Matigo dot See, eh? https://matigo.ca The Semi-Coherent Ramblings of a Canadian in Asia Fri, 26 Apr 2019 09:32:49 +0000 EN https://matigo.ca/avatars/jason_fox_box.jpg Matigo dot See, eh? https://matigo.ca Clean The Semi-Coherent Ramblings of a Canadian in Asia hourly 1 Streams (19D260) ood new, fanbys. Apple spds up n-str McBook latop kyboad rpairs, ccrding t hs leakd mmo https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/04/25/apple_spds_up_kyboad_rpairs/ Thu, 25 Apr 2019 11:00:00 +0000 Jason 3edd564b-e6ff-d27d-0ec9-1e023c4740ec

Apple is speeding up repairs of defective laptop keyboards that have left MacBook users angry, frustrated, and firing off lawsuits. […] The iGiant has ordered its posh shops to turn around in-store laptop keyboard repairs faster, according to a memo seen by MacRumors. Repairs have, in the past, been largely done off-site and take three to five days, but now Apple wants its in-store geniuses to fix keyboards on the same day, and is shipping them the parts to do so.

I'd be pretty upset if my work machine was gone for a week. Mind you, I would not be comfortable handing over any of my computers without first removing the storage devices and putting in temporary "dummies" that contained just a bare OS installation. Given the number of NDAs I am under at any given time, there's no way I'd want to risk an unmonitored 3rd-party having physical access to a computer.

2018-era MacBook Keyboard

Back when I picked up my first MacBook Air the keyboards that Apple put out were some of my favourite. The amount of travel was just right. The keys bounced back fast enough for me to type without slowing down1. The reliability was second to none.

A lot of Apple fans have lamented that the company is no longer interested in "power users", and maybe they're right. Apple is clearly focusing more of its energy on media delivery, where keyboards are generally not required. That said, I would really like to see the company trot out a newer machine with the older keyboard and say something along the lines of "Back by popular demand …".

Probably won't happen anytime soon, though.

  1. Well … I had to slow down when typing into some versions of Evernote. That program went downhill pretty quick after the company ran out of ways to grow the tool.

]]>
Yes
Noise https://matigo.ca/2019/04/25/noise Thu, 25 Apr 2019 03:00:00 +0000 Jason 85f8ca8f-b909-ff15-3d7a-1b13396f3d25 Many years ago, when I was in high school and knew everything, there would be days when my parents would be quite sensitive to certain kinds of noise. Sometimes they would complain about the Backstreet Boys cassette my sisters played on repeat a dozen times a day. Sometimes they would complain about the noise from my younger brother as he would complain ceaselessly about how something or other "wasn't fair". This would often strike me as odd given that when seven people live in the same house, a certain tolerance to noise was required.

At some point in my 30s, my ears started giving me problems. Well … I thought it was my ears. There were the signs of tinnitus by mid-afternoon six days a week. There was the desire to wear noise-isolating headphones everywhere, even if they weren't plugged into anything (aside from my ears, of course). Occasionally an ear would even stop working, rendering me deaf on one side for a number of hours. A lot of this was taken in stride, though. The tinnitus was likely the result of working at a printing company for many years without wearing ear protection1. The headphones were the desire to block out human interaction as well as the audio assault one contends with when working in the city. The temporary deafness in one ear was caused from stress.

Or so I thought.

Over the last couple of years one of the things I've noticed about sound is that most of it is fine so long as there is a purpose. Sounds that have no immediate value or — worse — obstruct other sounds appear to cause a physical reaction in me. This is especially prevalent when the TV is on. Japanese TV is not quite as weird as YouTube videos would have a person think, but it can be incredibly annoying in the name of "fun". There might be multiple layers of background music playing while one or more people are talking about a subject. There might be sound effects placed in random spots just to give the sound effects person a reason to get out of bed that day. There might be as many as six people talking all at once resulting in two or three overlapping conversations while background music is playing and a laugh track chimes in every couple of seconds.

I just can't stand it for more than a couple of minutes, yet I'm in the minority here as both Reiko and the boy enjoy having the TV on for several hours a day. When they're talking while the TV is on, my ears start to tighten up, I feel my chest tighten as well, and I just want to leave the room or shut the TV off. Muting does help, but not always.

Which strikes me as odd. If the problem was with my ears and how they process sound, then muting the TV should resolve the issue. Instead it just puts my rising tensions on pause. The problem likely isn't my ears, but in my head … like so many of my other problems.

After a number of conversations, there's a better understanding in the house that sometimes I need to insist the TV gets shut off for a few hours. This doesn't always happen, but the number of times that I've been able to ask that the TV be shut off and see it stay off is nice. One day I might see a doctor about this. Given my past experiences with Japanese doctors looking at my ears, though, it might be a while before that day comes.

  1. The company did provide free ear plugs, but that made it really hard for me to hear people above the thrum of the presses. After a couple of hours, I opted to just deal with the noise.

]]>
Yes
Asleep at the Keyboard https://matigo.ca/2019/04/24/asleep-at-the-keyboard Wed, 24 Apr 2019 07:30:00 +0000 Jason 1c8fd94c-9f6e-775e-7640-219ecabeff10 Today an interesting thing happened in that I fell asleep at the keyboard while in the middle of writing a SQL query. This is the first time in recent memory that I've lost consciousness mid-thought, and it's clearly a sign that I'm not getting enough sleep. While I no longer have the accuracy of a sleep tracker like SleepCycle to tell me just how poorly I'm resting, I can count on one hand the number of hours of sleep I've achieved since Sunday. Last time I checked, today is Wednesday. Meetings are taking place at all hours of the day. The boy needs attention for the 12 hours he's not sleeping. Nozomi and Reiko also need a bit of time. Then there's the time I dedicate to 10C and freelance jobs. Clearly the body is a lot more tired than I'm admitting, which means falling asleep at the keyboard1.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Keyboard

To make up for the lack of rest over the last couple of nights, I've blocked the schedule from 10:00pm until the start of the following day. Hopefully this will mean getting to bed by 11:00pm at the latest and falling asleep somewhere between 30~60 seconds later2.

There are just two more working days to go this week before the start of Golden Week, which will work out to 10 consecutive days off work with six of those days being fully paid holidays. The lack of OT will hurt the pay cheque a little bit, but the ability to get some sound sleep will more than make up for a few hundred dollars less in income.

  1. Would this be short-keyed as AAK?

  2. I generally fall asleep within 15~30 seconds after lying down in bed but, when overtired, a little more time is needed.

]]>
Yes
Accenture sued over website redesign so bad it Hertz: Car hire biz demands $32m+ for 'defective' cyber-revamp https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/04/23/hertz_accenture_lawsuit/ Wed, 24 Apr 2019 02:00:00 +0000 Jason 70da5b4f-200d-9b79-e1ad-65822bfa0f8c

Car rental giant Hertz is suing over a website redesign from hell. […] The US corporation hired monster management consultancy firm Accenture in August 2016 to completely revamp its online presence. The new site was due to go live in December 2017. But a failure to get on top of things led to a delay to January 2018, and then a second delay to April 2018 which was then also missed, we're told.

Reading this story, I'd really like to be hired by Hertz. Not only because they seem to have no qualms spending scads of cash for something that shouldn't cost millions, but because they're clearly patient as hell.

]]>
Yes
If Software Were Music ... https://matigo.ca/2019/04/23/if-software-were-music Tue, 23 Apr 2019 03:00:00 +0000 Jason 2dfb9639-4206-cac2-5b0b-841d972c7aa4 An odd thought crossed my mind the other day1. While listening to some of the better music to come out of the 80s and 90s, I wondered if there was any software from this time period that I'm still actively using. Given the speed at which technologies change and get rewritten, very little of what we see today is more than a couple of years old. Sure, some of the core components of Windows or Oracle might be a decade or two old, but these would be small components of larger projects, like a modern piece of music with a forever-repeating sample from James Brown.

Will any of the software tools that we use today continue to exist and be useful in 30 years?

Blurry Code

Being useful is important. Unless the planet is plunged into some sort of crisis that has wiped out all digitally-stored information everywhere, there are bound to be backups of software that is in use today sitting on an optical disc at the back of someone's closet. Crazy hypotheticals aside, I considered a semi-realistic one: of the software I use today, which ones could realistically continue to be useful until 2050 without any further updates?

Before continuing, I should state that I am fully entrenched in the world of Linux. While I do have a couple of iOS and Android-powered devices in the house, these sealed appliances with known operational lifespans do not count. I'm simply looking at the tools that I use on Linux.

Thinking through the question, I can think of just a handful of applications that are not part of the default installation of Ubuntu Linux that would still be useful in their current form in 2050:

  • Sublime Text, a pretty decent text editor
  • Typora, my favourite Markdown-friendly text editor
  • Gimp, the Gnu IMage Processing application
  • Glances, a command-line tool to see resource usage

Using the base installation of Ubuntu would mean that I could use the file manager, terminal, and a bunch of other built-in applications that make using the system easier. None of today's browsers would work very well with the web in 30 years, though. Grab a copy of Netscape Navigator 3.5 and try to open a site. Most of them will be an absolute mess. A lot of the other tools that I use would likely not work as expected, such as source control programs, API testing utilities, and database clients. A lot of these things would break because of new security protocols in place. Others might break for different reasons. Thinking back on all the support software I would use when deveoping over the years, none of the applications would work today … except maybe SQL Server Management Studio from around 2000, so long as it's connecting to a database that is also 20 years old2.

Given that we've been writing software for well over half a century, at what point will we start seeing applications — that are not on spacecraft — have operational lives stretching into decades? Will people use and enjoy older applications like a person might enjoy older music? I wonder ….

  1. Well, "odd thoughts" cross the mind all the time. This particular one seemed interesting, though.

  2. SQL Server Management Studio that shipped with SQL Server 2000 on a shiny silver CD — like I still have upstairs — would not connect to a SQL Server 2005 instance until later service packs were released. Even then, it's rare for an older SQL Server client to connect to too new a database engine.

]]>
Yes
Different https://matigo.ca/2019/04/22/different Mon, 22 Apr 2019 03:00:00 +0000 Jason 28ec0ffb-86c7-f3c6-af6e-d234683024fa A nearby kindergarten held a little bit of an open house today as part of their regular efforts to recruit students for the next school year. Working from home means that instead of relying solely on Reiko's judgement for which school the boy should attend1, I can visit the schools and act as a second set of eyes. More than this, I attended a French-Immersion kindergarten in Ontario. There's no way I can pretend to know what goes on in a Japanese school unless I see for myself.

And see, I did.

The basics of kindergarten are all the same as I remember from 37 years ago. The playground is large and well-trodden. There are toys strewn all over the place until the teachers come along to pick them up. Teachers work in teams of two for classes larger than 25 kids2. The facilities are generally locked down to prevent weirdos from coming in. A rabbit is sitting in a cage outside, generally enjoying not being bothered by children. There's nothing sharp anywhere.

The differences stood out like a sore thumb. There was nudity.

At first I thought this was that sort of "silly nudity" where a young child will take their pants off for a joke or just to get a reaction out of a teacher. But then I saw a second child without pants. Then a third. Then a fourth. In a classroom of at least 25, a good number of kids — both boys and girls — were running around half-clothed. Some kids chanted "がんばれ!" while others went into a small room. Some were watching the group of 10 parents who were walking through the school.

"Before classes go out for a walk, children are encouraged to go to the bathroom. For children who are not completely potty trained, this is a reassuring way for them to learn."— the lead teacher guiding the group

Maybe this is something I just don't remember but, to the best of my knowledge, there was never a "potty activity" when I was in school. Kids would sometimes have accidents and that would cause a bit of a problem, of course, but this was completely new to me. Reiko was also a little surprised to see it as it wasn't done at her kindergarten, either. My reticence to having teachers encourage my kid to take his pants off in front of a group may be due to a Christian upbringing in Canada, where nudity is "shameful" and must never be done ever, ever … but I'd really much rather the boy not get into a state of undress in front of his classmates or teachers.

A moment later we moved on to the next part of the tour where we went up to the roof of the school3, where another class was putting their hands or feet into shallow buckets of paint before stepping on large sheets of paper. The kids were having a lot of fun on the roof, but I had to question why they weren't in a classroom with air conditioning. The roof was at least 30 degrees in direct sunlight, which was certainly a bit warm for me.

It's different.

All in all, the school looked like a decent place for the students that we saw and most of the parents seemed happy with everything they heard. Would I be comfortable sending the boy there? Not completely. While the rooftop activities would be fine on a cooler day, I'm not at all keen on dealing with heat stroke. I've had that twice before, and it's no picnic4. As for nudity? I'm really not comfortable with this.

There are three other schools that Reiko, the boy, and I will be checking out over the coming months. One of the three will likely not even warrant a visit as the reviews online are all negative, with most mothers complaining about the lack of learning their kids are doing. The other two, however, show some promise.

  1. I would be completely fine with this, as Reiko has been a teacher for her entire professional life. She knows what to look for in educators and institutions. That said, what's the point of working from home if I cannot actively participate in the boy's development?

  2. I can barely manage to stay sane with just one kid. How do kindergarten teachers manage to do what they do?

  3. School roofs are generally evacuation areas for neighbourhoods in times of flood, so there are strong fences and safeties in place to ensure nobody falls off. This is quite different from the schools I attended in Canada, where the roof was pretty much "off limits" and impossible to get to.

  4. Funny story about heat stroke. When I was 17 I was out playing baseball for about 11 hours on a sunny Saturday. That night I went to bed and woke up Monday afternoon. Apparently my sisters couldn't wake me no matter what they tried. Wait … that wasn't funny ….

]]>
Yes
Five Things https://matigo.ca/2019/04/21/five-things Sun, 21 Apr 2019 14:00:00 +0000 Jason 04a12ca3-82af-a8fc-8c33-2d4e7dc1d186 The weather this weekend was so nice that men over sixty were wearing winter jackets, people under 40 were wearing jeans and a light jacket, and kids were wearing as little as their parents allowed. As one would expect, the family and I managed to spend a good bit of the daylight hours outside. While the boy was not always happy with what was going on at any particular moment, he did greatly enjoy playing in the 7-Eleven-sized sandbox at a park not too far away. Lots of pictures were taken, and I even managed to get some great shots thanks to the fast shutter speed of the Canon DSLR. The summer humidity is not far off, so we're trying to enjoy as much time outside as we can beforehand.

Weather report aside, it's time for another list of things that don't necessarily warrant a blog post. First up …

The $300 CD

There used to be a popular music store in Ontario called Sam the Record Man that would often import albums from around the world. In the fall of 2000, Hamasaki Ayumi's 3rd studio album Duty was released to much fanfare, and I wanted a real copy, not just the decent-quality MP3s from Napster. So on the week of the release I called ahead to confirm the store had stock of the CD and asked that one be set aside for me, and I would be up on Saturday morning. On Friday I rented a car from the nearby Budget and invited a friend to join me on the 2-hour drive from Hamilton to Toronto to pick up a CD from Japan.

Young people have so much time on their hands.

The drive up was probably uneventful as I don't remember much about it. When we arrived at the music shop I went up to the counter and asked if they had my CD on hand. The clerk checked and, as one would expect when a young person calls a store asking that something be set aside, the CD was not waiting for me. Fortunately there were still two discs in stock and I picked up the coveted album for the insane price of $44.95 CAD, which was before the 15% tax was applied. Of course, as I had rented a car and drove for two hours just to get this CD, I didn't stop at just one Japanese import disc. I bought three: the aforementioned Duty album, a TM Revolution album, and a compilation from Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Not only was I young, foolish, and employed, I was stupid, too. All in all, the three discs came out to a little over $100, making the trip to Toronto come in at around $300 in total. Did I enjoy the drive? Absolutely. Did I enjoy the CD? Very much so, as I still listen to it today … on Spotify. Would I do something like this again? Probably not for music or some sort of collector's item.

Not the Target Audience

April is considered the start of the year in Japan for schools, TV shows, and a number of businesses that prefer fiscal years not follow calendar years. This year a number of shows that the boy likes to watch have seen regular cast members go and new people join. Animated shows such as Thomas and Friends has also started another season, with the voice actors the boy and I have come to know reprising their roles. There's just one problem: I strongly dislike the changes. Especially when it comes to Thomas and Friends.

The boy disagrees. He loves the changes. I haven't heard him laugh this much when watching his programs ever. Clearly I'm not the target audience, and that's fine. So long as the boy is happy, then my opinions on the matter are less than inconsequential.

Power Napping

In an effort to try and regain some semblance of sanity, I've decided to invest some time in power naps throughout the day. For the moment it's just five to ten minutes in the afternoon, but may try to squeeze in ten minutes after 4:00pm as well. With a slightly more rested mind, better things will happen … like being able to stay awake during meetings.

The Sound of Processing

Sleeping in the same room as the 10C server1 means I get to hear when the system is doing some heavier lifting. What's interesting is hearing the system and the hard drives work when it comes time to do the hourly and daily backups2. There's a certain rhythm to each backup and I've already worked out the sounds of a healthy backup.

I wonder if people who work at data centres also train their ears to catch anomalies.

Pre-Pre-Kindergarten

Tomorrow will be a big day for the boy as a nearby kindergarten opens its gates to neighbourhood children who will start attending school for half a day starting April 2020. There are three kindergartens in the area and we're not yet 100% certain which school would be best for him, so tomorrow's open house will be an interesting opportunity to see the facilities, the teachers, and how the boy reacts to everything. He's not particularly comfortable in areas with a whole lot of foot traffic, but kindergartens should be different given the size of the feet.

With just one week remaining before most of the country shuts down to celebrate the series of national holidays and the new emperor's coronation, it will be interesting to see how much work gets thrown my way. Given the amount of overtime that I've been clocking the last couple of weeks, I fully expect managers to start stepping in and asking that I do much, much less.

This is assuming, of course, that managers at the day job start to manage.

  1. My snoring is keeping people awake, so it's better if I sleep in a different room for the time being.

  2. The database is backed up hourly and the files are done daily. Spinning disks are used to store uploaded data while SSDs are used for the databases.

]]>
Yes
You're not getting enough sleep—and it's killing you https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/04/youre-not-getting-enough-sleep-and-its-killing-you/ Sat, 20 Apr 2019 23:30:28 +0000 Jason 92341e7b-b9ef-5a40-521f-979ade2d00ff

The decimation of sleep throughout industrialized nations is having a catastrophic impact on our health, our wellness, even the safety and education of our children. It's a silent sleep-loss epidemic. It's fast becoming one of the greatest challenges we face in the 21st century.

Sleep is something that a lot of people are forfeiting for something else, but it is quite "expensive". One of the problems that I'm struggling with is staying awake when seated. If I'm a bit too comfortable, then I'll fall asleep within seconds. So I sit on wooden chairs or not at all. This allows me to stay awake.

]]>
Yes
Topics https://matigo.ca/2019/04/20/topics Sat, 20 Apr 2019 03:00:00 +0000 Jason 7b8039d8-9e3e-7fc1-e4b1-e5545cb4d228 Earlier this evening, while Nozomi and I were out for an after-dinner walk, I was thinking about some of the things I might write about today. As with most days, there were a number of topics that I could write about, but only enough time to focus on one. To make matters more complicated, the subject couldn't be too complicated, otherwise any attempt to write intelligently on the subject would be ruined by my inability to remain consistently conscious when sitting down1, which is exacerbated further if sitting on my bed. So with all of this in mind, what could I possibly choose to write about today to put the bow on another week?

One of the more interesting challenges that I've started running into when planning the day's article is writing about something different from the 2,800+ other posts on this site. With over a decade worth of writing published on this site, choosing something that is relatively untouched is by no means easy. I'll admit that there are a number of recurring themes that pop up from time to time, either involving the boy, the day job, or my mental state, but I do try to write about something different whenever possible. This isn't so much for the benefit of people reading the blog, but more for the enjoyment of writing.

