Blog Index

First Semi-final-results in Eurovision 2017

The Eurovision 2017 contest is this Saturday, and today was the First Semi-Final. Of the 20 entries today, 10 have been selected: Moldova: Hey Mamma by Sunstroke Project; Azerbaijan: Skeletons by Dihaj; Greece: This Is Love by Demy; Sweden: I Can’t Go On by Robin Bengtsson; Portugal: Amar Pelos Dois by Salvador Sobral; Poland: Flashlight by Kasia Moś; Armenia: Fly With Me by Artsvik; Australia: Don’t Come Easy by Isaiah; Cyprus: Gravity by Hovigp; Belgium: City Lights by Blanche. These include some very intriguing songs, and some leaving me going WTF. (May 9, 2017)

Blade Runner 2049 - the 'Reboot' that looks worthy of the original

Blade Runner is an awesome movie with deep questions about humanity and the creations we make. Blade Runner 2049 is a reboot movie, and given the ridiculousness of most 'reboot' efforts I'd expected the worst from it. The official trailer makes me stand up and take notice. If the movie lives up to this trailer, it will be just as awesome as the original. (Mon May 08 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (PDT))

Overthinking Eurovision with the biggest Eurovision Gimmicks of 2017

Eurovision is a kitschy song contest with pretentions of Great Importance. That makes it very easy to overthink Eurovision entries. This video is a deep dive into two of the best entries in Eurovision 2017, My Friend from Croatia, and Yodel It! from Romania. I love both of these songs, and wow this guy does a great bit of over-thinking. I'm also tossing in a few videos made by Ilinca, the Yodel It singer, because I like them very much. (Sun May 07 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (PDT))

Brickerbot, vigilante software aiming to kill malicious botnets by killing IoT devices

The last few months has seen escalating botnet activity on the Internet. The botnet operators are targeting non-existent security in certain Internet of Things devices. Some devices, like wireless security cameras or baby monitors, are not only connected to the Internet, but have gaping security holes. Using those holes, botnet operators have ammassed vast flotillas of Internet devices that can be commanded to attack targets on the Internet. Last fall several attacks, larger than any previously seen, attacked several large sites and even brought down critical Internet infrastructure on a few instances. The Brickerbot appears to be a Botnet purposed with destroying those malicious botnets. One hopes the cure is better than the illness. (April 24, 2017)

Lenovo Flex 11 / Yoga N23 Chromebook Unboxing

The Lenovo Flex 11 is a new 11 inch-screen Chromebook with 4GB memory, 32GB storage. It has both USB-C and USB3, plus a full size HDMI output. The trackpad on the review unit has a little bit of travel before the click occurs. It has a Mediatek ARM processor, and gives a 9990 Octane score. Because the screen has fewer pixels than some other devices with the same processor, it's believed the Lenovo Flex 11 will perform better than the Acer R11. The price range is $230-270 and is a good value for that price, and should be very good around the home. Because it also has Lenovo Yoga branding, it has the hinges required for the screen to fold back allowing this device to act as a tablet computer. (April 20, 2017)

The Real Reason We Never Hear From Monty Python Anymore

Despite the impact Monty Python had on television and comedy, we don't hear much from them today. This video goes over the career progression of Monty Python members after the show closed down. (April 20, 2017)

MQTT testing for IoT devices on the Raspberry Pi

MQTT is a lightweight communications protocol meant for Internet of Things devices. It acts like a giant merry-go-round sending messages through a hierarchical structure of ports. It offers three levels of Quality of Service, from level 0 where messages can be lost, to level 2 where messages are held and resent if necessary. MQTT is easy to install on a Raspberry Pi or other Linux Single Board Computing device. MQTT itself is powerful, and the NODE RED platform (which is bundled in the Raspberry Pi) can make great use of MQTT and other facilities. (April 17, 2017)

Protesting Trump from the edge of space, with a touch of Opera

In what may be the first political protest from Space, the Autonomous Space Agency Network (ASAN) launched a balloon to near-earth orbit to send a message to the Trump Administration. Taking a cue from Astronaut Edgar Mitchel, who said 'From out there on the Moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter millions miles out and say: Look at that, you son of a bitch,' the message carried aloft by the balloon said exactly that. As in - Hey Trump, come up here and see what this planet really looks like, and what your actual responsibility is as a fellow human being. (April 16, 2017)

British man invents a real-life Iron Man suit, and his name isn't Elon Musk

Not many people would be brave enough to try this, so kudos to Richard Browning before we rip him for being so crazy. For the past 18 months he (an ex-Royal Marine) has been tinkering in his garage building a jet engine powered exoskeleton thingy. The video shows experiments with the machine, and that it is currently only useful for small hovering flights. The pilot steers it completely manually by moving arms and legs to direct the jet thrust. Which sounds cool, but also extremely dangerous at the same time. (April 15, 2017)

