tag as an empty placeholder to trigger CSS instructions that create buttons. WHY OH GOD WHY?). None of these are strictly necessary but each new reference to one of these non-mandatory requirements that were based on How People Do Things Now created a time-consuming distraction from the task at hand, and once I was distracted from the task at hand, it was easier for me to shift my focus to something that interested me more, like actually drawing comics. So that project fell by the wayside as I drifted away from it, until last night, when it was unexpectedly placed into harsh focus by my hosting provider.

Aggie, it turned out, was really interested in helping out with this as she had just placed herself in computer geek mode in an attempt to revive her broken desktop box. She heard me out and offered to investigate solutions. The first thing she looked at was the cpanel of my hosting provider, to see what alternatives to static site generators they might offer. See, this is the kind of lateral thinking I need in my life. I had never looked into Softalicious to see what it might offer out of the box. It turns out there are several flat-file CMS options available that might help me out, such as Flatpress and HTMLY that might be more straightforward to use than a static site generators, and offer some dynamic features if I want them. So I passed the project on to her. My initial take on flat-file CMSes versus static site generators is that for a new project, I would definitely prefer a flat-file CMS but for migrating 1300 pages of an old webcomic that I rarely update anymore, an SSG might still be the better option. More on this.
I also noticed that Nextcloud was right there within Softalicious, so I will be looking into installing that and moving away from Dropbox at long last. There’s a good chance that I will be spending more time working within my web hosting environment in the future, so I might as well make it worth my while, even if this means paying a little more for my hosting due to intensive use.

Items of interest for September 24, 2021

I went back to the office for two days. Here are my observations:
1. The company moved and the new office is everything I could wish for. No more open plan, but instead rooms that seat four people. Separate meeting areas in each room. Good Covid safety protocols and room to implement them in. Free face masks for anyone that needs them. A larger kitchen. Great location.
2. Bicycle commuting after 18 months at home is… ooft. The 32-km round trip knocks me off my feet.

I specifically booked the second day so I could take part in the company running group training after work, but after Day 1, it was clear that I was either going to bike or run, but not both. Since the opportunity to run depended on me biking there but not vice versa, I opted to bike.
The one downside to the new location is that we’re on the fourth floor. In 2019, I would have taken the stairs but right now, I cannot make myself do that after bicycling for an hour.
Yes, I’ve also gotten slower. Then again, because I have to take the laptop back unless I’m absolutely sure I’ll be working at the office the next day, I’m carrying more of a load than I used to.

In other things…
Using a 30 year old laptop in 2021: The Psion MC400CXF. As you might know, I believe we need more like this: more ways to keep using old tech so we don’t need to produce and purchase so much new.
(Also from the same blog: A Love Affair With Compact Cassette.)

Some more items of interest (Sep. 20, 2021)

Going back to this linklogging in a quick and dirty way for a bit. Mostly for things that would take more of my time to look at than I have now, so I want to store the links to look at them later. I am going to do less tagging and categorizing so that maintaining this is less work.
People’s Computer Company from the early 1970s, a computer newsletter that understood back then where things were going and wanted to stop it (or so it seems from the description I was given. There’s a whole archive there to dig through).

Quoted as saying (somewhere in there, anyway):
Computers are mostly
used against people instead of for people
used to control people instead of to free them
time to change all that –
we need a …
PEOPLE’S COMPUTER COMPANY

Via Andrew Roach, another thing I don’t have time for right now: Freak Power, a movie about Hunter. S. Thompson’s bid to be elected as Sheriff in Aspen, Colorado in 1970.

A few items of interest

‘Hyperrealism Sculpture’ exhibit in Brussels invites naked visitors – Pre-pandemic, I went to see this exhibit in Rotterdam and enjoyed it very much. The Kunsthal organises one or two nude tours a year and I’d like to do another one, but what with the anti-covid measures and the pandemic itself, we’ve not been back.

It inspired this image a year or so later:

Drawing of the cast of Greyfriar's Isle in a gallery
The cast of Greyfriar’s Isle in a gallery

The secure messaging app Signal has its problems. Article lists two alternatives, Matrix and Element, which runs on Matrix. I have no time to look more deeply into this now but would like to do so later.

A selection of Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan comics is now being published in Danish.

Prompts for Botober 2021 have been generated and published, and once again, they’re delightful.