Today's possible topics involved the monthly Windows Magazine that I used to collect and look forward to every month as a teen, sleeping in a room with a server, the challenges of taking good pictures of children or puppies, and the purpose of desktop backgrounds on machines where you almost always fun applications full screen. All of these are worthwhile, but only one can be chosen. As you have probably guessed, the topic I went with for today was "blogging about topics".

For the first few years of blogging, I would often make a quick text note with my HP iPaq, then write the post one stroke at a time on the train ride home. With every day involving at least 140 minutes of train time, it seemed logical to use the time to write. Being alone for over two hours of every day is now a luxury that I sorely miss, so writing is generally started on the phone with some poorly-typed notes while walking the puppy, then completed on a device with a physical keyboard.

Not a day goes by where I don't think about how to improve the way I write posts, and not a day goes by where I don't think about writing better as a whole. The latter requires practice and focus while the former is something I don't have an answer for. Having the preliminary notes written before the blog post itself generally seems like a good way to let the mind think about a subject for a while before there is time to write. Using mind maps and other writing tools would certainly lead to better posts, but these things often require a pretty large time commitment, which is something that I cannot negotiate with the family when people require attention. Speech to text doesn't seem right, either, as it would mean talking to a computer and thinking less about the words that get put on the screen.

What I would like, however, is a small application that would keep track of the blog ideas I jotted down for a given day and hide them around 3:00am so that the next day would start with a blank page. Throughout the day, I'd want to go back to the application and maybe jot a note down or add a link to a picture. When the time comes to actually write at the end of the day, I could then look at the application and all the disparate notes that were written throughout the day would be loosely attached to a topic thread and I could write from there. This would be similar to a mind map, but slightly less structured.

I would write something like this myself if I had the time. Naturally, it would also fully support publishing items directly to 10C. Unfortunately there just isn't enough time in the day, so I'll continue to think about how to improve my writing while doing the writing.

  1. This will probably be a topic for another day.

]]>
Yes
Worn Out https://matigo.ca/2019/04/19/worn-out Fri, 19 Apr 2019 03:00:00 +0000 Jason 40d22379-7c60-44a5-d85f-56000aceb4a9 Over the last couple of years there has been a recurring theme on this site where I write about a lack of sleep either due to a persistent bout of insomnia or just a larger-than-is-manageable workload. In every post I refer to my age and how a little power nap with lunch1 isn't enough to recharge if fewer than four hours of sleep is obtained. Generally I'll make some efforts to get to bed before midnight on the Friday and hope like heck the boy doesn't wake before sunrise so that the weekend isn't a blur … but this doesn't seem to be enough anymore. The candle has been burning at both ends for months, and I'm just absolutely worn out.

Like a Lit Match

In just one week the Japanese holiday period dubbed Golden Week begins, which will mean that for ten days I will (ideally) not be doing anything related to the day job. Reiko and I have been making some general plans to bring the boy to some special events and parks, and we'll also be meeting her parents to enjoy a nice dinner at a nice restaurant to mark 12 years of marriage. If that wasn't enough to have happen in one week, the news cycle will be jumping between stories on the over-capacity bullet trains ferrying people around the country and the coronation of Japan's next emperor. During this time I'll be working on a number of items related to 10C, but I'll also be starting a new project that I hope will be seen as a positive step forward in my goal to be fully self-employed in 2022.

When I set my mind on a goal, I tend to work incredibly hard to make it happen. Unfortunately, when working for someone else, there will always be multiple goals that need to be completed, often with conflicting or near-simultaneous deadlines. This makes it easy to get stuck in one of those vicious cycles where the more you work, the more work you have to do.

Last month I worked the equivalent of 6.5 40-hour weeks for the day job, plus 10C, plus being away from the computer to spend time with the family. It's simply unsustainable. What I need to do is become more like the match above, being lit at just one end2. 2022 is not that far away, and I'm not at all keen on being with my employer for much longer3.

  1. I used to do this while in Canada. A quick, 15-minute power nap at the office after the colleagues went out for lunch but before they came back was an excellent way to recharge, especially if there were going to be meetings in the afternoon.

  2. I certainly see the possible error of working during a vacation period, but this would be more for personal development than the day job. It would be "fun" … so that makes it okay, right?

  3. I'm not interested in working for most other companies, either. The time has come to be independent … again.

]]>
Yes
Cognitive Kaizen https://matigo.ca/2019/04/18/cognitive-kaizen Thu, 18 Apr 2019 03:00:00 +0000 Jason ab50da78-fa47-6c47-33b3-c2cab8b0e9e1 A little over ten years ago I wrote this blog post on trans-gendered people in Japan and the darn thing has remained one of the most popular posts found on any of my sites. As of this morning it has been accessed 477,218 times, which is more than triple it's nearest competitor. By all accounts, I should be happy that something from a decade ago is still being read today. Unfortunately, I'm anything but. The post is awful on a number of levels. From the grammar to the stupid "score out of 10", the article is a shining example of my ignorance on the topic back at the start of 2009.

This isn't a virtue signalling1 post.

Very few of the posts I've written since 2006 have been deleted or otherwise taken down, even when I was proven wrong or justifiably castigated for some of the stupid things that were said. A lot of this has to do with the reality that whatever is put online is there "forever", which is particularly true for websites where Archive.org's Way Back Machine stops by every couple of days to see what's new. But it's not just the web crawlers that keep me from removing old posts, it's the personal context.

Regardless the subject, most people are pretty ignorant about things when they're young and slowly accumulate knowledge and life experiences that can fill the gaps in a person's understanding. I'm not particularly bright today, but I know that the person I am right now is much more aware of the world than the person I was a decade ago. The person I will become over the next 120 months will likely look back on items written today and wonder how such nonsensical drivel could have been pushed out on a daily basis. A million monkeys using a million typewriters could pound out better prose than this single fool at a keyboard. But this is the point of the exercise. If I were to go back over the thousands of blog posts published to this site over the years and revise or remove items, then I am ultimately erasing one of the better resources I have to go back and see how my thinking has evolved over time as a result of new information and new experiences. So while I may not like some posts very much, I would rather keep them online2 than lose them entirely.

Would I consider rewriting the older posts, linking back to the original so that it would be easier to show what sort of cognitive evolution has taken place? It's certainly an option. If I were to write another blog post about Haruna Ai, Ikko, or trans-gendered people in general, it would likely be a better researched, academic-style thesis on the complexities people face when trying to fit into the binary Male/Female labels that many cultures and societies enforce. Why write about something that has nothing to do with me? The reasoning is really quite simple. By writing about a topic, I need to slow down and be more deliberate with my thinking.

Quite often it's when I am writing about a topic I don't know very much about that I learn the most.

  1. Wikipedia defines virtue signalling as a pejorative for the conspicuous expression of moral values. Academically, the phrase relates to signalling theory to describe a subset of social behaviours that could be used to signal virtue—especially piety among the religious.

  2. Yes, I know that I can password protect or otherwise hide posts on my blogging platform. This still doesn't guarantee that posts can't be surfaced through Google cache queries or on The Way Back machine. It's better to keep the posts open for anyone to see what a fool I was, and how I'm (hopefully) less foolish today.

]]>
Yes
Documentation https://matigo.ca/2019/04/17/documentation Wed, 17 Apr 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason e9809c8a-e0b7-6ed2-c154-14ca73e42139 In order for any bit of complex software to be better understood and effectively utilized, documentation must be made available to the people who will use the tool. Unfortunately, documentation is the least favourite task that faces every developer. I can count on one hand the number of full-time software people I know who actually enjoy putting the code editors away to instead write complete sentences. There are automation tools out there that will try to write the documentation for you, but these can only go so far. At the end of the day, the best author is going to be someone — or a collection of someones — who have a good understanding of the system … which can certainly be a problem for tools that are created by one or two people.

At the day job I'm fortunate enough to be in a position where I get to make new software every couple of months. These are tools that don't exist one day, then spring into existence 20 minutes after a meeting that sanctions their creation comes to an end. A lot of the tools start out small with just three or four functions that are relatively intuitive to anyone who has worked for my employer a couple of months. However, as people begin to use the simple system and ask for "just one more thing", the software becomes more complex. The rules become more opaque. The emails from people asking how to do something becomes unworkable. By this point, documentation is not only needed, but late.

Near the end of last year I was given the opportunity to create a piece of software that would be used by colleagues all over the world and integrate with our HR systems. After a couple of discussions with the project owners it became clear that documentation was something that couldn't wait until later, it needed to be part of the development cycle1. The HR department wanted a Word file that could be updated easily and sent out as a PDF to everyone who used the system. I balked at the idea and suggested that documentation be built right into the application, complete with screenshots, videos, and links to the pages being discussed. The management wasn't keen on the solution initially, but they quickly saw the benefit once the feedback started coming in. People were actually reading the documentation that was going up, and they thanked the HR managers for making it happen so quickly.

Score one for preparedness.

In addition to this documentation, though, is the developer documentation. This is generally something that doesn't get seen by people but, because this HR project is owned by HR, some key people have access to the GitHub repository where the source is kept. These people have been reading the commit messages, Wiki pages, and Issues, and they're quite impressed with the level of detail that goes into the internal docs.

Writing a great deal on GitHub is nothing new for me, as it's sometimes necessary to have a single place where the rules and reasoning behind certain design decisions are stored. To help future me, I try to include screen shots and lists of reasons for why some functions or classes were created the way they were. If something is particularly complicated, then the messages in the commits will be a little more colourful than the dry words found in the Wiki or supporting Markdown files. This is something I try to do with all of my applications, as most of them start out small and simple, then quickly start battling scope creep as more functionality is built in. There's just one problem, though: there's almost nothing (documentation-wise) for 10Cv5 in GitHub.

The vast majority of the notes for v5 have been written to A5-sized notepads and I'm not yet 100% sure how this information will get shared with the world in a readable format? Scanning with OCR could work to a certain degree, but these notes are not always written with complete sentences (or grammar) in mind.

Documentation for v5 is slowly being released with more going out every few days. Regardless of how many people use the system, having it documented will make it easier for anyone to understand how and why it does what it does. Had I been a little more proactive with the v5 documentation like I have been with the day-job projects, then there would likely be less missing from the platform2. Fortunately there is still time to remedy this issue.

  1. Generally this is the rule for larger organisations.

  2. One interesting thing that I have noticed is that by writing documentation for the system, I get to revisit the core functionality with a semi-fresh mind. If something doesn't make sense when I'm trying to write it down, then that's a pretty good indication that something can be improved.

]]>
Yes
Boutique Performance https://matigo.ca/2019/04/16/boutique-performance Tue, 16 Apr 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason d64012dc-dda7-16f0-0c96-ac641b593395 Not a week goes by where a colleague doesn't complain to me about how slow or sluggish some system or piece of software is. More often than not it's the corporate-mandated tools that are being derided for their sub-optimal use of time and resources, but various websites are also starting to get mentioned more often. Sometimes people ask me how they could make these systems faster, whether it's a problem of not enough memory or CPU power, or why managers consistently choose the slowest software while demanding the fastest employees. There's no answer for the last one. The other two, however, share the same response: it depends.

There's no simple solution to improve the performance of software and any attempt to write about possible things to look for and check would be woefully incomplete1. Instead what I tend to do is nod in agreement and ask a couple of probing questions.

What are you trying to do?

This is always the first question, as most of my colleagues are generally trying to accomplish a relatively common task. My employer isn't trying to launch objects into orbit of far-away planets, cure cancer, or model climate change. We're an education company that has for decades subsisted on a combination of Excel sheets and sheer luck2.

How are you trying to solve this problem?

A lot of times when a person has a software problem, it's because they're doing something "the hard way" and can be taught an alternative method of performing the task3. So by better understanding how a person is approaching the problem, the myriad of options that might be available to solve a problem can be whittled down until there are just one or two good options to consider.

Is this a common task?

Common tasks should be programmatically solved. The role of a person is to be the brain and/or heart of an organisation. The role of a computer is to support that person so they can be as awesome as they want to be4.

Have you considered using ________?

This is the question that I generally try to get to if it's possible because I've found that a lot of the more common software tools that people use on a day-to-day basis are big, bloated, and don't always solve the problems a person might have. Some examples of this would be colleagues who have complained about how sluggish Evernote or OneNote has become after their 10,000th note. I can remember two instances where people did not want to use Word anymore because their computers would crash if both Outlook and Word were open at the same time5. Most people have probably had conversations like this at least once in the last year and it's a great opportunity to recommend tools from small and independent software developers who make a living by providing "boutique solutions".

I enjoy recommending tools like Sublime Text, Typora, Coda 2, Sequel Pro, and Mars Edit to people who need to scratch a specific itch6. It's even better when someone tells me they've bought a license for the software, meaning that the small developer — be they a studio or an independent — earned a little bit for their efforts. This is how software should be made.

There are a lot of reasons for why software might be written by a large team of people. Yet as the world becomes ever more complex, I find it's the smaller software shops that put out the better tools that can help us navigate this complexity with relative ease. Sublime and Typora have both saved me an incredible amount of time by being able to handle large files, or crazy-long line lengths, or just running with such a tiny memory footprint that the commercial memory hogs that run alongside these tools are not at all impacted. One of the many things that I hope to see in the future is a little bit of a return to software practices of old, where the goals are not just about completing the task at hand, but doing so with the most responsible use of resources possible. Applications that make genuine use of multiple CPU cores, reasonable amounts of memory, and simple UI language will always be in demand. So long as the people who make that software can get paid for doing so, there will always be a healthy number of creative problem solvers.

  1. When it comes to tracking down performance issues, sometimes an entire day (or more) needs to be invested to determine exactly what the problem is and what options exist going forward. A person can't simply blame a single component in the hardware or the software as applications are rarely "simple".

  2. This is a slight exaggeration, of course. There are a number of mission-critical systems that use SQL Server and Oracle databases, and our online infrastructure is staggeringly complex to support online lessons across the globe.

  3. The number of lives I've changed over the years after teaching someone how to use a pivot table or VLOOKUP or just Ctrl+D in Excel is by no means inconsequential.

  4. Some people don't want to be awesome at their job, and that's fine. There is still no reason for why someone wouldn't want a computer to do a repetitive task on their behalf (so long as it does not put them out of work).

  5. This turned out to be the result of a domain policy change pushed out by the IT department without anyone's knowledge. Yay, IT!

  6. Yes, I understand that most of these are for macOS. I talk to a lot of people who use Macs. I don't know many people personally who live in the Linux world like I do. Mind you, I will suggest switching to Ubuntu from time to time if someone is complaining about Windows or macOS.

]]>
Yes
Missing Chronology https://matigo.ca/2019/04/15/missing-chronology Mon, 15 Apr 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason ca4ee6c8-58f5-3190-6b82-c4e545e3200c Last month when someone wanted to find a specific post on my blog they would open the archives page, type in a few keywords, and let the incomplete search mechanism try to find the item they were looking for. If that didn't work, then clearing the filters and scrolling down would show every post in reverse chronological order going all the way back to April 1979. The default blogging theme on v5 works a little differently in that the search box is available on every page and, unlike the previous mechanism, will actually result in a database search. As people had a way to find items on a site, it never crossed my mind to build a page showing a site's table of contents until Larry reminded me.

Whoops.

Fortunately, building a page like this isn't incredibly complicated. The fact that the archives page does not need a search box also means it's possible to change how the page displays information. But how could the information be changed to show things that people might want to see? I thought about this question a bit this weekend and came up with this:

The Anri Archives Page

There were a couple of things that I liked about the previous design:

  1. posts were numered
  2. posts were grouped by month, with the month being a title
  3. grouping was done based on the time zone of the reader, not the author

These three features needed to be brought forward with the understanding that Bookmarks and Quotations would also appear on the archives page. Social posts, called notes, are not visible in the archives as this would be noise. Should there be a need to see all social posts in reverse chronological order, there is always the Notes page.

The previous version of 10C generally cheated with the archives page by presenting a blank page, querying the API for a list of posts with supporting meta data, then building the results. This works in most situations, but can cause some headaches for search engines that do not parse JavaScript or for people using a browser with JavaScript disabled. To help resolve this, archives are now presented in plain HTML and then modified after the fact.

One item I'm not too sure about at this point is the numbering. As the screen capture will show, the numbers count differently based on the kind of object. Articles, bookmarks, and quotations are all shown with an icon unique to their type, and the counter is for that type as well. Does this make sense? Does it matter whether these are split apart at all? Could everything have the same icon, or none at all, with the understanding that clicking the title will bring you to the author's page regardless of the type? I'm not 100% sure. Fortunately, the community on 10C will let me know when something doesn't quite work or needs improvement.

The archive theme was deployed with release 19D150 which is live on the server now. Every site with at least one article, bookmark, or quotation will see the "Archives" link in their navigation menu.

]]>
Yes
Five Things https://matigo.ca/2019/04/14/five-things Sun, 14 Apr 2019 13:30:00 +0000 Jason 636827b4-0a52-e8da-3925-8803237e97c4 After a frantic couple of days last week, I managed to carve out a two hour period this afternoon to just get out of the house, sit on a mountain, and listen to a podcast with my eyes closed. The forecasted rain was nowhere near as strong as predicted, making the isolation quite enjoyable1.

This next week is going to see me work on several important updates to four of my active projects, all of which are built on the same software powering this site. A little bit of me time was necessary, and it also gave me plenty to think about, including:

Planet Hoph

Planet Hopf

I just learned about this representation of the Hopf fibration today. I would have appreciated this 20 years ago when I studied differential topologies, as it would have saved a week or two of WTF? moments.

Thanatophobic?

Far too much of my time (on a human sale) is spent thinking about time on a grand scale and it's implications. As of this moment, every living entity that we know of on the earth is equally mortal. Some may experience more seasons than others, but we will all return to the earth at some point. Earlier today when I was thinking about Nozomi's eventual passing I was reminded that I'm not at all afraid of my eventual death, but that if others. When I die, that will be the end of me. I've done what I can to ensure family will be taken care of2. It might not be easy for some members of family, but there won't be anything I can do about it. If others pass away before me, though, then they're forever in my memory but forever gone. I've lived 40 years and only been to one funeral. Silly as it sounds, I am not at all sure how I will react when a close member of my family, be they human or otherwise, passes away. It really bothers me.

Not Appropriation

We can't seem to go more than a dozen minutes without there being some group of people "voicing concerns" about cultural appropriation and how it's detrimental to the uniqueness and vibrancy of cultures and civilizations. As an immigrant to Asia, I wonder how much of Japan's culture I've appropriated and whether it's a bad thing, given that I'm from Canada with dozens of generations of ancestry that hails from England, Ireland, and France.

I have a very Japanese work ethic, often resulting in warnings from family and colleagues about 過労死, which literally means "dying from overwork". Is this cultural appropriation? Should I feel bad about myself?

I eat with chop sticks and generally stay away from silverware unless buttering toast or eating yogurt. Is this cultural appropriation? Should I feel bad about myself?

I speak, read, and write Japanese to a certain degree. Enough to buy a house and live day to day in the country, anyway. Language is very much a part of culture, so have I appropriated it from native-born Japanese people and sullied it for my own gains? Is this appropriation and should I feel bad about myself?

Or is the entire "cultural appropriation" argument just a straw man for something much deeper that people are unaware of or unable to adequately articulate?