Not even Darth Vader can get away with drinking and driving

Recently Sith Lord Darth Vader was apprehended by Police in Mountain View while out on a mid-afternoon bender with an underage Storm Trooper. It's not known what furor will arise in the Imperial Senate, but the incident is proof that even Lord Vader is fallable. The ever-vigilant Mountain View were not swayed by his mind tricks. (April 15, 2017)

Relive the glory days of Mac OS 7 on a Raspberry Pi

Have fond memories of Mac OS 7 but unable to find an old Mac? With a simple Mac emulator, an inexpensive Raspberry Pi becomes a competent old-school Mac capable of running Mac OS 7. Oh, and all those old games. The video goes over what's involved, so have fun. (April 12, 2017)

The 1972-era desktop sized iPod

Who says that before the iPod we could play one song/album at a time? Cassette players held one tape, and at up to 120 minutes per tape that meant about 2 albums worth of music, after which you'd have to manually switch the tape. Oh the inhumanity of it all, having to walk across the room to switch tapes. With a record player, you could stack multiple records and it would play one after another. For the most part we were stuck playing one, or maybe two, albums at a time. And we walked uphill, both ways, through the snow, every day to school. Actually, ingenious engineers created wondrous mechanical gizmos for many purposes, including this cassette-tape carousel. It held up to 20 cassette tapes, could play one at a time, or could play a programmed sequence, for up to 2 1/2 days of continuous music. AND, it was built in 1972. I bet Steve Jobs was having fond memories of this cassette carousel when he inspired Apple to create the iPod. (Tue Apr 11 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (PDT))

Install Chrome OS On Your Old Laptop PC or Macbook using Cloudready

Chromebooks are excellent devices, offering a light-weight operating environment with great security features. You can buy ChromeOS devices with the operating system loaded in, which is a great choice. You may have an older computer sitting around gathering dust, whose useful lifetime can be extended by installing Cloudready. Cloudready is a ChromeOS distribution by Neverware that can be installed on a huge variety of x86 based computers. On the same hardware where Windows is SLOW, Cloudready runs FAST. (April 11, 2017)

Official entries in Eurovision 2017

Eurovision 2017 is coming up in May. All the entries have been selected and contestants are probably practicing and practicing to get ready. While there is an unwanted political kerfluffle between Ukraine (the host country) and Russia, we're looking forward to the contest. What's below are the official entries in the order listed on the eurovision.tv website. Curiously they're not listed in alphabetical order. Instead the ordering is, the first 18 are the running order of the First Semi-Final, the next 19 are the running order of the Second Semi-Final, and the last 6 are the countries which are pre-approved for Eurovision and are not required to participate in Semi-Finals. (April 7, 2017)

US House votes to roll back internet privacy rules, Trump signed it into law

Last week the US Congress voted to overturn Internet Privacy rules that had been enacted by the Obama Administration. As a result, the telephone companies and other Internet Service Providers will be able to sell our Internet browsing history and other private information to 'advertisers'. (April 3, 2017)

Introducing Google Gnome (4/1/2017)

After Google's success with the Google Home AI robot, Google is taking it a step further. The Google Gnome is designed to be used outdoors to finally implement the Smart Yard. Its functionality covers outdoors activities in the yard like turning the lawn hose on and off, or telling you wind direction and speed. The smart yard has finally arrived -- Meet Google Gnome. See how Gnome can transform your yard. (April 1, 2017)

SpaceX in historic first reuse of previously launched rocket, unless it's a hoax

SpaceX today made history with the first ever space-ship launch using a rocket that had previously flown. Today's SES-10 launch was flown by a Falcon 9 space-ship which had previously flown in April 2016. They had successfully landed that ship on their autonomous drone landing pad, then refurbished it, ensuring it was flight-ready, then flew it again today, and successfully landing the rocket on their landing pad ship. SpaceX's long-term goal is to reuse rocket ships multiple times, because the first stage rocket costs $60 million to build but only $200,000 to fuel. By reusing rockets, the cost of launching stuff into space will be drastically slashed, and humanity will be able to afford to launch more stuff into space. But - I said 'hoax' because there's at least one person on YouTube complaining the video is obviously a hoax. He latched onto the fact that for every landing, the video cuts out and they do not show the landing live, instead they magically show the rocket on the landing pad -- but -- cue sound effects -- obviously it's a fake, and they simply showed a different rocket on the ... sigh. Oh c'mon. (March 30, 2017)

British Home Secretary makes chillingly authoritarian response to 'terror' attack

Last week an angry man of Islamic descent (but born in Great Britain) rented a car, drove through a crowd on Westminster Bridge, killing several people, before killing a Police officer guarding Westminster Palace, after which he was shot and killed by other police officers. The killer may have been ISIS-connected (ISIS claims responsibility). In response British Home Secretary Amber Rudd named several online sites as hotbeds of online terrorism communication and radicalization. Her list included blogging platform Wordpress.com of all things. Her chilling message is there should be no secret places to hide. (March 27, 2017)

Why do we need Skype et al on Chromebook - should Google do everything for us?