I've lived a very Japanese life for much longer than I've lived in this country. Ever since I read about the country in the Collier's Encyclopedia set my father bought when I was young the nation, it's people, it's history, and it's culture have been absolutely fascinating to me. So much so that I boldly said to my parents at the age of 14 that I would live in Japan one day. And here I am. Have I appropriated the culture? No. I have assimilated it and, by doing so, have an appreciation for a lot of what's been learned. I emulate the parts of the culture that align with my existing beliefs, and I avoid the things I have no interest in.

People have been doing this since before we left the trees. Cultures evolve and borrow from one another. Most of the appropriation arguments that I've read, admittedly on left-leaning websites, seem to believe that cultures should operate in complete isolation and be practised only by those with a genetic link to its history, which is pretty much impossible and a recipe for disaster3.

Rain on the Window

Last Friday marked one year since the family moved into our new house, and it's been quite a step up from our previous living arrangements. One of the more interesting things that I've enjoyed about living in this house is the sound of the weather as it hits the exterior walls and windows. Regardless of how windy the day is, it sounds as though a gentle breeze is caressing the siding. Heavy rains sound like the gentle refilling of a modern toilet: water that's running, but in no hurry.

It's lovely to just sit back and listen to the house … when the boy is sleeping and background noise is eliminated.

6:15am

This seems to be the new time for the boy to wake up and instantly start talking. If I wasn't consistently working until 1-to-2 o'clock in the morning, then this wouldn't be a problem. Unfortunately running on just four hours of sleep a day catches up to a person. How do parents of multiple children manage to work and sleep? Is it a myth that parents get any sleep at all?

  1. The mountain I enjoy sitting on is in the middle of a park. When it rains, the whole area is pretty much deserted aside from a few stragglers like me who just want to enjoy the quiet. There are covered gazebos at various points as well, which makes sitting in the rain possible, so long as it's not a "Vancouver drizzle", as the only protection from that is not going outside at all.

  2. In the event of a natural death the mortgage will be paid off, Reiko will receive $150K in cash plus the cost of any funeral, and the boy will get $75K. In the event of an accidental death, the insurance payouts are tripled.

  3. Cultures (and languages) that don't evolve tend to disappear.

]]>
Yes
Astronomer slams sexists trying to tear down black hole researcher's rep https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/04/12/astronomer_schools_sexists/ Sat, 13 Apr 2019 23:46:46 +0000 Jason 96d7655f-808a-dbd7-5bd3-29cf7968ce1b

In response to the scientific community's celebration of the publication on Wednesday of the first picture of a black hole, internet trolls painted an even darker portrait of misogyny through an effort to discredit the female postdoctoral researcher, Katie Bouman, who led the development of the imaging algorithm.

This sort of thing confuses me greatly, as a whole bunch of factors need to go into being this upset about something that plays no bearing in a commentator's life. Is it jealousy that drives the hate? Is it an actual resentment towards anyone with a uterus? Is it self-loathing because someone else put in the decades of hard work to learn, to study, to collaborate, to refine their understanding of an insanely complex natural phenomenon? There is undoubtedly elements of one of all of these at play, plus a whole bunch more I don't understand, as I'm neither a psychologist nor a very good study of human behaviour.

People who want to hate will do so regardless of what anyone else thinks. It would be nice if they would just do it in silence so the rest of us can enjoy all the amazing things hard-working people around the world are accomplishing.

]]>
Yes
Gaps https://matigo.ca/2019/04/13/gaps Sat, 13 Apr 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason e845651b-f03b-bf49-c49e-1e2ad1e328ce For the better part of six months, I would keep two browser tabs open on my phone and notebooks for nice.social and beta.nice.social. The first site ran v4 of the platform while the beta ran v5. This was sub-optimal, but allowed for a good deal of testing to take place with the newer software in a realistic setting. Earlier this week when a server update took down the v4 service, the decision was made to move everyone and everything over to the new platform because I felt that it was ready despite a handful of incomplete items. As was to be expected, there were a whole lot more gaps in the tool than I had anticipated.

A good amount of time has been dedicated to migrating data and resolving reported bugs over the last three days and it has brought back memories of many other migrations I've done over the years for personal projects, client projects, and with several employers. When things go smoothly, it means that something is most probably wrong. When things are hectic, it means that something's wrong but the people reporting the issues give a darn. Crazy as it might sound, I generally prefer any sort of migration that is going to involve people who give a darn.

Some of the problems reported include missing posts, broken avatars, missing functions, and site routing issues. When something is reported, I write it to an ever-growing list of tasks, making sure to set aside the time to resolve the matter. If the missing or broken item is actively affecting people, then it gets pushed up closer near the top. As of this writing the critical items have been resolved1, and a half-dozen other issues remain. The ones that will be tackled next include:

  • change the font on the Anri blogging theme to a better sans serif font
  • resolve some of the reported CSS issues on the Anri theme
  • enable messages via the OpsBar[2. The OpsBar is the name of the bar that runs along the top of a 10C site when signed in.
  • return a JSON response for an object with a canonical URL when the HTTP header requests a JSON response
  • enable follow/block lists on the social site
  • complete password-protection handling in the Anri theme

There are also close to 1800 blog posts that still need to be brought over, and the podcasts need additional work to ensure all of the meta data is imported and sent properly in the syndication feeds. If all goes according to plan, all of the core items will be resolved on Monday or early Tuesday and then the focus can shift from "Identify and Repair" to "Converse and Extend".

If there's one thing I can take away from this experience, it's that I should really look at having data migrated daily in an automated fashion during the development phase. This would ensure that migration scripts were complete, meaning the actual migration would be done at the full speed of he server.

  1. If they weren't resolved, I wouldn't be blogging.

]]>
Yes
This gold Porsche got pulled over by German police for being way too shiny https://driving.ca/porsche/panamera/auto-news/news/this-gold-porsche-got-pulled-over-by-german-police-for-being-way-too-shiny Sat, 13 Apr 2019 08:52:50 +0000 Jason ff139055-2302-fb8a-a7b9-a3197972fe93

Authorities stopped a gold-foil-wrapped Porsche twice and ordered its paint job be removed, because it posed "a danger to other drivers"

I can understand why someone would want to have a car this flashy. When I was in my late teens I wanted to do something similar, having a Mazda MX-5 with an all-chrome paint job. Fortunately I was too young to have the capital required to make that happen, as I'm pretty sure the Canadian authorities would be just as much a downer as their German counterparts.

One day I will own a Mazda MX-5, bit it will likely be tungsten grey or a pearlescent dark blue.

]]>
Yes
Catch https://matigo.ca/2019/04/12/catch Fri, 12 Apr 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason d93fd6aa-2865-c060-5f2e-b6fc46852b90 Every morning the boy and I head out for a walk around the neighbourhood, through some parks, and over some obstacles. The idea is to ensure he gets some fresh air and exercise, but also to explore some of the fun that the world can offer. Today I thought that "fun" might involve bringing a ball so that we could toss it back and forth. Despite his laughter and best efforts, the kid won't be drafted by any ball team anytime soon. I'd like this to be something we can work on together.

As one would expect from a two year old, the boy started to become distracted and wanted to explore some of the park on his own, particularly the various leaves and seeds that were littering the walkways. While he did this, I decided to throw our ball against the wall for a bit. It didn't take long for me to realize that my throwing arm is nowhere near what it used to be.

A Baseball Glove on the Field

It's amazing what a person discovers they miss after a while.

The last time I played baseball or even just catch was at some point in the late 90s. I think it might have been the summer of 1999, but it could have been '97 or '98 as that was when I played on a regional team. Fortunately there are no pictures of me from that time period, as they would undoubtedly look quite bizarre; a tall kid with an average build1 wearing a black Rawlings glove, standing next to 3rd base, and having the longest head of hair in the park. I played alright and occasionally injured people sliding into third with a "too-powerful" swipe of the glove, but one thing that I was quite good at was accurate throwing. So long as there wasn't a need for endurance, I could throw a ball from second base into the strike zone of a ready batter.

Sustained accuracy was hard, though. A couple of times I was asked to pitch and would never finish an inning before being pulled. Accuracy was possible only when there were longer rests between throws. Three to four minutes seemed to be the right amount of time, which is far too long if you're expected to pitch dozens of times per inning. Third base, however, was perfect. Close enough to the action to be engaged, with fast, accurate throws being required just a handful of times each inning.

But that was 20 years ago. Today, while throwing the ball against a wall just 10 meters in front of me, I was hard pressed to get within 10cm of a splotch of paint. Untrained muscles more accustomed to picking up dachshunds and young children ached as they were used differently. Arm fat shifted noticeably. It wasn't at all comfortable.

Fortunately there's still time to train. The boy is too young to realize just how poor my throws are and how out of shape I've become. With a little bit of practice I can relearn some of the muscle training and get back to making some accurate throws. Perhaps by the time the boy is ready to join a little-league team, I'll be ready to join a semi-organized team as well. Silly as it may sound, I'd really like to play ball again.

  1. an average build for the late 90s, which is about half the build of a typical teen today based on the pictures I receive from family.

]]>
Yes
Neighbourhood Vaccination Day https://matigo.ca/2019/04/11/neighbourhood-vaccination-day Thu, 11 Apr 2019 14:30:00 +0000 Jason 71f4c807-fd24-1ed8-2763-9500ca6e22e4 Last week a postcard arrived in the mail addressed to Nozomi, "care of" me. In big letters the document announced that it was time for everyone to have their dogs vaccinated for rabies, and that pop-up veterinary offices would be set up around the city to make the mandatory shots easier to receive. A schedule showed the nearby community centre would have a vet on hand for one hour today, and I booked some time off at the day job to make sure Nozomi would have her first-line of protection for another year.

A lot of cities in Japan require that non-human members of the family be registered with the local government and must be done so within two weeks of moving. The paperwork is a nuisance, but the city generally makes up for it by making an effort to ensure that every registered animal in the area has the basic set of shots every year at a discounted rate. Today's shot was priced at 3,400円1, which is about 100円 cheaper than one would pay at a vet. The discount is real, though not particularly compelling. What was compelling, however, was the proximity. The vet (mostly) came here, rather than us going there.

Background aside, Nozomi and I made our way to the community centre at 1:30. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and Nozomi was more than willing to trot along at a decent pace as we followed the pedestrian walk that winds through the neighbourhood. Along the way we met a dozen smaller dogs and a good many more larger dogs. It seemed that everyone who had a canine companion wanted to be first in line.

Fortunately there was little need to worry about lineups.

Typically when there are community pop-ups in Japan, I generally plan to stand around waiting for a minimum of half an hour or more. This wasn't the case today. As Nozomi and I walked up to the injection site a vet approached us and asked for the postcard. He asked a couple of questions, wrote some notes on the card, then asked me to sign it. Almost as soon as I was done writing my name a needle came out. The shot was over before Nozomi could even react with more than a quick head-turn.

Once done, I stood in line to pay for the service and pick up the requisite evidence that the little puppy was good for another year. All in all, the walk to the community centre took more time than anything. I'm not accustomed to this level of efficiency when the city is involved. Last spring when we registered her with the city the entire process took 45 minutes and involved writing her name, my name, our street address, the type of dog she is, and whether she's been fixed or not. Things that could really be done online rather than in person in a stuffy office with slow-moving bureaucrats.

As Nozomi took the injection rather well, we went for a bit of a walk to a different park afterwards so that she could enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. The older she gets the more relaxed she seems to become.

  1. 3,400円 works out to about $30.50 USD.

]]>
Yes
Server Down https://matigo.ca/2019/04/10/server-down Wed, 10 Apr 2019 14:15:00 +0000 Jason 83cf5221-5b9a-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 So much for my five-nine's of availability1 in 2019. Today I had a couple of minutes between meetings at the day job, so decided to connect to the web server hosting 10Cv4 and install some operating system updates. This is something that I've done hundreds if not thousands of times with various servers over the years. After the installation scripts completed I saw that I was within the 38-minute "lull period" where traffic to the service is generally at its lowest for a Wednesday and issued a sudo shutdown -r now command, telling the server to reboot.

Less than 30 seconds later I was reconnected and checking available storage space when my phone notified me of an issue with 10C. The site was offline. I checked with the notebook and found that the service was indeed unresponsive. The server was running, as I was connected via SSH. Apache was running on the server. The database was also operating well. But no traffic was being received. I checked to ensure that the firewalls were configured correctly, and that the IP address of the server handn't changed2. I cycled the software. I rebooted the machine. I checked error logs, installation logs, and configuration files. Everywhere I looked, the server appeared to be fine.

Cloudflare's Dreaded Error 523

By this time the service had been down for five minutes and a recovery plan needed to be enacted pronto. There were three viable options:

  1. Restore the VPS: This would essentially see me wipe the server clean and start with a fresh installation of 10Centuries. A backup would be pulled down and restored, returning the system to its previous state seconds before the reboot that brought the service down. Total recovery time: 90 minutes.
  2. Transfer 10Cv4 to the backup VM: As one would expect, I have a virtual machine image set up on the same server that is running 10Cv5. The machine could be brought online in less than 30 seconds with the most recent database restored and ready less than 45 seconds after that. I test this process every morning and it consistently takes between 73 and 75 seconds to complete. Once done, I would need to ensure the routing and forwarding was properly configured on the v5 server, which could interfere with some of the Apache settings that allows v5 to do what it does. Total recovery time: 15 minutes.
  3. Migrate v4 to v5: With the virtual server in Osaka slated to be decommissioned in two weeks when the annual service package expires, the v4 service would have to be migrated to v5 in the very near future anyway. One could argue that it's better to rip off the band-aid now rather than buy time and delay the process any further. Total recovery time: the rest of the day.

Yes, I went with the third option.

While it may not seem like the wisest decision given the lack of complete documentation, the lack of notice, and the stunning lack of functional code in various parts of the system, forcing the migration to v5 should work out to be a net positive. There will be more incentive to complete the outstanding items, as if there wasn't enough already, and it will be possible to see how well the home network can handle the traffic. If problems crop up right away, then it will still be possible to renew the VPS service with the Osaka data centre3, set up a newer infrastructure, and move everything over as a single package.

This is the plan, anyways. And with everyone on the same version on the same server, there will be a singular place to read updates rather than the plurality of timelines that has existed for the last eight months.

To the people who use 10Centuries on a semi-regular basis, I am very sorry for the downtime and hassle that will come from changing DNS records, workflow processes, source code, and preferences. One thing is for certain, though: once the migration is complete (along with a little more documentation and coding), people will prefer what v5 has to offer.

  1. Five nines generally means a service is accessible and usable 99.999% of the year, which means the system must be down for less than 315.6 seconds per year. My servers can generally shutdown and reboot in 23 seconds when everything is running properly, allowing for regular maintenance windows for security patches and other items to be installed.

  2. This would be weird, given that the 10Cv4 server is running in a data centre in Osaka with an IP that hasn't changed in years.

  3. 10Cv4 used a 2G VPS with 50GB of SSD for the web server and a 4G VPS with 100GB SSD for the database server.

]]>
Yes
Briefly Young Again https://matigo.ca/2019/04/09/briefly-young-again Tue, 09 Apr 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason b933d234-5adb-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Nozomi and I generally stick to the same walking routes when we go out together. In the morning we get into the park and head west, where she can enjoy a great deal of soft grass and shade from the trees that tower overhead. In the afternoons we head south so that she can go up and down some hills that are just steep enough to encourage her to work a little harder. In the evenings we walk east onto the baseball diamond where she can enjoy a large expanse of safe, flat land after the sun's gone down. This regular pattern was stumbled upon after several months of sluggish walks where Nozomi would let me know in her way that she wasn't interested in continuing her outdoor explorations after covering about 100 meters of well-trod lawn. She's going to be nine years old next month, and she's clearly less interested in exploring all the smells of the park in one go, which is why we have three routes that are taken at three different times of day.

This evening, as we made our way to the baseball diamond, something in the distance caught my eye. The park is not very well lit after leaving the paved paths, so I wasn't quite sure what the object was, but my imagination filled in the gaps to reveal what could be a forgotten tennis ball. Over the last couple of years I've tried at times to get Nozomi to play around a bit like she used to without much success. While she still enjoys having her stuffed dog Kodama around, the toy is really more for smelling than anything else. She ignores balls and ropes completely.

A Forgotten Tennis Ball

As we got closer to what I believed to be a ball, I tried to get Nozomi feeling a little excited. I used a playful voice and asked her some nonsensical questions about running shoes and whether she stretched before coming out for a walk. My goal was to encourage her to get closer to the object so that I could see if she wanted to have some fun again like we see other dogs doing in the park from time to time.

The goading paid off. Sitting forgotten in the middle of the outfield was a relatively new tennis ball. I kicked it over to Nozomi and she responded instantly, jumping into the path of the spinning object and claiming it as hers with a playful growl. I managed to wrestle it away with some misdirection then tossed the ball a couple of meters, hoping she would chase after it. Chase she did. For the first time in quite some time a youthful, playful puppy was enjoying a warm evening outside with a ball and a game of fetch. This was the first game I taught her many years ago when we lived in Kashiwa, before the big quake hit. Watching her chase after the ball in much the same way she chased after the stuffed heart-shaped toy that she would chew on in the pet shop before we brought her home was like therapy. She growled playfully when I would approach. She wagged her tail just like she used to. Her eyes smiled with delight.

Sadly, this wasn't to last. In less than five minutes she was exhausted and wouldn't chase after the ball anymore. She wanted to continue with her walk and get home for dinner. Given that this was the biggest workout she's had in months, I can't say I blame her. This will not be her last workout, though. Not by a long shot; I brought the ball home.

She'll get another chance to chase and play tomorrow … if she's up for it.

]]>
Yes
RAM Emergency https://matigo.ca/2019/04/08/ram-emergency Mon, 08 Apr 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 33d0f828-5a19-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 How much memory does a typical computer need in 2019? When I look at machines that are sold at electronics shops1, I'm seeing machines that ship with between 4 and 8 GB of RAM. Looking at the Lenovo and Dell websites will show much of the same. Most of the notebooks that are handed out at the day job also fall into this category, with schools getting machines with 8GB, and managers getting units with 4GB2. When I moved out of the classroom in 2016 I was given a Lenovo W541 notebook with 8GB of RAM, which I promptly upgraded to 32 because it was the right thing to do. That machine has since been converted to a development server and I'm now using an X1 Carbon with 8GB. As I've lamented, perhaps too often, the sleek little notebook is great except for one little detail: 8GB is simply not enough.

RAM Emergency

As one would expect, I've brought this up with a couple of my managers who have all pretty much said the same thing: there isn't money in the budget right now for a new machine, so try to make due with what's at hand. I am certainly accustomed to working with what's on hand, though it generally means that I try to find creative solutions to my problems. The "fix" that I currently have is to offload work to other machines. I can send large workloads to the development server upstairs to chug through or, if I need even more power, a potent virtual machine with lots of memory and processing horsepower has been configured for me to use at the corporate data centre. This means potentially transferring up to 50 gigabytes of compressed data3 to get work done. It's suboptimal, but it's better than struggling with a machine that is simply not up to the task.

Today was pretty rough, though. More than once I noticed the machine struggling to keep up with the workload. If I were doing data transformations today then I could understand why the physical memory was exhausted and the swap file was being thrashed. However, today's tasks were all about working with web development tools. No database work. No API development or testing. Just design and development. Why couldn't the machine keep up?

The company had a RAM emergency. The office had too much RAM.— Jen Barber, Relationship Manager for the IT Department of Reynholm Industries

Sometimes I'm tempted to bring up the issues that I face when using this notebook to carry out my duties. I didn't have these problems when I was permitted to use my own hardware, a MacBook Pro with 16GB RAM and a much slower SSD running the very same version of Ubuntu as the Lenovo. The previous system I had requested was denied as it came out to 338,700円, which is just over $3,000 USD. If I'm a little more conservative and choose a similar machine to what I have now, an X1 Carbon with 16GB RAM, less NVMe storage, and a higher resolution screen for 182,488円, which works out to just under $1,650 USD. The 2019-model X1 Carbons will be shipping in June, so the current version is priced to clear.

But am I asking too much?

For the longest time I have tried to cost the company less money than anyone in IT. This doesn't seem to be the case anymore. I work an excessive number of hours overtime and the hardware that I've managed to acquire over the last three years is not cheap. All of this is in the service of the day job, of course, but there is still a cost involved. The management has already said "no" to the request, so coming back at them for the third time in less than four months could appear to be selfish or persistent in the worst way.

While it's true that I could just "secretly" go back to using my own personal hardware to get the job done, I would be much more comfortable having sensitive, work-related data on a work-owned machine. This way, if I am terminated or decide to leave the company at some point in the future, then I'll know that there's no company data on any of my machines. Wiping a drive and re-installing an operating system isn't enough when it comes to keeping a device clear of data, as there are backups that could also contain data that does not belong to me. I treat this subject seriously as it's my responsibility to protect and maintain data not just for the day job, but for a number of people I offer services to. For this reason my machines will continue to be used for non-day job tasks. In the meantime, it will probably make the most sense to continue doing what I'm doing, working with the tools I have and finding ways to make it all work. When it comes time to discuss this year's performance with the management team, it may be possible to bring up the topic again.

Besides, I can always use the occasional system sluggishness as an excuse to get up and walk around; something I don't do nearly enough of anymore.

  1. Never buy a computer from an electronics shop unless it's an absolute emergency. You'll pay through the nose for something that's worth less than half of the amount you forked over. Buy online if at all possible.

  2. I don't understand the logic, either. Outlook alone will consume all of this just to start up, nevermind what the browser(s) and operating system want.

  3. I work with a lot of databases. Right now I've been tasked to perform a number of data migrations for corporate offices around the world.

]]>
Yes
Five Things https://matigo.ca/2019/04/07/five-things Sun, 07 Apr 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason ec2ba03a-592c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Yesterday the family and I enjoyed a picnic at a popular park in Nagoya, travelling 55 minutes each way. As one would expect during cherry blossom season, there were thousands of people in attendance making all kinds of noise and generally enjoying themselves. Despite the splitting headache and momentary anxiety rush, the trip was a complete success. Everyone enjoyed the time together.

This morning Reiko learned that a children's theme park not too far from here was going to have a show featuring ワンワン1, one of the boy's favourite TV characters. Throwing caution to the wind with a second consecutive day out in a sea of humanity, we quickly got ready and drove to 犬山市2. The weather was gorgeous, though a little hot at times when the 27°C temperatures felt more like 37°C. That said, it wasn't too bad, which made standing in line to see the show a little more bearable.

Waiting in Line at Japan Monkey Park

Today's adventure turned out to be better than yesterday's, though the boy was clearly in need of a nap at certain points this afternoon. One observation I had today while watching other parents try to coral and herd their children is that adults tend to have a bit more fun at these sorts of events than the kids … which is both relieving and weird.

Preamble aside, it's time to get on with the list!

Bare Bums

A lot of parents seem to have no qualms with changing their child's diaper in plain view when there are potentially dozens or hundreds of spectators. Regardless of how often I see a parent quickly go through the well-practiced motions of changing a dirty diaper in public, I still find it a bit odd given how such things are strongly frowned upon in Canada.

Muscle Mass

Over the last two years my arms have gotten much stronger. There was a time when I thought that, after carrying her for a kilometre or two, Nozomi was a heavy puppy. She's been consistently around 4.5Kg since 2013. Today I was carrying the boy in one arm, his stroller with various drinks and whatnot, and a bag with other necessary items while walking 700m from the parking lot to the park. Reiko estimated that this was about 20Kg in total, which I managed to do without dropping anything or stopping to rest.

Parents have to become strong if they are to succeed, it seems.

Shattered Screens

Something I observed a lot this weekend is the condition of people's cell phones. It seemed that anyone with a child under the age of five had a phone with a shattered screen held together with a "screen protector" that was more a finger protector than anything else. While I can appreciate the advantages of using glass on a touch device, I do wonder why plastic is not a viable option for people to choose. Life happens and technology is subjected to a great deal of abuse. Colour matching is generally suboptimal with plastic screens but, given the number of people with shattered screens or visibility-blocking films on their glass devices, accurate colour rendering may not be as important as some manufacturers think.

Pervasive Pollen

Despite the heroic efforts of the allergy medicine, the incredible amount of pollen in the air has meant that I get to sneeze and cough just slightly less than I might if I weren't relying on an antihistamine. Fortunately there are just seven months to go before the next winter season begins.

Silenced Sirens

It's been a little more than a week since I've ditched a bunch of news sources for being undeniably biased in their reporting. This leaves just eight sources of news in my life, four of which are focused on technology. All in all, I've been quite happy with the change. While the lack of reading angry articles everyday will take some getting used to, this has proven incredibly good for the mind. Some echo chambers are harder to identify than others.

Tomorrow is the start to another workweek for a lot of people. Let's make it a good one.

  1. ワンワン is read as "wan-wan", which is equivalent to "woof-woof" in English.

  2. 犬山市 is read as "Inuyama-shi", or "Inuyama City". Fun fact, 犬 means "dog", and 山 means "mountain". We went to "dog mountain city" to see a person dressed in a dog costume named "woof-woof" … and Nozomi, a real dog, couldn't join us.

]]>
Yes
Period drama Warrior brings Bruce Lee's vision to vivid life after 50 years https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2019/04/period-drama-warrior-brings-bruce-lees-vision-to-vivid-life-after-50-years/ Sun, 07 Apr 2019 06:58:10 +0000 Jason 81233803-5902-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

According to Hollywood lore, Bruce Lee pitched an idea in 1971 for a TV series about a martial artist in the Old West. Skittish studio heads passed on the project (and on Lee as its star), opting to make Kung Fu with David Carradine instead. Lee's daughter, Shannon Lee, heard these stories, too. When she took over management of her father's legacy in 2000 as president of the Bruce Lee Foundation, among the archived materials was Lee's original treatment, along with several drafts and notes. It stayed in storage for several years, until Lee mentioned its existence to executive producer Justin Lin. Lin loved the treatment and thought they could make the series that her father had always intended.

This sounds like a show to look forward to 👍

]]>
Yes
Sources https://matigo.ca/2019/04/06/sources Sat, 06 Apr 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 81133732-586a-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Anxiety is a problem for millions of people around the world and can range from being a slight unease in the chest to a full-blown panic attack. Not everyone will experience it the same way and rarely have I seen people who do not battle anxiety on a regular basis understand how it can affect someone. In my case, the strain that I feel most often is social anxiety, which generally appears almost every time I'm in a crowd without a pair of headphones on. What I don't understand is why this feeling exists at all.

Social anxiety is a mental disorder where a person is incredibly nervous when in a social situation. Symptoms can include abdominal discomfort, a tight chest, lightheadedness, and a 'negative loop' of feeling anxious about any anxious feelings. Panic attacks may also occur if the right conditions cascade into each other. I've yet to experience a sense of panic when out shopping at a crowded mall or even when on a train in Tokyo. Everything else, though, is a regular occurrence to such an extent that I've started to actively avoid going to busy places unless I am alone and wearing headphones. When in a crowded place by myself, it's possible to push away the oppressive claustrophobia that comes with being surrounded by hundreds or thousands of people who generally stand a little too close to others. This is generally impossible when out with Reiko or the boy because both enjoy talking in a near-nonstop fashion, and not answering questions or being part of a conversation/soliloquy is not an option. So, when out and about with the family, I generally keep the ears open to keep the peace at the cost of enjoying the different environment.

This has been "just the way it is" for years, and I've usually associated this with my strong dislike of unstructured noise. When people congregate somewhere, conversations and other sounds blend to become virtually incoherent, which makes it a challenge to hear what anyone is saying. However, after a bit of an anxiety issue today that resulted in a feeling of oppressive claustrophobia where I wanted everyone in a crowded park to "go away"1. The feeling is completely irrational and I understand it as such, but anxiety is really hard to control.

As the feeling generally crops up when I'm surrounded by noise, I've been paying attention to how loud a place is in order to maintain some semblance of sanity when outside. However, Reiko seems to think that my problem is not sound, but sleep.

This past week I've been working pretty long hours to accomplish a number of tasks and objectives. From Sunday to Friday, a six-night period, I managed to get about 27 hours of sleep. Nozomi gets more than this in two days, and the boy gets it in three. Generally when I am not getting enough sleep I have difficulty focusing on voices and this results in conversations coming across as incoherent noise rather than communicative language. As the ears get tired2, noise increases, which leads to anxiety, which leads to lots of frowning or a strong desire to escape the current environment, even if it's just my living room. Reiko thinks it's better if I get to bed before midnight every day, understanding that sometimes I'll be waking up at 4:45am for early-morning meetings.

The idea does have merit. Generally I'm battling the strong desire to fall sleep between the hours of 2:00pm and bedtime. The body or, more likely, the mind is clearly trying to tell me something. My concern is that by spending more time in bed there will be less work accomplished. Reiko's concern is that if I'm always focused on getting work accomplished, then a serious burnout isn't too far off.

Two decades ago I could push myself pretty hard and the consequences were minimal. I'm clearly not as resilient today, and adjustments must be attempted. So, with this in mind, I'll set a goal for myself to be in bed by 11:30pm every night, as this will mean being asleep before midnight. The trick will be to tell the mind it's time to shut down for the night.

  1. By "go away" I mean leave and/or give me and my family a good 50 meters of space.

  2. I know it's not the ears, but the brain. That said, this is generally how I describe the issue.

]]>
Yes
Mornings in the Park https://matigo.ca/2019/04/05/mornings-in-the-park Fri, 05 Apr 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason e887d07d-57b8-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Warmer temperatures have made the mornings a lot more enjoyable over the last two weeks and this has resulted in longer walks with the boy and, more often than not, Reiko as well. In addition to the fresh air and exercise, these walks are an excellent opportunity to explore the neighbourhood together. The boy is as curious as anyone his age would be, which means there are new discoveries and a barrage of questions every couple of minutes … or seconds. Fortunately he does stop for air every once in a while, which allows me to make use of the nice Canon camera.

The Boy Surveys the Park

As one would expect, Nozomi is also enjoying the springtime weather. Over the next few weeks her winter coat will begin to shed, which will make her appear younger, thinner, and much cooler. Time permitting, she'll also get a proper trim.

Nozomi in the Park

With two days of idyllic weather forecasted for the weekend, Reiko and I have made some tentative plans for a pair of picnics. One day we'll go to a nearby park with a large number of cherry trees and ample space for the boy to run. The other day we'll make the trip up to Inuyama to enjoy the park surrounding the castle with the in-laws. Camera batteries will be charged. Memory cards will be prepped and ready to go.

This weekend is going to be fun.

]]>
Yes
What Broke the RSS? https://matigo.ca/2019/04/04/what-broke-the-rss Thu, 04 Apr 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 79bf75a9-56ee-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 , and with one of the more recent objects. Yesterday this site moved over from v4 to v5, which is using a very different mechanism to build syndication feeds. Unlike the previous version of the platform, v5 supports both XML and JSON. Feedly also supports both of these formats, so I added the JSON syndication feed and found that the items are all loading just as they should. Every article, quotation, and bookmark loads without fail. So what's wrong with the XML file? Looking at the output, there does seem to be some encoding issues with Japanese characters, but nothing that should get in the way of presenting the data. One would think that services such as Feedly have developed all sorts of methods to clean a broken or otherwise malformed XML file. What bothers me about this isn't so much the lack of updates or the fact that we can't do any debugging or check for errors on Feedly's website, but instead the appearance that I've given up the blogging streak. Few of the posts I write are worth reading more than once, if at all, but a post a day for over six months isn't something to walk away from. A lack of updates via an RSS service due to XML problems will look the same as a blogger who has given up. Writing something every day is not at all easy, as it cuts into other responsibilities and expectations, but it's something I do look forward to. Unless I'm knocked offline for a day or otherwise indisposed, there's little chance of me stopping in the near future.]]> Over the last couple of weeks there has been something preventing the RSS feed from this personal site to Feedly. The last update shows as being March 16th. To the best of my knowledge, I've been publishing a post every day since September of last year. What's preventing updates from appearing on the popular syndication service?

RSS Background

The W3C Feed Validator reports that the XML feed is valid and it's possible to see updates when using an RSS Reader that does not rely on web services to parse, sync, and display feeds. Given the number of sites on 10C, if the RSS generator was broken, then there wouldn't be updates from any account appearing, but this isn't the case. New posts do pop up on an almost daily basis, but not for matigo.ca. The problem must therefore be somewhere within <channel>, and with one of the more recent <item> objects.

Yesterday this site moved over from v4 to v5, which is using a very different mechanism to build syndication feeds. Unlike the previous version of the platform, v5 supports both XML and JSON. Feedly also supports both of these formats, so I added the JSON syndication feed and found that the items are all loading just as they should. Every article, quotation, and bookmark loads without fail. So what's wrong with the XML file?

Looking at the output, there does seem to be some encoding issues with Japanese characters, but nothing that should get in the way of presenting the data. One would think that services such as Feedly have developed all sorts of methods to clean a broken or otherwise malformed XML file. What bothers me about this isn't so much the lack of updates or the fact that we can't do any debugging or check for errors on Feedly's website, but instead the appearance that I've given up the blogging streak. Few of the posts I write are worth reading more than once, if at all, but a post a day for over six months isn't something to walk away from. A lack of updates via an RSS service due to XML problems will look the same as a blogger who has given up.

Writing something every day is not at all easy, as it cuts into other responsibilities and expectations, but it's something I do look forward to. Unless I'm knocked offline for a day or otherwise indisposed, there's little chance of me stopping in the near future.

]]>
Yes
A Conversation with Nozomi https://matigo.ca/2019/04/03/a-conversation-with-nozomi Wed, 03 Apr 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 1d4dc153-5633-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Not a day goes by where I don't chat with Nozomi about whatever happens to be on my mind. This generally happens when we're out in the park for one of her walks, and typically when there aren't too many people within earshot. For reasons I can only guess at, my neighbours generally do not talk to their dogs aside from issuing commands like "sit", "stop", and "come on". Maybe their conversations are limited to their homes.

Today marks 40 years since my parents braved driving through a final winter storm so that I could be born in a hospital. Despite the round number, growing list of responsibilities, and crippling home-owner's debt, I don't feel my age. If anything, I feel younger today than I did at 35. Perhaps the boy has something to do with this. However, it's because of this youthful feeling that I often find myself enjoying moments where the devices are put away, the distractions are minimal, and the current activity is the singular focus.

Clouds Above

This focus happened a couple of times today, once when I took the picture above, once when the boy and I were playing together, and again when Nozomi and I were outside after dinner, with the stars above shining brilliantly despite the light pollution that obscures all but the brightest celestial objects. It was this last moment, when Nozomi and I were alone in the park and observing our separate interests1 that I shared with her my unrealistic desire to explore the universe.

While she sniffed grass and leaves, I explained how the local solar system could keep me busy for years and the nearby star systems for decades. The problem of travelling vast distances at relativistic speeds was brought up as well as a couple of options for how humanity might get around going insane during the years, decades, or centuries of travel. Challenges with food and energy production for long periods of time kept the one-sided conversation going longer than Nozomi was willing to listen, but we could certainly walk and talk at the same time. And then, as was to be expected, the ultimate fantasy was declared:

This would all be easier if I were a Q.

Q, the fictional, omnipotent race of beings from Star Trek, can do anything they please regardless of how impossible the desire might be. Time travel. Going from one side of the galaxy to the other in a heartbeat. Reading a book while enjoying a cup of coffee on the surface of the Sun. All of these things are possible and more. Of course, being Q would also make a person immortal. With this sort of potential, now it becomes feasible to explore the galaxy … and the next one … and the one after that. Nozomi could come with me. I could ensure she never aged a day ever again. Heck, with the power to do anything at all, I might just solve Brexit2 before heading off to Andromeda to see what happens when a pulsar is absorbed by a black hole.

These are the sorts of conversations that I enjoy having with Nozomi when we're outside. She doesn't get to share her ideas very often, though she does send clear signals when a topic isn't to her liking. A few months back I was talking about how we needed to find a better shampoo for her to use during baths. As soon as she heard that last word, she was as far away from me as her leash would allow and pretending to be incredibly interested in some fallen leaf that was just out of reach.

Her honesty and patience are both wonderful.

  1. As one would expect, Nozomi is interested in what's on the ground. I am interested in what's above.

  2. First order of business: fire all of the politicians.

]]>
Yes
A family from Quebec drove home from Florida with a body in the backseat https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/a-family-from-quebec-drove-home-from-florida-with-a-dead-body-in-the-backseat Wed, 03 Apr 2019 06:52:07 +0000 Jason ff5b4cb8-55dc-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

A vacation to Florida ended tragically for the Drapeau family of Quebec, whose patriarch Fernand, 87, died on the drive home.

His wife and son, wary about the cost and hassle of going to an American hospital and getting Fernand's body repatriated, decided to just keep driving to their Ormstown home, in Quebec's Montérégie region.

Oh my. This would weigh heavily on me if I were driving. I mean, a heart attack can be handled at a hospital if caught early enough. Do these people not speak English? 😕

]]>
Yes
Sing https://matigo.ca/2019/04/02/sing Tue, 02 Apr 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6e1f-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Spotify has done a pretty solid job of improving my enjoyment of music. Not only do they have a larger collection than I could possibly ever acquire (legally), but they have an application that is just so painless that I actually want to use the software. Whether I'm listening on the phone, the tablet, or the Ubuntu-powered notebook, the company has offerings that make it easy to sync playlists between devices, pick up listening to a song between devices almost to the second, and download locally for better listening1. One of the basic features that I've enjoyed more than I ever should is the playlist builder. Creating playlists in a music application is nothing new, of course. What Spotify does well, though, is present similar songs that might also be added given the recently added files.

The algorithm they use is just wonderful, but there is a pretty dire consequence: I want to sing.

Microphone Up Close

My wife has on numerous occasions asked me to not sing as fate has made it impossible for me to carry a tune in a bucket, even if it had four handles. This doesn't stop me from trying, though.

When she's not home, I'll turn off the TV, fire up Spotify, and hit shuffle on my "Let Me Sing" playlist. The boy even gets involved by following along with The Cranberries, Pearl Jam, Cornershop, Fatboy Slim, Sting, Phil Colins, and dozens of other great artists. It's hard not to. Music is the universal language, and singing is just downright fun. That said, I do wish I were better.

This need to karaoke at home was not instigated by Spotify. I would often do the same when all of my music was stored on a hard drive and played through WinAmp, or sitting in iTunes available across several Apple devices. Each of these earlier systems had just enough friction in place to prevent a spontaneous song and dance show. I doubt this is just because of how easy it is to create, modify, or load a playlist. If anything, what makes this music service worth the annual subscription is how instant everything feels. I could search for something truly obscure like Takuro Yoshida's classic Ningen Nante2 or Billy Ban Ban's I'm in Love With You Again3 and be listening in the span of 10 seconds. Music has never been so accessible and it's completely changed my relationship with the art form.

Hopefully I can share my love of music with the boy for a couple more years before he starts to leave the room whenever Sting's Fortress Around Your Heart plays over the speakers. If all else fails, perhaps a sound-proofed room where I can let loose with the well-timed, out-of-tune lyrics is in order. At the very least the space could double as a podcast studio.