Yesterday we wrote how to install Skype and other desktop software on ChromeOS devices, using Crouton. Today we ponder 'Why?'. Google intends the ChromeOS environment to provide a huge portion of our needs, but we went to a lot of trouble to install Crouton. Are we nuts? No, there are valid ideas going on here. (March 1, 2017)

Block remote root login via ssh on Ubuntu/etc to keep your server safe

A moment ago I was checking the system logs on my Ubuntu server and found that in auth.log reports that someone was repeatedly trying to SSH login as root. The "root" entry in /etc/passwd is setup so that no password will ever be matched, so perhaps this potential cracker would never get into my server anyway. But the requests are using bandwidth - and what if they were able to figure out a password that would work? Why not just block remote SSH login access to logging in as root in the first place? It's a bad idea to login directly as root - instead the recommended best practice is to login as a regular user then use sudo to perform things requiring super user access. (2016-11-25 23:56)

Easily have quality Git server on your laptop with Gogs and Docker, and enable auto-push to remote repository

Github doesn't have to be the only game for git servers - while they run an excellent service, you can't install it on your own server, making it little better (in "Freedom" regards) than a closed source proprietary software package. Yes it's expedient to host your repositories on Github, but do we all have to cede this functionality to them? There happen to be several alternatives to github that offer a competent web-based git repository service. I've looked at Gitlab and now Gogs (Go Git Server) and while both are competent systems, I think I'll be running Gogs (in Docker) full time on my laptop. While both Gitlab and Gogs can run in Docker containers making it easy to run them full time in the background, Gogs is lighter weight. (2016-10-01 20:47)

Canon introduces a new mirrorless digital camera, Canon EOS M5, 24 MPixels of goodness

Canon has expanded their line of mirrorless digital cameras, the Canon EOS M series, with a new entry, the Canon EOS M5. It has a 24 Mega Pixel APS-C sensor. Also introduced is the new Canon EF-M 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM lens, offering a an almost 10x zoom ratio. (2016-09-14 21:55)

Setting up LibreOffice to access MySQL database with JDBC driver

I wanted to try using LibreOffice Base on Mac OS X to play with a MySQL database. I thought it would be easy, just connect to the database and start doing queries, maybe even pull data into a LibreOffice spreadsheet for advanced data munging. But doing the obvious thing got me messages like "No Java Installation found" and "the driver class com.mysql.jdbc.Driver could not be found". Further, yahoogling with some obvious search phrases turned up nothing. Finally, going to LibreOffice.org and looking at the official LibreOffice Base documentation showed no instructions on setting up JDBC MySQL with LibreOffice. (2016-08-24 13:21)

The simple cure if a Wordpress custom content type doesn't display, but gives a 404 page not found

Sometimes custom content types stop displaying, on a Wordpress site. (2016-03-17 08:07)

How to restore a MySQL database and tables from .frm .ibd or .myd raw database files

Consider a situation - you've got a well tuned MySQL database server running some popular websites. The sites are implemented with Drupal and Wordpress, but using MySQL to store the content and settings. You think everything is fine, until one day you look at Google Analytics and are aghast to see zero traffic for the previous two days. You go to the websites and are greeted by a 404 error, with the server saying there's nothing there. You try logging into the server, but cannot, your login attempt is refused. You contact the hosting provider for help, and they tell you the directory containing all your websites and other files is completely empty. Oh.. and there's a note left behind from someone giving an http-something-or-other URL to click on, demanding payment in order for the server to be restored. (2016-03-16 22:05)

Big Brother touched Juniper Networks - backdoor allowed anyone to eavesdrop on communications

It's known the U.S. Government spy agencies have demanded "cooperation" from computer and networking equipment vendors in ensuring spy agencies can unlawfully tap into communications traffic. The effect is that anybody learning the secret keys used by government spies to wiretap communications can also listen in on communications. (2015-12-23 10:14)

If Wordpress is switching from PHP to Node.js, how should they do it?