  1. These are all things that Apple could have gotten right with their streaming subscription service several years ago if the iTunes and Apple Music development teams weren't so hell-bent on making something so awful that a combination of Windows Media Player and KaZaA seems a step up.

  2. This can be found by typing "Takuro 人間". The full song's name is 人間なんて.

  3. It's hard to believe that また君に恋してる has just 63,000-odd listens given how it's one of my favourite Japanese songs ever.

]]>
Yes
Reiwa: The Next Imperial Era for Japan https://matigo.ca/2019/04/01/reiwa-the-next-imperial-era-for-japan Mon, 01 Apr 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6e0d-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 A little after 11:30 this morning, productivity in Japan came to a halt as people tuned in to watch the country's chief cabinet secretary unveil the name of the next imperial era. This is something that is generally only seen once or twice in a person's lifetime, and is something that affects just about every document that gets written in the country. Unlike most countries in the world, Japan has two official date systems: the Gregorian calendar, and the 元号 (read as "gengo") Imperial era. Much to the surprise of many, the next era's name will be 令和 (read as "Reiwa"), meaning "fortunate harmony".

Japan's chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga unveils the name of new era, Reiwa

In my neighbourhood the new name was met with a bit of confusion, as the majority of people expected the next era to start with some form of "Kei" rather than "Rei", but soon everyone was on board given the general simplicity of the characters. For me it'll be quite easy to write as the first character, 令, is the same as in my wife's name. The 和 is also similarly easy as it's the second character in 昭和 (read "shōwa"), the era I was born in. Traditionally when a new emperor is crowned, the 元号 that denotes the era is changed. There are also times in history when the era name was changed after a large natural disaster or when an unpopular emperor wishes to recast the latter half of their reign. There have been close to 250 eras since this tradition began some 1300 years ago, two dozen of which I can name. This new era begins on May 1st, coronation day for the next emperor of the country.

This means the Japanese calendar will go like this:

平成31 4月 30日 - April 30, 2019令和1 5月 1日 - May 1, 2019

The Japanese calendar dates are used on all official documentation, particularly if it is related to money and/or the government. All of my mortgage documents, for example, show the year I signed as being 平成29 or 平成30, with the final payment taking place in 平成65, even though everyone knew that the current emperor had signalled his intentions to step down ahead of these dates. Fortunately we will not need to go back to the bank to update the paperwork for the new era, but we will need to remember that 平成65 is actually 令和34 which will be in 2053 … assuming that Emperor Naruhito is still in good health at the age of 93 and has not stepped down for his son Hisahito to take over.

As one would expect, this semi-regular confusion around dates has lead to some people calling for the abolition of this "imprecise" calendaring system for the full adoption of the Gregorian calendar that is used across much of the globe. Given the cultural propensity to hold onto tradition, there is little chance that Japan will completely step away from using 元号 in the near future. The idea that Japan is living in the future or otherwise throwing caution to the wind by forever living for tomorrow is terribly inaccurate. Like many countries a long history and deep sense of pride1, most adults are generally conservative and follow traditions. The culture has certainly evolved over the course of its history, as one would expect, but not at the expense of what's been considered good from the past.

When the next emperor is crowned it will be akin to a new year for people across the country. Some will make "resolutions", just as people might for January 1st, and others will choose not to. One thing is for certain, though: everyone will appreciate the incredibly long Golden Week holiday this year. In my case, I get to clock off work on Friday April 26th and not do a thing for the day job until the morning of Tuesday May 6th. Six days of paid national holidays, and more than 65% of the country's employed people will take advantage of it.

  1. The average person that I've spoken to is very proud to be Japanese and have a deep respect for the culture and history of the country. The imperialist expansions across Asia and into the Pacific during the first half of the 20th century are generally regarded as terrible mistakes that must never be repeated. Only once have I met someone who felt the country needed to go into Korea again to "bring peace to the region" … which would do anything but.

]]>
Yes
Five Things https://matigo.ca/2019/03/31/five-things Sun, 31 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6dfc-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Ten days ago the spring equinox ushered in hope that the winter weather would not return until Christmas, but this didn't stop a 5-minute bout of snow and hail from falling in the afternoon while I tried to enjoy a few moments of peace in a nearby park. Fortunately the unwelcome precipitation and colder temperatures did not interfere with my can of Kirin vodka.

One of the many things that I find interesting about the weather in this part of the world is it's sheer unpredictability. When I moved to Japan in 2007 the forecasts were uncannily accurate right down to the hour. As technology got better, the forecasts became less accurate and often plain wrong. This culminated last summer when people started to joke that if the forecast was sun, you'd best carry an umbrella rather than a parasol. Last year I blamed this on the software, as it stands to reason that if things were better before the technology became more complicated, then clearly the technology is at fault. Turns out the actual issue was an unseasonably mild series of seasons between 2006 and 2009, making the weather much more predictabile than normal.

Oops.

That said, it's time for another instalment of Five Things, so here we go!

The Kids Ain't Happy

Today, March 31st, is the last day of vacation for kids across the country as tomorrow marks the official start of the new school year. Advertisements on TV and in the papers have been pushing hard all the things that kids will apparently need to succeed this year. Stationery, books, backpacks, clothes, computers, and even cell phone accessories have all been peddled at kids and their parents without a hint of shame from the resellers. Back when I lived in Canada I would often make use of the back to school sales1 to pick up pens, notebooks, and usually some new computer hardware. Fortunately I see little reason to buy into the false notion that sales at this time of year are any better than what one might find on a random Tuesday.

Companies are in business to make money, by sell things at darn near cost.

Blogging Daily is Really Hard …

… unless you talk to yourself (or your dog) a lot. One might be surprised by how many posts on here were the result of a "conversation" with Nozomi. Then again, maybe people wouldn't be surprised by this in the least.

Unsubscribed

After yesterday's post, I decided to unsubscribe from every news site that has perpetuated the false narratives and siren calls regarding politicians and mudslingers in the US and Europe. The loss of credibility has made it hard to take anything these sites have published recently with any seriousness unless it was clearly marked as "celebrity gossip"2. I'll reassess this lack of attention in a couple of months time. Until then, I'll use the extra time saved by not reading news sites for something more productive.

Ubuntu 19.04 Beta Is Out!

With just a few weeks to go before the official release, Canonical has pushed out a beta of their upcoming 19.04 operating system. There are a number of bug fixes, performance improvements, and general polishings that have made this update one that I've eagerly looked forward to, so getting the beta installed and tested will show me whether I'll want to take the plunge and upgrade the work notebook on day one or wait a month for the first point release.

If you're interested in kicking the beta tired, the ISO can be downloaded directly from Canonical here.

No More Electron "Apps", Please

I understand that a lot of developers think that JavaScript and other web technologies can do anything, but I would like to respectfully ask for my RAM back. 2.6GB of physical memory3 consumed for a text editor with zero open documents is a little excessive, but not unique. Let's go back to writing applications in the "less cool" languages.

  1. Back to school would have been in August, as the school year there runs from September to June.

  2. Nicholas Cage is in the news again? This can't be good …

  3. Physical, not virtual memory.

]]>
Yes
Been Had https://matigo.ca/2019/03/30/been-had Sat, 30 Mar 2019 07:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6dea-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 It's not too often that I write posts that talk about politics anymore but, since the release of the Mueller Report a lot of the news organizations I once read on a daily basis have gone silent on the sitting president of the United States. There is still the occasional article here and there, but gone is the fever pitch, the pitch forks, and the forking priorities1. Given the adamant insistence these news organisations had just two weeks ago about Trump's ties with Russia, I am left wondering how accurate these depictions were now given the crickets that have taken up residence on the websites that screamed for two years about the injustice of a widely unpopular person leading the most powerful nation in the history of humanity. Where is this fervour now? Was the rage just a sham to boost page views? Have we all been had?

There's no question in my mind that Trump and his motley crew of enablers have done questionable things, lied incessantly2, and made the world a more dangerous place. That said, the radio silence from the various news sources that I read makes me wonder just how much of what they've reported was presented accurately and without the convenient bias that makes it possible to hide, bury, or otherwise obscure the whole picture behind an event. What's odd is that in addition to the radio silence, there appears to be more articles about the large number of people crossing the southern border in the US, giving credibility to a long-standing claim that Trump has been making for two years. It is as though these news sites are trying to give the appearance of being balanced in their reporting despite the two years of overtly negative reporting about anything and everything related to the United States.

Again, I wonder if we have all been had, and for what purpose. Ad revenue? An attempt to defrock a wanna-be dictator?

This post will likely come across as less cohesive than the general stream-of-consciousness articles on this site because I'm genuinely troubled by what I see in the news media. It's always been a challenge to separate the signal from the noise. However, if these last few years of siren calls and "exclusives" have been intentionally painted in such a way as to drive traffic at the expense of accuracy, then I'm going to question the accuracy of everything that I've read. Not just the articles about the United States, but those involving the various societal and political issues in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Asia, and South America. How much of what is reported is real? How much is blown out of proportion? Despite my best efforts to understand the world from many angles, there's only so much time in the day. If I can't trust that my sources of information are accurate, then why continue to give them the benefit of the doubt?

I strongly believe in "read, but verify". Verification often involves reading a corroborating article on a different site. Echo chambers do exist, though, and this could result in a misunderstanding about how accurate a story is. If the left-leaning media organisations have over-played their hand, then the unexpected result of the Mueller Report could signal the end for many of these organisations.

  1. Forking for this last item being a homonym for something else.

  2. Often without reason. This is the most damning of all, as a person who lies when they're innocent is often considered guilty of other things regardless of reality.

]]>
Yes
When Everyone's Asleep https://matigo.ca/2019/03/29/when-everyones-asleep Fri, 29 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6dd5-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Almost twenty ago, when it was possible to get by on three hours of sleep before working a 12-hour shift, I would often go for a drive late at night in order to step away from the computer and clear my head. This was back when I still lived in Hamilton and worked at an appliance repair place in town. The days would be spent at the day job, and the evenings would be spent playing Age of Empires or writing software for Palm handhelds. By midnight I would be tired of looking at a screen, sore from a lack of movement, and generally bored of being at home. So, having no other commitments, I'd choose an elaborate driving route to get a cup of coffee from a Tim Horton's somewhere within a 60km radius.

Late Night Drive

My favourite route would involve driving from my apartment to a nearby highway, heading north to Oakville some 35km away, buying a large two-cream, no sugar coffee for $1.75, then driving right back to Hamilton. If I was thinking through a problem or otherwise uninterested in sleep, I'd stay on the QEW1, sometimes travelling another 30km to the suburban cities of Beamsville or beyond. If I wasn't already on my way back home by 2:00am, I'd find a place to turn around and head home, knowing that I'd need to be in bed by 3 in the morning if I wanted to be back to work by 7:30 to open the shop and get things ready. These night drives were incredibly relaxing given that the vehicle I drove at the time didn't have a working stereo. With just the sound of the engine and the tires on the pavement, the mind was free to process the stresses of the day, or think through some programming problem, or wander off to some other place as the world went by2.

The drive, while terribly wasteful in terms of money and pollution, was quite therapeutic. No matter how much stress I might have felt at the start of the journey, the anxieties and pressures were always reduced by the end of the trip. This, in addition to being just 20 or so at the time, is most likely what made the power naps until sunrise possible.

In Japan these sorts of drives can be attempted, but they're nowhere near as enjoyable. Highways in this country have too many red lights. The only way to escape the endless stop-and-go is to use some of the toll expressways that cost about $0.50 per kilometre. The trips in my youth could see me on the roads for two or three hours. That would translate into a $60 joyride in Japan … or a 45km journey that involved 90 minutes of waiting for a light to change. Instead what I do now when it's time to unwind and everyone's asleep is read a book or play a quick game of 囲碁3 against a computer. It doesn't get me out of the house, but it works just as well.

  1. The Queen Elizabeth Way, a rather wide highway that goes from Niagara Falls to Toronto and beyond.

  2. I always paid enough attention to the road, given that the average speed on a Canadian highway is anywhere between 110km and 120km per hour.

  3. Igo (or go), the classic Asian strategy game.

]]>
Yes
I'm Not Blocking Ads https://matigo.ca/2019/03/28/im-not-blocking-ads Thu, 28 Mar 2019 04:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6dc3-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 The number of websites and domains that I cannot visit continues to grow as advertising networks acquire new domains and digital publications put up inaccurate messages like the one below. When I see messages like this, I generally close the tab and make a note to not visit the site again as it does neither of us any good. The publisher doesn't want to send a couple of hundred kilobytes from their servers to my browser without getting far more information about me than is necessary, and I outright refuse to allow invasive, processor-intensive JavaScript written by unscrupulous individuals to be run without so much as a glance at the code. Ads I'm fine with, though, as this has been the primary source of income for websites since the 90s. If I didn't want to see any form of advertisement, I wouldn't even allow images from websites that were not already part of my trustworthy domains list.

Ad Blocker Message

The idea that "every visitor blocking domains is a content thief" is patently absurd and should be blindly obvious even to digital publications that rely heavily on advertising revenues. What I find troubling about messages like this isn't so much that someone thought that guilting a person into allowing ads might work1, but that someone hasn't considered a better way to make use of the narrow window of opportunity that continues to exist. The picture of the kitten had to come from somewhere, right2? So what's preventing websites from using semi-static links to generic advertisements? This is what we did 15 years ago with a great deal of (initial) success.

Connection Refused

This drum has been beaten a number of times in the past, but I am not at all keen on random companies following me around the web, regardless the reason. Showing targeted advertisements does not "add value to my reading experience". Fingerprinting my browser in order to build a history of what websites and specific pages I've visited without prior consent is not at all permitted, and I challenge anyone to convince me why it this isn't something that is disabled by default and we much individually choose to opt into3. Does this mean that visiting an article about this year's upcoming Lenovo notebooks can't have ads on it? Not in the least.

If I were to run an advertising network that made the bulk of its money collecting and selling information about website visitors while also presenting semi-meaningful advertisements that fit into specific boxes, this is what I would do:

  1. sell "generic" advertisement space for a fraction of whatever the average real-time bidding price for a site or genre happens to be
  2. have websites dedicate a certain amount of storage space to keep static advertisement images local
  3. have plugins for the site's CMS (be it WordPress, Joomla, Moodle, or what-have-you) regularly sync keywords from the site's pages with generic-enough advertisements
  4. have the JavaScript that collects people's data and shows ads replace the generic advertisements with targeted ones
  5. profit a little bit more

People who block domains will then continue to see ads, though they may not be the most targeted. If collecting as much data is absolutely crucial, which many seem to believe is true, then perhaps the images could be served a little more dynamically with the CMS plugin recording the browser information at the same time as an advertisement is requested. That data can then be sent back to the ad network for analysis. IP addresses and basic browser details are generally part of every web request already, so it's not like we're giving up an excessive amount of personal or private data this way.

Perhaps by doing this the asinine little "please let our dozen revenue streams track you!" banners can go away and sites can continue to earn a bit of revenue from people like me who are wholly untrusting of disrespectful website code.

  1. I'm sure this does work for some people, but anyone who is easily guilted into doing something a website tells them will probably not use an Ad Blocker browser plugin or outright block domains like I do.

  2. Looking at the source CSS, the image is coming from a static file on the web server itself, which naturally would clear the domain blocking list if I can access the site to begin with.

  3. As one might expect, I have serious trust issues with opt-ins and opt-outs as I believe most of these are just placebos to cover up the fact that our data is being siphoned/stolen/sorted/sold regardless what level of permission we give a web service.

]]>
Yes
Opening a Can of Worms https://matigo.ca/2019/03/27/opening-a-can-of-worms Wed, 27 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6dae-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Yes, it's another 10Cv5-related blog post. This time I get to ramble incoherently about one of the first functions that was coded into the API but has not yet appeared in the beta due to the can of worms that was opened when the feature was first written, which ultimately resulted in me choosing to create v5 rather than building on top of v4: following websites.

One of the first thoughts that I had when reading through a lot of the IndieWeb documentation was something like: "This would all be a whole lot simpler if our RSS readers were also our blogging tools". With that thought firmly implanted, I started sketching out how an RSS reader might look if it also had facilities like you'd find in a blogging application like MarsEdit. Images of late-90s-era Netscape UIs bounced around in my head, where single applications tried really hard to do five things but accomplished none. A reading application is no more a place to write than a novel … right?

The more I thought about this the more I saw the RSS reader as being more a part of the social elements than any other. A syndication feed of "informal posts" like one would find on any modern social network is not that different from an RSS application where every update is shown in the same scrollable view. This is essentially how the big social networks operate today, with personal items from friends and family being broken up by a blog post from a website we're interested in. On App.Net, a person could have syndication feeds from websites appear in the timeline by creating an account, hooking up an RSS feed via PourOver, and following that "bot" account. This works to a certain degree, but it annoying as heck for anyone who wants to follow a bunch of websites. As someone who has created social networks, having a bunch of bot accounts is a lose-lose proposition. These things consume far more resources than even the most expressive fans of the platform and give nothing of value back to the people who use the system. Oh, sure, many people can follow an account named @BBC for posts from various BBC feeds, but there's no interaction possible beyond "comments to nowhere". Then there's the problem of "who owns the ever-growing collection of content in the database?" Is it the person who created the syndication account? Is it the website owner? How can a website owner even know that someone on a tiny social network like 10C created an account in their name?

Looking at the notebook where I first started sketching out how a feature like this might work, I asked 14 hard questions about content ownership, ancillary distribution, and phantom archival. At the end of the day, I did not want these bot accounts on 10C. The risk of copyright problems was just too great, and this was before the recent EU legislation on copyright was passed into law.

Having RSS feeds from external sites appear in our timelines is an attractive idea, though. So why not give people the ability to "follow" websites? The RSS feed would be read on a per-account basis and kept only for that account. As the RSS feed cycled, older items would fall off the end and newer items would appear at the front. Nothing would be saved in the database and, if a website disappeared from the Internet or otherwise stopped distributing their content via the old standards, the information held by 10C would naturally expire and disappear. Content ownership would continue to to be 100% controlled by the content owner, as it should be. As these posts would appear in a social timeline, they could be commented on. IndieWeb standards makes it possible to send a WebMention to the content owner's site, letting them know that someone has written a comment. If that site follows IndieWeb standards, a handshake will take place and the comment will be recognized. The 10C database would hold onto my comment, along with a link to the source content that I commented on, but not the other person's post data, as it does not belong to me.

This is how people using self-hosted versions of 10C will be able to communicate with each other in a decentralized fashion, and this is how people using 10C will be able to communicate with people using a self-hosted WordPress blog, or micro.blog, or TheGuardian.co.uk … if they were to ever embrace some IndieWeb interactivity.

The can of worms is still very much open, and there are a number of issues that still need to be handled, such as parsing really bad XML and JSON syndication feeds. That said, the technical hurdles are always the easiest to overcome. The complexity is always in how people respond and react. 10C's approach to RSS is rather conservative and perhaps a bit over-cautious, but it may be the most logical way forward given how governments around the world are slowly closing off the web.

This feature will be going live on the v5 Social Beta site in the next few days, and it will be interesting to see how well it operates when there is more than a single person using it.

]]>
Yes
Alternatives https://matigo.ca/2019/03/26/alternatives Tue, 26 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6d9f-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 A number of technology-related roadblocks have prevented me from completing work at the day job in an expected amount of time this past week and it makes me wonder how different life would be if I were not someone like me. These issues, while not terribly complex to resolve, did require a little imagination to work through. One involved virtual file management for a key part of my day-to-day. Another consisted of restoring a 288GB database onto a 100GB storage device without deleting any data. A third required creating a working database snapshot from a deteriorating server located somewhere in Japan where the only place to store the backup was on an unreliable hard drive that typically resulted in a corrupted file. All three of these had something to do with SQL Server on Linux, but none were specifically problems with SQL Server or Linux. The problems were just luck of the draw, and the universe decided that I should tackle all three in the same 3-day period.

There are a number of IT professionals in Japan I know who would need at least a week to resolve each one of these problems, and half of them would most likely give up and look for shortcuts before lunchtime. This isn't how I do things, though, as it's important that technology solves problems more often than it creates new ones.

So what would life be like if I wasn't a stubborn dolt with a love of databases and logic who battles the endless highs and lows that sit between accomplishment and burnout? Simpler, perhaps.

There are times when I'd love to have some TV technology like the sliding wormhole from Sliders or the portal gun from Rick & Morty in order to see what other versions of me are doing in other dimensions. Could I find a me that chose to become an architect? Could I find a me that opened a decent coffee & sandwich shop? Could I find a me that became a celebrity of some sort? Infinite dimensions would make for infinite combinations of possibility1, and seeing "what could have been, given slightly different circumstances" would be incredibly interesting to explore … for a short while. After a week or two I'd lose interest in what different versions of me were doing and would instead look at different versions of human history.

What would the world be like if China colonized the Americas first? What would the world be like if humans did not evolve the ability to speak? What would the world be like if societies had been matriarchal for thousands of years? What would the world be like if we never stopped at the Moon and pushed to send people to Mars and elsewhere after Apollo 17? What would the world be like if Genghis Khan, Napoleon, or Alexander the Great never existed?

So many questions … and no dimension-jumping technology to help answer them. Fortunately there are works of fiction written to consider some of these questions.

  1. the IDIC principle as described by Vulcan philosophy … and many human belief systems as well.

]]>
Yes
Extreme loneliness or the perfect balance? How to work from home and stay healthy https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/mar/25/extreme-loneliness-or-the-perfect-balance-how-to-work-from-home-and-stay-healthy Mon, 25 Mar 2019 16:13:53 +0000 Jason fbddaaac-4f18-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

When Sean Blanda started working remotely in 2017, the allure of a "digital nomad" lifestyle – working at your laptop on the beach, say – wasn't lost on him. The ability to work flexibly, be that at home or wherever else life may take you, is the dream for every disgruntled employee who has to fit in school pickups, dentist appointments and long commutes around office hours. […] But after two years of working from home, Blanda, an editorial director for a tech company based in Philadelphia, knows only too well the many pitfalls of this way of life, with the greatest being isolation.

Interesting how The Guardian has an article about this as @hazardwarning and I discuss it ourselves. There's a lot more to making this work than "a quiet confidence". I have confidence in spades and the ego to prove it despite my efforts to control its more aggravating aspects. What I don't have is the ability to focus on what I need to do unless everyone has gone to bed.

I can't continue to work until 2:00am every day if the boy wakes me up at 6:30 with the sun …

]]>
Yes
Here Comes the Documentation https://matigo.ca/2019/03/25/here-comes-the-documentation Mon, 25 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6d8e-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 System documentation is not something that I tend to spend a great deal of time on. This doesn't mean that I don't have any documentation and I most certainly do not ascribe to a "the documentation is the code!" mentality. As crazy as it may sound, the vast majority of the documentation for my projects, be it 10Centuries or something else, is found in one of the many A5-sized, graph-ruled notebooks. It's in these notebooks that ideas are first described, (literally) sketched, and refined before being transformed into code. Whenever I have one of those "what the heck was I thinking?" moments, I can grab a physical book, flip to the appropriate pages, and get an idea of where my head was at that day.

Unfortunately this doesn't help anyone else who might actually want to use the tools that I create, which was driven home this past weekend when @phoneboy asked me when there might be some sort of resource that he could look at to get his workflows ready for the upcoming switch from the 10C v4 API to the v5 API. Today the first iteration of a public documentation site goes live.

The New Documentation Site

As with just about every first iteration I release, there will be some blank pages and incomplete placeholders. People will wonder why the Contact form is fully operational while something a little more important like the glossary is incomplete1. Some might take a look at the documentation from a phone and see that things are not aligned quite right. Others will find grammar and/or spelling errors and decide the whole thing is untrustworthy. As the person who designed the website in a couple of hours, then wrote the documentation, I accept any critiques that might be levelled at the work. That said, more of the site will be filled out this week as we get closer to the switch from v4 to v5.

So what sort of things are ready on the documentation site?

  1. the Authentication API
  2. the Terms of Use page
  3. the Contact form

That's about it for today. Tomorrow I'll aim to get the Account, Files, Posts, and Search APIs written and published. If there's still time after that, Bookmark and Locker would be good utilities to document, as these could branch out into their own services given the right use cases. So long as the day job does not require more than 9 hours per day this week, it should be feasible to have the first complete set of documentation ready before April … which would be a solid start to encouraging more people to try v5.

  1. This is simple: the Contact form is already built into the API. All I had to do was wire up some of the HTML to make it work. Everything else needed to be researched, written, and/or modified from the (now retired) v4 documentation site.

]]>
Yes
Five Things https://matigo.ca/2019/03/24/five-things Sun, 24 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6d7d-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 You win some, you lose some. Today I most certainly lost some … storage space. Turns out that when you make use of VirutalBox and want to shrink some drives, you really shouldn't use an XFS file system. After a ridiculous amount of time, I discovered that 430GB of SSD storage cannot be easily recovered because I made the foolish decision of using XFS instead of ext4 when building the Ubuntu SQL Server VM. XFS partitions cannot be shrunk, and the zerofill tool won't even read the file system. Given that the server that's hosting the VMs only has 936GB of SSD storage in total, something tells me I'll be recreating my local SQL Server playground at some point this week and sticking with the defaults a bit more.

Fun? Wow!

Now on with the list …

Lots of Air Traffic Recently

Being on the Pacific side of the continent, there is typically a constant stream of planes flying overhead as people make their way over the ocean. Lately the number of vehicles ferrying passengers to and fro seems to have increased in the skies above my home. This might just be something that I'm noticing more thanks to the darker night sky that Nozomi and I enjoy every night, though.

Imaginary Problems Cause Real Anxiety?

Twice this past week the anxiety monster reared its ugly head after walking the puppy outside over imaginary problems that the mind concocted while in the park. The rational mind dismissed these issues as the fictional nonsense that it was, but the irrational mind refused to let go. This resulted in an inability to calm down until after 2:00am twice in the last seven days. The only good thing that came from this is the Search API that has recently been released for 10Cv5. Not being able to unwind and having a couple of extra hours in a day can give a person incentive to get important work done.

Docs For Sure!

Speaking of 10Cv5, I need to get some documentation out. This week I'll invest the time to make some basic documentation showing how to authenticate, work with the Posts API, and how to change settings for Personas, Channels, and Sites. Having some pages that explain what these things actually are would be useful, too, as there may be some confusion between Accounts and Personas, and Channels and Sites. They're similar, but different in important ways.

Japanese News Priorities

Last week Ichiro Suzuki decided to call it quits and retire from the sport that he loves. There was nary a word about this in any of the European or Canadian newspapers that I read on a daily basis, as might be expected, but every Japanese news program cancelled every non-Ichiro story to dedicate their entire program to his announcement and its "analysis". Given the amount of coverage that the man received, one might think the guy is more popular than the emperor … and maybe this is true. Baseball is very much a part of the country's modern identity.

The Boy Likes Noodles

This weekend the boy was treated with some udon from a popular restaurant in the area. As expected, he couldn't get enough of it. We've been careful of what he eats while we're out and about due to possible allergies and a concern about the high salt content in foods in this part of the country but, as he's already two, we're showing him that there are lots and lots of different kinds of food to enjoy.

Udon.jpeg

Something tells me he's going to be asking for "maru game"1 a lot in the coming months and years.

Fortunately noodle-based restaurants are relatively cheap.

  1. Pronounced "mah-roo gah-may" … more or less.

]]>
Yes
Body Parts https://matigo.ca/2019/03/23/body-parts Sat, 23 Mar 2019 12:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6d6c-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Over the last couple of months the boy has become quite the talker. He's always been verbal, but he's starting to make three and four-word sentences in order to communicate everything he sees to everyone within earshot. He's particularly interested in trees, leaves, and parts of the body. Sometimes he'll sit down and point at his knee and say what it is in both English and Japanese, then move on to other easily recognizable bits. Eyes, ears, nose, mouth, teeth, tongue, neck, shoulder, chest, tummy, belly button, hips, bum … and then he'll ask me a question.

これ何?1

While I generally answer every question he asks, I don't know how I should teach him to describe his penis or scrotum. Do I use the proper words? Do I use the childish forms? Do I use colloquial terms? Do I continue to avoid answering the question like my parents did for years on end?

The boy can clearly point and describe his ankle, heel, sole, and toes on his feet, yet he doesn't have the vocabulary to describe all the parts of his body that he's aware of because I have some deep-seated squirmishness about … what, exactly?

It's absurd, and I recognize this every time he asks the question. Part of me would like to answer so that he's better equipped to describe injuries or follow-up questions, or simply to not feel weird about himself. We don't avoid nudity around each other, as I've changed thousands of diapers and given him hundreds of baths. He has seen me go into, and come out of the shower, so he knows that we both have the same basic parts.

Am I avoiding the question because he already likes to shout words like NECK! and SHOULDER! and ELBOW! when we're out in the park or at a busy mall? I'll admit that I would be embarrassed if he were walking around a store shouting PENIS! while pointing at himself because he doesn't yet have the social awareness that some things are better left unsaid in public, and often better said with fewer than 120 decibels.

These are certainly all my problem. A neurosis that accomplishes little beyond (potentially) saving me a moment of public embarrassment and having strangers judge me either as an uncouth father or a threat to my child's safety. But this asinine anxiety over body parts is clearly something that the boy will pick up on. I should fix my own head on this matter before I inadvertently mess up his.

If only all the world's problems were as seemingly inconsequential as this one ….

  1. Translated, he's asking "What's this?". I don't know why he doesn't ask questions in English given all the other things he can do with the language. That said, he still has time to learn ?

]]>
Yes
Search Done (Almost) Right https://matigo.ca/2019/03/22/search-done-almost-right Fri, 22 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6d5a-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Yes, it's yet another post about search algorithms and how I'm never satisfied with any of the versions that I write against a MySQL database1. That said, I've managed to cobble something together in the v5 API that doesn't completely frustrate me every time the thing runs, and it's live on my v5 test site right now.

Unlike many of my past attempts to work with search, I wanted the Anri theme to have a very focused way of enabling search from any page without requiring a page load. When the search modal is triggered, the entire screen will be covered and a single text box will appear for search criteria to be entered.

001 - Search For Nozomi

When the results come back, the search criteria is moved to the top of the page and the bottom 75% shows information with the specified words highlighted in off-yellow. Like other versions of 10C, an icon will appear on the left of the title to signify what kind of item was returned. The title is a proper link to the item but, for people who want a bit more of a peek, there's a "Show More" button2. Clicking this will open a simplified version of a post with keywords highlighted and all of the HTML stripped out. I may need to change this in the future to allow images, though, as my posts about Nozomi look a little weird without the visual elements.

002 - Search Results for Nozomi

This form of search is not as instantaneous as the one built for v4's default blogging theme, but it's a lot more comprehensive.

003 - Bright Yellow

With v4 I would often run into issues when trying to return search results for my own site in under two seconds, which is why I "cheated" with the EzReader theme by merging search with an archive page. A full list of blog posts would be retrieved from the API along with some additional metadata such as tags and stored in local memory. This information would be used to generate the full list of blog posts in reverse chronological order and, when filter criteria was entered into the search box on that page, the data stored in local memory would be read to show the results. Unfortunately this would only include blog posts. Social and other post types were completely ignored because it typically results in too large a volume of data to work with.

Lazy, lazy, lazy!

With v5 I've set aside the goal of returning data for my sites in under two seconds and instead opted to return a more complete set of results by querying the database properly for all post types. This will be important going forward as there is no limit to the number of post types a channel may contain.

004 - Expanded Results

The v4 API did have a Search API that could be called to query the database, but this was rarely ever used. What I plan on doing with the v5 implementation is seeing how well it returns data for people and then improving its ability to handle accounts with more than 100,000 items in a single channel.

Using the v5 Search API

If you'd like to see how well the v5 Search API responds to requests, you can do it like this:

GET https://home.j2fi.net/api/search

Required variables:

for={criteria}

Optional variables:

incl_html={Y/N}count={1~200}

Including the HTML body will send the full, original text of the item and is not included by default. The count value defaults at 75. Authentication is not a requirement but, if the request contains a valid authentication token, account-level search results are made. This means that if there are private or "invisible" posts on a site, they will appear in search so long as the signed in account has the appropriate level of permission.

Hopefully this is a solid start to search done right.

  1. I have some pretty fancy code to whip out for SQL Server that gives me a proper-weighted search result with pretty good consistency.

  2. This will appear only when the full text is longer than the summary.

]]>
Yes
First Ubuntu Crash https://matigo.ca/2019/03/21/first-ubuntu-crash Thu, 21 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6d49-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 So there I was, just about ready to publish a blog post about the upcoming cherry blossom festivals in Japan, when something so rare happened that I didn't quite understand what had actually happened at first: Ubuntu crashed.

Technically it was Xorg that crashed, but that's neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things. The only time I can remember having an honest-to-goodness issue with Ubuntu is when I would run too many VMs, starving the host OS of resources. The system is generally incredibly stable, which is one of the reasons I come back to this distribution of Linux time and again for both desktops and servers. Fortunately nothing important was being worked on, otherwise I might be tempted to use this as an excuse to install one of the daily builds of the upcoming 19.04 release.

There's less than a month to go before the next version of the popular Debian-based operating system is released and there are a couple of features that I'm looking forward to. The first is a bug fix for name resolution when disconnecting from an L2TP-based VPN. This issue has bugged me for months despite it's relatively simple workaround. When disconnecting from the work VPN I lose all name resolution on the machine, meaning that I cannot use the network (or the web) at all. Browsers complain that there is no connection, and pings to known servers on the home network timeout. The solution is to disable and re-enable WiFi, which is annoying given that I'm using a wired connection. 19.04 will include a fix for this.

The second item I'm looking forward to is the updated Gnome desktop environment. Version 3.22 has some noticeable performance improvements that make the system feel much, much faster. Applications load faster. Animations and transitions are smoother. Memory consumption is lower. Wins all around and, given how the 18.10 version of Ubuntu that is currently running on my notebooks is already a heck of a lot more performant than either macOS or Windows 10, the additional improvements might just make people using a commercial operating system a tad jealous.

Of course, Linux on the desktop may not be something that everyone would want to use on a daily basis. I feel that it is more than ready to be used by a majority of people who do not absolutely require the Microsoft Office suite or the best hardware support for gaming1. Given the opportunity, I would even push the management at the day job to consider ditching Windows 10 for Ubuntu given that the vast majority of the computers at the schools require little more than a browser and Skype.

Maybe I'll bring the topic up when the 20.04 LTS release is announced.

  1. Gaming on Linux is getting better from what I'm told, but this is still something I'll try to actively avoid in order to make better use of any spare time. A nice train simulator or some of the better Need for Speed offerings could really interfere with sleep, work, and other responsibilities.

]]>
Yes
This Tesla owner tested his car's Autopilot auto-braking on his (soon-to-be-ex-) wife https://driving.ca/tesla/auto-news/news/this-tesla-owner-tested-his-cars-autopilot-auto-braking-on-his-soon-to-be-ex-wife Thu, 21 Mar 2019 10:25:01 +0000 Jason 957ddfb9-4bc3-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

Some absolute genius thought it would be a great idea to try out his Tesla's Autopilot Emergency Braking system by driving straight at his own wife.

What I find odd is that it seems the woman agreed to have a car driven at her …

]]>
Yes
Vengeful sacked IT bod destroyed ex-employer's AWS cloud accounts. Now he'll spent rest of 2019 in the clink https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/03/20/steffan_needham_aws_rampage_prison_sentence_voova/ Thu, 21 Mar 2019 01:19:38 +0000 Jason 659bec7c-4b77-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

Bloke hit delete on £500,000 of 'business-critical data' after he was let go for 'poor' performance

What an idiot. So not only will he spend a few years in prison, but he'll need to train for a completely different career path while in the slammer because he'll never work in tech again.

]]>
Yes
Let's Do This https://matigo.ca/2019/03/20/lets-do-this Wed, 20 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6d36-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Believe it or not, one of the many things that I enjoy throughout the day is putting the glowing screens away and spending time in the physical world. This can be done by going outside for a walk around the neighbourhood, which I'll readily admit involves blocking out the world by listening to podcasts while enjoying the sights and smells of the local environment, or enjoying a moment with family. When I'm at the desk there are always a number of work-related distractions vying for attention, so stepping away allows some time to focus. What I've found interesting about my desire for focus is not so much the fact that I'm passing a lot less time online, though this is unexpected, but that distractions in everyday life are generally batted away with more ease than I ever expected. This is something I've wanted to do for years and, after months of work and effort, it seems the goal has been mostly reached.

Perhaps some examples are in order.

This past Monday the family and I went out for a walk in the morning. As one would expect, the boy was happy to be outside with both of his parents and we made our way to the park. A few minutes into the walk, Reiko noticed that the recycling truck hadn't come by and wanted everyone to go back to the house so that we could take out a single stack of magazines. I suggested we do that later if the truck still hadn't come by. As one would expect, this rebuttal was not at all appreciated. My response was simple: "We decided to bring our son to the park. We're here now. Let's do this."

Going back home would have been a distraction. It would have upset the boy, who generally doesn't like leaving the park to begin with. There were fewer than ten magazines to take out, so it wasn't like we were buried in unwanted paper. Being present now, focusing on now, was the better use of time1.

Yesterday Nozomi was in one of her playful moods, so I stepped away from the computer to give her some much-deserved attention. While we were playing there were two chimes from the notebook telling me that some emails had arrived. Given the rather strict filtering rules that govern what appears in the Inbox, any message that makes it through is generally something relatively important or information required for a task that I'm working on. However, just like on Monday, I chose to focus my time and attention on the playful puppy. Just glancing at the computer would have been a distraction. If something were truly important, there would be a phone call. Email can wait, and that's exactly what it did. Being present now, focusing on now, was the better use of time … and I didn't feel bad about it.

There are a half-dozen more examples from just this week alone and they all follow the same pattern: focusing on this because that can wait.

Thirty year old me would be shocked to see this change. Thirty-five year old me would as well. In two weeks I'll be 40 and my opinion on the evolution is simple: it's about time.

  1. Also, as one would expect, this line of reasoning was not appreciated.

]]>
Yes
More is More https://matigo.ca/article/96e9be38-4af1-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Wed, 20 Mar 2019 09:00:00 +0000 Jason 96e9be38-4af1-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 There's a lot to be said for a minimalistic simplicity. There's even more to be said for something that just works. The Anri theme on the upcoming 10Cv5 platform is something that I would really like for people to use without thinking about the level of complexity that is operating under the covers. As with all my work, the code is human-readable for anyone who is interested in seeing why things do what they do, but only those interested should even have the thought cross their mind.

Graph Paper and Pencil

Over the last couple of months I've managed to fill an entire notebook with scribbles that describe how functions work, why certain decisions were made, why others were avoided, and which order work should be performed. The amount of effort that has gone into Anri over the last three weeks covers barely a quarter of what's been planned for completion in the next little bit, though every update is incredibly important.

Last week the RSS and JSON Feed mechanisms were published. Today the ability to upload files and edit posts directly from Anri has been released. The next set of updates will focus on conversation threads and the OpsBar that runs along the top of a site when people are signed in. None of these are easy, nor should they be. If the v5 version of 10C was going to be easy, then I would have created a static site generator.