Supposedly the Wordpress team is migrating Wordpress from PHP to Node.js. (2015-12-17 08:54)

Republican Presidential Candidates want massive violation of First Amendment and other American legal freedoms

We're in a silly season of U.S. presidential electioneering - of all people, Donald Trump is the leading Republican candidate for President, for example. Last night, civil liberties and the right to privacy was gravely threatened in the latest Republican Presidential candidates debate. Most of the candidates demonstrated they care nothing for our personal freedoms, and are willing to destroy American's freedom's in the name of "Fighting Terrorism". Donald Trump wants to shut down parts of the Internet, vaguely lacking in details. Sen. Ted Cruz says the recent San Bernardino happened because the FBI (et al) didn't do enough surveillance of online discussions. Carly Fiorina says that Silicon Valley needs to cooperate with Federal Officials to make sure they can tap into any conversation they want, and therefore spy on anything we say online. (2015-12-16 18:49)

Headless Wordpress/Drupal is galloping into view with Sleepy Hollow references tagging along for the ride

Headless Wordpress is becoming a thing, now that Wordpress 4.4 has been released and has some core support for a REST API. The Drupal world has seen Headless Drupal work for a couple years now, and the Wordpress community has seen the light as well. The advantages of decoupling the website rendering from content management are many, the biggest perhaps being the rapidly changing best practices landscape for delivering content to the display device. The capabilities at the client end are rapidly morphing, much more quickly than the release cycles of the content management systems. (2015-12-16 11:31)

Detect website visitors running ad blockers, gently remind them your livelihood is impacted

The adblockocalypse was supposed to make it impossible for website owners to make a living, because everyone is going to run ad blockers and we'd get no advertising revenue. Those of us who write on our websites have for years lived under the belief/hope that running advertising would give us a livable income letting us get on with the business of writing. While website advertising no longer works that well, it's an important component of the full monetization strategy every blogger or website author uses. (2015-12-09 17:21)

Avoid false spam decisions by Gmail's spam filters, stop losing critical emails in the spam folder

Gmail has done us all a great service by developing an excellent spam filter. I used to get hundreds of spam emails a day, and switching to Gmail reduced the spam rate to a few per week. No longer am I buried by spam. Of course the cost for this is to regularly visit the spam folder and see if Gmail accidentally marked any as spam (a.k.a. false positive for spam). Usually there's only a few and it's easy to click the "Not Spam" button to retrieve those emails back into the regular inbox. (2015-07-19 19:09)

Tame having dozens of open browser tabs in Chrome with the Great Suspender

I'm now primarily using a Chromebook for all my work - which includes software development on Linux, thanks to having installed Crouton. Since the Chromebook has only 4GB of main memory, things are a little constrained. I'm accustomed to running dozens of open tabs and on the Chromebook what happens is tabs are killed off when memory runs low, and if you revisit the tab it might cause a complete reload. That'd been bugging me until I found a new tool that completely tames open browser tabs. (2015-06-05 17:48)

46 Terabytes of data storage (for backups) sitting on a desktop

Backing-up your data is extremely important. Say you've been carefully storing your pictures and videos, your personal memories, your family history, on a laptop computer, and you've carefully moved the picture/video archive from laptop to laptop as you upgrade. What happens if the laptop is stolen, if you drop it and the drive breaks, or any of the other mishaps that can happen. If that single laptop is the sole solitary place that data is stored, you're screwed. This video goes over a few data backup options, and strongly recommends storing backups not just at your home, but somewhere else as well. The price for data storage units are falling rapidly, and thanks to powerful/compact computation their capabilities are growing. (February 27, 2015)

Lenovo Flex 10 SSD Upgrade and mini-review

The Lenovo Flex 10 is a very light-weight Windows computer that is extremely easy to update with an SSD drive. The SSD makes it a completely silent machine, reduces weight, reduces power consumption, hugely improves performance, and in general makes the computer much better. (Jun 13, 2014)

Chrome will become a new application distribution platform for any operating system - over time

What if a browser-based application can act in a desktop computer the same way as any regular application? Typically, browser based applications stay within the browser, and are launched inside the browser, while regular applications are launched through the regular desktop menubar or file system browser. Typically these worlds don't meet, but what if they did? (2014-05-09 13:22)

Ra - not just the Sun God, but a mighty fine programmers editor for Chrome for editing local files

I like my Chromebook (an Acer C720) because it's lightweight, slim, the battery lasts forever, and the performance is great. It's a wonderful machine on which to browse the web, run Gmail, Google Docs, etc. But there are several things I do frequently that is keeping me using my Mac desktop computer. The potential for freedom using the Chromebook is beckoning, but these use cases keep me chained to the Mac. (2014-05-07 23:22)

How to fix Google Chrome crazily creating extra new tabs when opening a new browser tab

Recently Chrome (on my Chromebook) began crazily creating a zillion new tabs every time I asked it to open a new tab. It was very painful, because every time opening a tab there was an explosion of new tabs being opened, and it meant trying to click the close-tab button to stop the explosion. At first I thought, "oh, Chrome got updated with a bug, they will sort it out, and issue an update." After waiting for a few days and it did not fix itself, I saw a note in passing that Google had changed something with the "New Tab page" .. and indeed, the excess new tabs being created had the URL "chrome-internal://newtab". (March 17, 2014)
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