All in all, I'm quite happy with what's been accomplished so far this month. There's just one more quick little update I'd like to complete and send live before moving my main site over to the new platform, and I might just be able to get it written and deployed before the end of the day.

Here's hoping that the people who are testing the new platform are just as happy with the recent updates as I am.

]]>
Yes
Worse Than Failure https://matigo.ca/2019/03/19/worse-than-failure Tue, 19 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6d23-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 A "faulty server migration" is being blamed for the extinction-level removal of songs, photos and video from myspace. Tragic as it may seem, I very much doubt that the company has invested the necessary resources required to recover the data as it clearly does not "add value" for the current management team. What is disappointing about this affair isn't so much that it's the second time that myspace has suffered some catastrophic data loss1, but instead that the company has given up on trying to recover the four years of data for people who still actively use the service. An argument could certainly be made to skip or delay data restoration for accounts that have been idle for over a year and most people would likely agree that this makes sense. But never give up on your die-hard fans.

Scratched Platters

You Can Call It "Protection"

At the day job, management is making some similar noises about data. We're 16 months into a 30-month project that will see every location around the world move onto a single, cohesive set of cloud-based solutions. Students and instructors will finally have a consistent set of resources to use, regardless of where they happen to be on the globe. The company tried to do this once before with an in-house CMS and failed. This second attempt is being built on a business-oriented cloud platform with a larger group of people and expensive vendors. Failure is not going to be an option. That said, one of the decisions that was made early on is that we're really only going to import the last two years of data from the myriad of databases around the world. Some of our digital systems have student and lesson information going back to the late 90s. Does the company really want to toss all this away?

Some people are terrified of what might happen if two decades of information is intentionally left out of the new system and rightly so. Businesses cannot always make the best decisions about the future without understanding the past. Importing everything into the new system would be cost prohibitive2, which means there needs to be another system set up somewhere that can contain all of the data that was not converted for the new software. But how does one go about putting several dozen databases from different platforms with different schemas into a unified system that can be effectively indexed, searched, and reported from?

This is where Microsoft's Azure Data Lake may make sense, and I've been pushing hard to make it happen.

The day job currently has systems that use SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, FileMaker, Access, and Excel as a back end3. A couple of schools in Europe even managed to build some tools with NoSQL databases. There's no way for all of this to be logically put into a single, unified system. Instead a data lake could be used to store unstructured and semi-structured data from all of these systems. This would make it possible for reports to be generated against the larger data set, pulling from all regions or just the specific locations a person wants to query. Data going back to the 90s would reside in this data lake as well as data that was recorded yesterday. More than this, data that will be created in the future could also be put into this data lake through regular synchronization processes, making it possible to have a comprehensive source of reporting data.

But there's more to the data lake idea than just reporting. My ultimate goal for this massively complex collection of data is not just to help the business answer questions, but to ensure the people who rely on our systems don't have to live through a myspace moment. Systems fail. Data gets lost accidentally. Vendors become undesirable. At no time should my employer have a single point of risk when it comes to our student (and instructor) data. Not having a backup strategy in place would be worse than failure.

One of the many services that I offer a lot of my freelance clients is the peace of mind of being their off-site backup keeper. Fortunately this is something I can manage pretty decently as few archives are over 50GB in size4. By using a data lake or something similar, I can ensure the day job has viable options should the unthinkable happen.

  1. The first time (that I can remember) myspace lost a bunch of data was in 2013 after a redesign that required everyone to rebuild their communities from scratch. This was one of the many problems that pushed the less-dedicated into Facebook's waiting arms.

  2. This is what I'm told, anyways. If it's true, then I'm quite upset with the senior executives who signed off on the vendor contracts, as they would have known full well what sort of lock-in we were getting into.

  3. Yes, I know that Excel is not a database. I know it should not be used as a "back end" for anything. Yet here we are …

  4. I generally burn backups to a DVD or BluRay disc, and my BluRay recorder only supports up to 50GB discs. I'd love to get a BD-XR burner at some point, though, as fitting 100GB on a disc would free up a lot of media binders and reduce the amount of data I keep on the NAS at any point in time.

]]>
Yes
Do People Still Torrent? https://matigo.ca/2019/03/18/do-people-still-torrent Mon, 18 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6d10-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Earlier today one of my Ubuntu torrents hit a ratio of 1000:1, meaning that I have transferred the equivalent of 1000 copies of the open source operating system to people around the world. I generally have a number of torrents running at any given time, and they're all different distributions and versions of Linux. The reason for this is pretty simple: I would like to help people obtain their copy of an installation disc as quickly as possible, and sharing Linux is pretty much the only legal use of BitTorrent in Japan. Yet when the notice popped up to let me know about the golden torrent ratio, I was disappointed that it took as long as it did. The file was completed on December 23rd of last year. Over the next 85 days I would upload the equivalent of 1,000 copies. It seems … unremarkable.

Chalkboard Downloading

BitTorrent was incredibly popular a little over a decade ago, with sites going up and being taken down with such regularity that it would sometimes be hard to find the latest episodes of a TV show or a decent-quality copy of a CD. Large trackers such as ThePirateBay and EZTV would regularly appear in newspaper articles, letting people new to the idea of downloading entertainment without paying for it know what to type into Google. While living in Vancouver, and for the first couple of years I lived in Japan, I would often make use of the nefarious sites to get the most recent episodes of The Simpsons, Futurama, and a myriad of interesting documentaries. These were programs that just weren't available in the country in any usable format without investing a great deal of money in shipping fees. Some time around 2012 the government passed a law that made it possible for ISPs to rat out their customers to various copyright holders. Within a few days of the law going into effect, some people were arrested to "send a message" and just about everyone I knew in the country who used torrents gave them up overnight.

But I kept going … albeit with the limit of sharing only open sourced Linux-based distributions.

Over time people moved on to Netflix and Hulu, or suffered with whatever could be found on YouTube. Talk of torrents almost completely disappeared, even online. Every now and again there will be a magnet link on someone's blog to download a presentation or a conference talk, but these are few and far between. It's as though the technology has been labelled "for criminals only". Maybe this is semi-accurate.

Over the decades that I've been online, file sharing has evolved quite a bit. I was first introduced to the concept in high school when people would download files from a BBS and share 3.5" floppy disks with friends. Then there were the ever-busy XDCC servers on IRC, where your connection had to do something in 10 seconds otherwise risk being considered "idle" and disconnected. Then came the FTPs (that were broadcast on IRC). Afterwards I joined an ISP that had newsgroups and I would spend hours downloading RAR files, testing partity with PAR files, and screaming at the screen when part 23 of 25 of the last segment in a 150-piece RAR file didn't appear in the listings, rendering the entire download pointless. Later came Napster, which changed my relationship with music, as it was now possible to listen to the artists that Canadian radio stations refused to play. Later, for those who didn't mind viruses, LimeWire and e-Mule were the places to trade just about anything on your computer, including personal finance databases1. And then, when it seemed that downloading an entire file from a single source was no longer the best option, BitTorrent came along.

This is where I stopped. I don't know what came next, if any superior technology superseded torrents at all. I'm not particularly interested in downloading TV shows, music, movies, or anything like that from random strangers anymore, either. Streaming services are generally quite reliable and priced competitively. Spotify gets $10 a month from me, and I subscribe to Netflix two months of every year2. If there are movies that I'd really like to see, there's a number of providers who'll make the video available for anywhere between one and five dollars. It doesn't make sense to pirate content when the commercial offerings are generally good enough, even for people in geo-restricted countries.

Of course there are still going to be people who cannot or will not pay for the digital files they seek. There's no getting around this. The pervasiveness of digital piracy seems to have diminished, but it will never go away. Do people still torrent? Most certainly. Is it widely used in the Linux community to share the various distributions? Oddly enough … no.

  1. I wasn't the only one to discover that a lot of people would just share everything on their C drive, including the full contents of their personal documents folder.

  2. This is generally long enough for me to catch up on anything I'd like to see, minus a few shows on Fox.

]]>
Yes
Five Things https://matigo.ca/2019/03/17/five-things Sun, 17 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6cfb-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 This week I decided to bump up the allergy medicine dosage to 1.5x of what is recommended in an effort to stave off this season's excessive assault on my sinuses. With each pill weighing in at 88 Yen a piece and the recommended dosage being two pills every 12 hours, I'm now paying just over five dollars a day to have relatively decent vision and breathing, with a slightly less-runny nose. This could be much worse, of course, but $140 a month for a partial respite of a non-fatal condition irks me. That money could be going to something far more worthwhile, such as a new hard drive for the NAS. Hopefully there will be a "cure" for seasonal allergies at some point in the near future. Knowing how the world works, though, this cure would probably cost the equivalent of 50 years of medication and come with a possible risk of contracting a permanent bout of Montezuma's revenge.

All this aside, let's get on with the list. In no particular order, this week I've been thinking about …

Mitsubishi Pens

Over the last couple of months I've been using a Frixion ballpoint pen when writing notes and thinking through data diagrams. While having the ability to erase ink from a page is nice, the feel of the writing tool is sub-par. If I wanted to write with a toy, I'd get one of my son's colouring crayons. What I would really like is to find a stationery store around here that sells the Mitsubishi PiN felt-tipped pens or, barring that, the Mitsubishi UB-150 ballpoint pens that I used while working in the classroom.

A bad pen is like having a bad sword, in that you spend more energy battling the failings of the tool than accomplishing your goals.

Everything Old Is New Again

While watching the news a commercial came on to promote some stupid cell phone game. The announcer sounded really excited about the "all new, original characters" that are supposed to entice people into downloading the thing. A couple of these fictional appeared on the screen and I almost laughed at what I saw:

The Main Characters of Magic Knight Rayearth

  • Shidō Hikaru
  • Ryūzaki Umi
  • Hōōji Fū

These are the three promary protagonists in Magic Knight Rayearth, a manga that was published between 1994 and 1995.

There's nothing new or original about taking characters from 90s manga and anime and injecting them into some predictably boring, digital card-based RPG. This is just about the only kind of non-hentai game that comes out of Japanese software studios anymore.

Resilient Nails

My feet have taken quite a bit of punishment since the boy has come along. Aside from stepping on things, I've been stubbing my toes on various safety gates that are supposed to keep him from getting into the kitchen or falling down the stairs. This culminated about a month ago with a definite crunch as my left little toe connected directly with a metal bar. The nail did not survive the encounter and I was afraid that it would never grow back again. My fears were misplaced, though, as a replacement appeared within a couple of weeks to do whatever it is that toenails do.

The human body is very interesting and quite resilient.

Auto-Carrot and Spiel Cheque

Maybe my typing on the phone has deteriorated to the point where the software has given up trying to understand what I mean from what I say, but it certainly feels like auto-correct on iOS has gotten a lot worse since the company moved away from skeuomorphic design principles. Words that should be understood are left with an incorrect consonant in the middle and a plethora of proper nouns get an "a" inserted before the word. "Jason a Irwin" is not a thing any human has ever spoken aloud.

A few years back I had disabled auto-correct for all the lag and bugginess on iOS 9. I turned it back on near the tail end of iOS 11 because everyone swore the system had gotten better. Maybe it's just better to leave the toggle in the off position.

Asking for the Moon

Last week one of my bosses asked me if there was anything I would need this year to do my job a little better. While I generally say "no" to this question, this time I opted to ask for a more powerful Lenovo notebook. I outlined the reasons, explained the problems, provided the evidence, and listed out my ideal system: a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme with

  • a Core i7-8750H
  • 32GB DDR4 RAM
  • 2x 512GB NVMe SSD in RAID0
  • 4K display at 500nits

Total sticker price after discounts from Lenovo is just over 300,000 Yen, which is about $2800 USD. My boss was in support of the idea but no decision has been made just yet. Instead I may just be given some VM instances on local server or EC2 to spin up when serious number crunching is required. The reason I asked for the beefy system is because many people have said that we don't get the things we want unless we ask for them, so I asked. Let's see if it comes to pass.

That's it for this week. Tomorrow is the start of a 4-day week in Japan, and I hope it's a good one for everyone.

]]>
Yes
Losing Consciousness https://matigo.ca/2019/03/16/losing-consciousness Sat, 16 Mar 2019 12:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6ced-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 When bedtime for the boy rolls around, I typically being him upstairs, read a book with him, then tuck him in for the night. Once he's ensconced in his blankets, I sit on my bed and read the news for a bit. This has been the general pattern since moving to the new house, and it's a good opportunity to spend a bit of quiet time with the kid as he drifts off to sleep. What usually happens, though, is that I fall drift in and out of unconsciousness a dozen times before the boy and every time I wake it's with a little start.

The last couple of years have been pretty rough on the sleep cycles. Up until mid-2016 a full night of resful sleep could be obtained just by walking 10,000 steps in a day and doing some of the house chores. Working from home means that there are always more chores, but the 10K steps goal is just not feasible in the near future. Being a parent seems to require a great deal more energy than walking 8km.

So now I'm sitting on my bed, listening to my son talk to himself1, and trying to finish this short little post before giving in to the sandman. I've fallen asleep four times already, dropping my phone three times in the process, so it's only a matter of time before my eyes close one last time for the day.

How do parents of multiple children manage to stay awake?

  1. Or an imaginary friend … or a ghost. He keeps talking about a Coco-chan, and I don't know anyone by that name.

]]>
Yes
Perspectives https://matigo.ca/2019/03/15/perspectives Fri, 15 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6cd8-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Earlier today a small group of people carried out an attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. A lot of good people died. A lot of good people were injured. A lot of good people will never be the same. Three people have been taken into custody and people around the world are talking about yet another terrorist act carried out at a place of worship. There are always a number of questions that come up when an act of malevolence such as this takes place. Who were the perpetrators? What could have caused this tragedy? Were there any signs beforehand that people missed? Can it happen here? These questions are all valid, but rarely the one that I generally ask. When everything is all said and done, what I really want to know is why people are so angry at the world that they feel the need to lash out in this manner?

New Zealand Flag at Half-Mast

Mass shootings are nothing new, but they do seem to be more common. The first time I read about this type of incident in any depth was when the Columbine High School massacre took place in 1999. 13 people died that day, including both of the shooters. A string of copycats followed with people attacking schools, shopping malls, casinos, sporting events, music concerts, places of worship, and just about any confined place where people might congregate. The motives differ slightly. The objectives differ slightly. The backgrounds of the perpetrators differ slightly. The result is the same; lives are lost and questions are asked.

An article on The Guardian says that one of the perpetrators of today's shooting wrote a 74-page manifesto that read like a long rant lamenting the fact that some groups of people are not the same as other groups of people and how global mobility is eroding the monocultures that have long existed within known geographic confines. He wants people who practice Islam to live in "an atmosphere of fear" and spent two years planning today's attacks. Now he'll get to spend the rest of his life behind bars. So much of what happened today is beyond absurd. Try as I might, the leaps in logic that a person would need to follow to reach this sort of decision are just beyond me.

Later in the document, he purportedly1 describes himself as being a private and mostly introverted person, an ethno-nationalist, and a fascist. The first two descriptions are fine. The latter two have me wondering if perhaps the education systems around the world need to be overhauled, as these demonstrably bad ideas seem to be gaining momentum among pockets of semi-educated people. It is as though we have learned nothing from the hardest lessons from the 20th century.

Ethno-nationalism is a concept wherein the nation is defined in terms of ethnicity. The central theme of ethnic nationalists is that "nations are defined by a shared heritage, which usually includes a common language, a common faith, and a common ethnic ancestry". This works with microcosms living in isolation on islands surrounded by hundreds of kilometres of water, but completely falls flat in the world of today where a person can easily buy a plane ticket to the other side of the planet and leave in a matter of days or hours. A nation that is not open to globe trotters is not open to economic growth or a better distribution of wealth within society. Nations that exist in such isolation must consist of hunter-gatherer tribes, or be structured as a fiefdom, dictatorship, or communist state. This would mean that every nation would live as the people of North Sentinel Island, North Korea, or some hideous combination of both.

Fascism seems like a natural extension to ethno-nationalism, given its authoritarian ultra-nationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and of the economy. Every nation that embarked upon a fascist path in the 20th century killed millions of its own people in the process. I've had conversations with people who believe that Stalinism or Maoism is a good form of government, but none of these proponents would last more than a month in 1950s Russia or China before being turned in for "re-education". They have neither the smarts nor the cunning to survive for long in such a corrosive society2.

So where is the allure? What can drive people to honestly feel that the world would be better if everyone stuck together in subjectively distinct gene pools? What can push people to despise practitioners of a different faith? What can fill a mind with such despair that mass murder seems like a justifiable course of action?

I don't have the answer to any of these questions. The only possible remedy I see would be to change people's perspectives so that people get a better understanding of why the world is the way it is. With a little more perspective of the 20th century, people will be better able to say why so much of the world fought the wars it waged. With a little more perspective of the various forms of government, people will be better able to understand why most fascist nations collapsed within half a century. With a little more perspective of religion, people will be better able to understand that most people who follow a belief system are not interested in killing or dying. With a little more perspective of cultures — not just the culture we grew up with, but many cultures — people will be better able to appreciate the differences and find joy in the similarities.

With a little more perspective people might come to understand that life is unjust to everyone. Some people have a better time than others on occasion, but this doesn't give any of us the right to intentionally make it worse.

  1. I haven't read the 74-page manifesto myself, nor have I tried to find a copy of it.

  2. I say this knowing that at least two people I've discussed communism with will strongly disagree with me the next time we meet for coffee.

]]>
Yes
183 Days https://matigo.ca/2019/03/14/183-days Thu, 14 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6cc7-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 On September 12, 2018 I started to write a blog post a day after reading about a little challenge that Jeremy Cherfas did about ten years ago where he would try to write a post containing exactly 100 words for 50 consecutive days. While I scoffed at the idea of limiting myself to just 100 words in a blog post1, I did manage to hit the 50-day mark on November 1st. From there I wanted to see if I could double that to 100 days, which I did, and then six months … which I have just accomplished. Today marks the 183rd consecutive day where a blog post has appeared on this site and not once have I had to "cheat" by backdating or scheduling for more than six hours in advance2. This is a number that I really didn't think was feasible given the amount of time that I dedicate towards so many other goals.

How feasible might it be to go a full year without missing a day?

Thinking of the Near Future

Over the years there have been a number of blogging challenges that I've tried to set for myself only to fail in the first couple of weeks, so I'm not particularly keen on jinxing this daily groove that seems to be working. That said, there are a couple of things that I would like to aim for in order to make this effort worthwhile. Not all of these are specifically related to blogging.

  1. Use fewer commas - there are just too many in my writing, which I'll admit does lend to an easily recognizable style. It would be better to use longer sentences that do not rely on the same three grammar forms over and over and over.
  2. Keep the Five Things summaries - I like doing these on Sunday nights. There is no reason for them to stop so long as the casual format does not begin to feel like work.
  3. Publish some of the more creative efforts - There are a number of blog posts that I've completed to a certain degree and left as a draft. Some of these might actually be worth publishing, such as the slightly comical post positing "What kind of machine would Dominic Toretto from Fast & Furious use if he used a computer the same way he drove?"
  4. Enjoy the process - writing every day is not the easiest thing in the world. If I ever lose interest in putting something out on a daily schedule, then it would be better to fall back to an easier schedule or simply go back to posting at irregular intervals. Strained writing is not enjoyable to write nor read.

With these points in mind it will be my goal to make the next six months of writing at least as enjoyable as the first six. My grandfather never blogged, but he did write in his journal for over sixty years without missing a day. After retiring he would often paste newspaper articles on a page and then write his thoughts on the topic, which sounds a great deal like what a Quotation is in 10Cv5. Maybe I can consider doing the same after half a century of an unbroken publication streak.

  1. Naturally. Heck, I'll use 100 words just saying "Hello" to my dog in the morning.

  2. I did schedule the post on March 11th to be released at exactly 2:46pm, but this was the only one that was set to publish more than an hour into the future.

]]>
Yes
Over-Thinking Solutions https://matigo.ca/2019/03/13/over-thinking-solutions Wed, 13 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6cb4-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 This morning on Ars was an article outlining a mobile application with a wide-open API and hard-coded passwords that resulted in some social media fireworks and hurt feelings. The security problems are the sort of thing that one might expect from a new developer or a one-person development group within a small organisation, but are by no means unique. Quite often I have stumbled across similar discoveries when joining or taking over projects at the day job and it just goes to show that creating secure applications is not at all easy but should be something we constantly work towards.

Security on the Table

Today I put the finishing touches on a new feature for an HR-owned project at the day job that is used by just about every employee at manager-level or higher across the globe. People have been asking for a way to upload files to the application, have them appear on reports, and make them downloadable to the appropriate people. In addition to this, the we need to know who downloaded each file and when. None of this is particularly difficult, and I decided to make the download mechanism a little more interesting by adding the following rules:

  • each download link must be unique
  • a link is valid for a maximum of 15 seconds
  • links must be used by the same account that requested them
  • links cannot be guessable

The HR system is running on a couple of Amazon servers and files are to be stored in a locked-down S3 bucket. In order for files to be downloaded, they must first be copied from the S3 bucket to the web server, then sent on to the recipient if they're using one of our white-listed source IPs.

So far so good, right? This is all basic stuff. So when I demoed the system to the HR people and a couple of senior members of IT, I was surprised by some of the questions that came back. After a couple of minutes, they asked me to step through the logic so they could understand how the whole process worked. This is what I told them:

  1. a list of files is presented on the screen
  2. a person clicks (or taps) the file they want
  3. the browser sends a request to the API asking for a link
  4. the API verifies the account has access to that file and creates a URL record, then sends the information back to the browser
  5. the browser opens the supplied URL in a separate tab
  6. the web server receives the request for the file, authenticates the request using session data, confirms the source IP is valid, and verifies the requested URL
  7. if everything's good, the web server copies the file from the S3 bucket to the server
  8. the web server records the file access in the database, preventing the URL from being used again and creating a verifiable audit trail
  9. the web server transmits the file to the browser over HTTPS, which acts as a standard download
  10. the file is removed from the web server

All of this happens in the blink of an eye for the most part, with the most time-consuming aspect being the actual file download. Everything else is just a handful of text characters moving between computers. After I finished going through the process not once, not twice, but thrice, someone asked a question: Don't you think this is a little over-engineered?

Maybe.

It would be far simpler for me to simply insist the S3 bucket be open to the web so that a direct link to the file could be shared, but that is incredibly risky when working with files that are associated with HR data. It would also be simpler to just copy the file to the web server if it doesn't already exist, and leave it there for any subsequent download request. This would save on database queries and ensure that an interrupted download could more easily be continued. Heck, either of these options would be much simpler to document and communicate to management, too!

But this is often why corporate systems are discovered to be terribly insecure. Just because something is simple does not mean that it's better. The reverse is also true, in that complexity does not necessarily result in security. That said, so long as I am putting my name next to the work, I'll do what I can to make the system as effective as I can, and the 10-step process I outlined to the managers appears to do the trick.

Later this week I'll write up some documentation that includes a visual depiction of the flow so that the mechanism is better understood by anyone at the day job who wants to know how it's done, and that someone will probably be me in six months when some feature request requires me to understand how the functions work. Do I over-engineer solutions? Most certainly. Is there a chance they'll leak data or otherwise expose the company to risk? Not so long as I do my job correctly.

]]>
Yes
I met my girlfriend's parents – and realised I once slept with her father https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/mar/12/i-met-my-girlfriends-parents-and-realised-i-had-once-slept-with-her-father Wed, 13 Mar 2019 03:11:27 +0000 Jason b0fde1a2-453d-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

Five years ago, I went through a bi phase and used to sleep around with pretty much everyone that came along, including other men. This changed when I fell in love with my new partner, who is everything to me. I recently met her parents and halfway through lunch realised that I had slept with her father. I was going to propose, but when my partner and her mother were away, he told me to end it with his daughter. I'm obviously in love – shall I just ignore him, or tell my partner?

Well that's awkward. I don't agree with the advice as it completely ignores the girlfriend's right to know why the relationship should come to an end. If anything, the guy should have an open and honest conversation with his girlfriend knowing that there will probably be consequences of some kind. Speaking the truth is the only way to build a solid relationship. Keeping secrets will sow the seeds of distrust.

]]>
Yes
One Step Closer https://matigo.ca/2019/03/12/one-step-closer Tue, 12 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6ca0-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Earlier today I had a completely different blog post lined up to write for today about toenails but, after releasing 10C v5 build 19C124 , I figured that something a bit less icky1 would be better.

The 5th major version of the 10Centuries platform is inching closer to being ready with today's release of support for RSS and JSON feeds. These two elements are central to how blogs work and could have been released sooner, however, there are some distinct differences with how a v5 site will offer syndication feeds to subscribers. With a typical blogging engine there is just one syndication feed that people can subscribe to. 10Cv4 had a maximum of three if you configured a site for podcasts as well as a stream of social posts that could be fed into Micro.blog or some other system. Neither of these options are complete solutions that reflect how people might actually want to subscribe to a site, so this next version of the platform needed to be a little smarter and allow for dynamic subscription links.

Understanding the Problem

Many months ago, I would subscribe to a number of blogs run by prominent members of the IndieWeb community. The problem that I had was the "spam" that quickly accumulated in the RSS reader. Every post type would appear in the syndication feeds from some of these sites. Blog posts, links, books read, geo-tags, orders on Amazon, scads of social posts, and more. A person who was a dedicated IndieWeb proponent could easily have 100+ items sent out per day, which buries the things I might actually want to read from a person. There are plugins available for many blogging engines that allow people to configure separate syndication feeds to work around this problem, but this doesn't seem too common just yet. Given that I am more guilty than most of spamming timelines, the last thing I would want to do is force anyone to unsubscribe from my syndication feeds simply because everything was too much to parse. To this end, I decided to make it possible for 10Cv5 to have what is essentially a limitless number of syndication feeds available for people to subscribe to, each offering something different.

The problem with a limitless number of anything is that finding what you want can be quite the challenge. To this end, an update later this week will see the v5 themes given a special page just for syndication feeds where a person can choose what types of post they want to see in their reader. If a person wants just blog posts, there's a link for that. If a person wants blog posts and quotations, there's a link for that, too. Blog posts, quotations, bookmarks, and social posts? Yep, v5 has you covered. A simple page will be set up with toggles to let people choose what they would like to subscribe to, and a single link will be shown for people to copy and paste into their syndication client/service of choice. By default, the site's primary syndication feeds will show the same types of posts as the site owner decided to have on their landing page. The customization is really just for people who want more control.

What's great about doing this is that it will also be possible for sites to have special syndication links available for a limited group of approved readers, or unique syndication links for paid access to content, or randomly generated links that can be used in an effort to have just one reader per link so that a more complete picture of how many subscribers a site might have becomes possible2. To the best of my knowledge, no other blogging engine offers this level of syndication flexibility out of the box, so I hope it scratches an itch that others have had.

Almost Time to Move

Later this week I hope to move this website over to the v5 Beta server so that the system can get a semi-decent workout from a larger amount of traffic. There are about a dozen websites that are currently on the beta, but none are heavily trafficked. This site will add a few thousand hits per day, which will give me a much larger collection of performance metrics to know what SQL queries could stand to be tweaked, and what areas may need some attention. Before this can happen, though, there are a few items that need to be completed on the Anri theme:

  • the Operations Bar
  • post & page editing
  • file uploads
  • podcast integrations
  • viewing comments on a post page

None of these are particularly difficult, and two of these could be delayed slightly and not interfere with my ability to publish posts on v53. That said, the sooner these five items are complete, the sooner I can ask others to kick the tires and poke holes in my code. 10Cv5 has been in development for far too long and it really must be released sooner rather than later. People will complain about the lack of themes and the lack of site controls at first, but regular updates and the honest feedback I've come to expect from the community will allow the system to evolve into something that people might enjoy using in the near future.

Silly as it may sound, I'm starting to feel a little excited about bringing v5 out of beta and into a live setting.

  1. The post wouldn't have been too bad. I'm just really impressed with how often our bodies can fix themselves without any direct, conscious interventions.

  2. My hosted version of 10C will not do this, because it would constitute too high a degree of person tracking, but there are no limits to what a person running their own instance of 10Cv5 could do.

  3. Blog posts can be written and edited via the Social site, after all.

]]>
Yes
Saudi plane turns around after mother forgets baby at airport https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/12/saudi-plane-turns-around-mother-forgets-baby-airport Tue, 12 Mar 2019 09:32:07 +0000 Jason b44ba873-44a9-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

A Malaysia-bound plane had to turn back to Saudi Arabia after a passenger realised she had left her baby in the terminal.

How does a mother forget her child? Regardless of the stress and hustle that comes with international travel, there is no conceivable way a parent could forget their child …

]]>
Yes
Radical proposal to artificially cool Earth's climate could be safe, new study claims https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/11/solar-geoengineering-climate-change-new-study Tue, 12 Mar 2019 02:54:14 +0000 Jason 1eb95519-4472-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

… he added that the technology could cost hundreds of billions of dollars a year and would pose complicated ethical questions, such as whether people have a right to see a blue sky.

Do people have a right to see a blue sky? This is the most absurd question I've heard in a long time. Spraying aerosols into the atmosphere so that we can continue polluting the planet unencumbered for another generation or two should be considered an absolute last resort to buy time until better geoengineering methods can be developed. Sadly, this bandaid would likely encourage similar bandaids, resulting in a perpetually orange sky for anyone who isn't a billionaire …

]]>
Yes
Eight Years https://matigo.ca/2019/03/11/eight-years Mon, 11 Mar 2019 05:46:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6c8b-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Today marks the 8th anniversary of the Great Tohoku Earthquake. While Reiko, Nozomi, and I were able to get through the disaster relatively unscathed, a lot of people were not nearly as fortunate. Buildings were destroyed. Towns were wiped off the map. Lives were lost. In the days that followed, the full scale of destruction and loss began to unfold as well as the media blackout imposed by the Japanese government on all topics related to radiation. The reactors in Fukushima that had suffered containment explosions showered radioactive dust across large parts of the country, including sections of Tokyo. Fearing an uncontrollable panic, the government kept the extent of the damage under wraps for months. Even today there are some things that the news organisations are not permitted to talk about, as an informed populace might try to hold leaders responsible for their secrecy.

Despite the contamination, the affected regions managed to organize, clean up, and restore as much as possible. As time went on, people forgot about or ignored the lingering concerns posed by the particles ejected from three nuclear reactors in Ōkuma, a city on the east coast of Fukushima prefecture. Some of us, however, continue to be cautious about where our food comes from.

For a lot of people it's the events of Friday March 11th that changed the direction of their life. For me, it's the days afterwards.

I was working at a startup in Tokyo at the time. Friday afternoons were generally slower than the rest of the week as people started to think about their weekend plans. Being Tokyo, there were a couple of small tremors in the morning and again around lunch, but something was different about the shaking that started at 2:46pm. This one was accompanied by the earthquake warnings that were sent to every cell phone in the area and, being a company that wrote software for cell phones, we had a lot of devices screaming about the impending Magnitude 9 event. The building shook … and shook … then changed direction and shook some more. Tiles on the stairwell wall came loose and fell, echoing all the way. My phone rang and Reiko told me to get out of the building, which I was in complete agreement with. Being on the third floor, this was relatively easy to accomplish.

Two minutes later the ground stopped moving and Tokyo was absolutely silent. People outside looked up at the buildings to make sure that nothing would fall on them. Cars were stopped at the side of the road. Electrical poles swayed. The moment of silence was then broken by the sound of sirens. Fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars were quickly mobilized. People made their way back into buildings.

Being Japan, my colleagues and I were told to stay at our desks as the day hadn't finished, yet. I was responsible for the server infrastructure of a popular Twitter client for flip phones, and this quake was going to see a much larger than normal spike in traffic. I hopped onto the server control panel and checked out the usage statistics. As expected, the spike was incredible. The servers did their job, though, and people were able to keep in touch with friends and family as the cell phone networks were overloaded, making phone calls completely impossible. Land-line phone calls were still possible, though, which is how I kept in touch with Reiko and her parents throughout the day.

At 5:00pm the president of the company told everyone to go home. By this point the roads were completely congested with 35-million other people trying to do the same. The trains were all stopped. The subways as well. Emergency shelters were overcrowded. Convenience and grocery stores completely emptied out, with just about every product on the shelves sold. My colleagues could all walk home. I might have been able to do the same, but opted to stay in the office overnight. This would allow me to keep an eye on the servers and ensure they could keep up with the load. More importantly, though, it would allow me to relax despite the endless series of tremors that shook the building every few minutes. I am not comfortable in crowds, and even less so when in crowds of anxious people.

Reiko and Nozomi were together at our apartment in Kashiwa, and we made use of MSN Messenger for the first time in years to keep in touch. The cell phone networks wouldn't come back online until the 13th, but data traffic was unaffected1.

Sleep was fleeting that night, as tremors ensured that everything that wasn't nailed down in the office would shake and rattle. One of my Tweets made it onto German TV, and the company's servers performed admirably. Traffic in the city was gone by sunrise and an eerie calm had descended. Tokyo, despite its tens of millions of people, was absolutely silent. Getting home wasn't easy, nor was it easy to find any good quantity of clean drinking water. We managed to make it through, though. Two weeks later, we moved back to central Japan.

Nozomi wasn't the same puppy after the earthquake. She became much more nervous and didn't want to be left alone for any length of time. It wasn't until several months later that she would eat food without our help. Sometimes I wonder about Nozomi's family as she is from Miyagi prefecture, just north of Fukushima. Were they near the ocean when the tsunami struck? Were they affected as severely as Nozomi? I don't know the answer to these questions, and maybe that's for the better.

Earthquakes are to be expected when living in this part of the world. Once is enough for me.

  1. Smartphones were not very common in Japan before the Tohoku Earthquake. However, after the troubles people had calling friends and family from their cell phones, iPhones and Android devices flew off the shelves. Within two years, the flip phone was a relic of the past.

]]>
Yes
Five Things https://matigo.ca/2019/03/10/five-things Sun, 10 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6c74-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 In many western countries, Sundays are traditionally considered a day of rest. This was certainly the case up until the 90s in Canada as most stores were closed for business. Even the convenience stores at the time would either be closed or have ropes set up to block various aisles that contained "non-essentials", which technically could not be sold on the sabbath. As laws changed and the local culture adapted to stores being open seven days a week and later having some accessible 24-hours a day, the idea that Sunday was for resting faded away.

Having a two year old boy in the house generally means that there's no such thing as a minute of rest, let alone one entire day. Perhaps it's the old man in me talking, but I'm absolutely exhausted by the time The Boy is brought upstairs and put to bed.

Momentary Lapses of Unconsciousness

When I used to work at the printing company in Canada, I would finish the day quite exhausted. Complex challenges required complex solutions, and every few hours I was asked to solve a problem I'd never faced before. It was an excellent opportunity to learn and grow in a number of areas. What this meant, though, was that I would often fall asleep on the bus ride home for just a few minutes at a time. These little power naps were incredibly refreshing.

A similar thing happened after I started working in Japan. Some clients wanted on-site training rather than sending their people to one of the many schools in the region. So I would often start my day at a school, work there for a few hours, then head out to a distant office by train. While sitting on the rocking vehicle, I would fall asleep for a few minutes and wake up at the next stop feeling quite refreshed. This went on for years until I left the classroom for a different line of work.

Now that I'm responsible for a little person and often working from home, there are not many opportunities for mid-day naps. When they do happen, I'm often woken within a few minutes by a kick, a sneak attack, or just a random shout. The little naps are not at all refreshing and generally make me feel even more tired after regaining consciousness.

One day an afternoon nap might actually feel good again, but not anytime soon.

No More Physical Point Cards

Almost a decade after the introduction of smartphones, the majority of Japanese companies have moved away from physical loyalty cards to digital ones in the form of "applications" that need to be installed on a personal device in order to be used. In exchange for the convenience of not having yet another credit card-sized piece of paper in our wallet, the stores have the luxury of collecting a great deal more information about their customers. The point system remains the same. The coupon values remain the same. The hassle of finding the card remains the same, too1. Not too sure that what a person gives up is worth the few yen they get back.

Anxious

Anxiety is nothing new for me. I've learned to recognize the precursors of certain responses, which has made it possible to mostly deal with the problem in a semi-responsible manner2. The intensity of the feeling generally rises and falls with the seasons. As springtime officially approaches, I expect it to fall substantially. Winter, while one of my preferred seasons, is generally hard on the nerves.

Friction

Since wiping the Apple notebook of macOS in favour of Ubuntu, there has been an increasing amount of friction when using my iPhone. Many of the features I used to enjoy simply do not exist for Ubuntu, such as AirDrop and Photos integrations. This extra layer of friction reminds me of the difficulties people used to face before modern software allowed for a seamless flow of data between devices. While I do have some applications and techniques to reduce the amount of friction I feel when moving data between the computer and the phone, there is still quite a barrier to overcome. I wonder if there's a better way to improve the seamless flow between devices.

A Different Scale

Next weekend we'll have some guests visiting the house for the first time, so today we picked up a new rug for the living room. The colour and size are quite nice and the price was more than reasonable. After getting it home and set on the floor I realized that the rug wouldn't fit in the old apartment as it would be 20cm too wide. Our current living room can easily accommodate four of these rugs. The new house is small by Canadian standards, but quite the respectable size for this part of the country.

May we never need to move into a smaller living space ever again.

  1. When I look at people's phones as they swipe around looking for the stores app, they typically have what appears to be hundreds of icons on their phone. Rarely do I see people use the search function.

  2. I go outside for some fresh air, a walk, and — usually — a drink.

]]>
Yes
A Walk in the Park https://matigo.ca/2019/03/09/a-walk-in-the-park Sat, 09 Mar 2019 07:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6c65-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Within a few weeks of the Great Tohoku Earthquake, the family and I returned to central Japan after almost a year of living in Kashiwa. Nozomi was terrified of going outside for too long and would often want to stay very close to our apartment. The quake had affected her quite a bit, as she would barely eat any food and would jump any time a large truck drove by. In an effort to calm her down, I started taking her out for longer walks. She wouldn't go very far on her own, but she was happy to be carried as far as I wanted to go. One of her favourite places turned out to be Ochiai Park, a relatively large recreation area at the edge of the city where she could run around relatively freely and sniff for years without covering the same ground twice. The park sits about 3km northeast of where we used to live, making for a pleasant 40-minute walk. She hasn't been back to Ochiai Park since we moved to the new house, as it's a bit too far for us to walk, but The Boy enjoys the place quite a bit1.

A Walk in the Park

While I am concerned about the unseasonably mild temperatures that we've had this year, the weather today was too nice to stay home. A family picnic was in order and Ochiai is generally a good place to have one. Free parking, several square kilometres of open grass, and being less than 15 minutes away by car makes it an ideal getaway. As expected, everyone enjoyed the time together.

At some point, we'll have to encourage Nozomi to come along with us again2.

  1. Nozomi doesn't like being driven places anymore, so we generally don't take her very far from the house unless we plan on being out for an entire day or overnight. Then she doesn't have a choice in the matter.

  2. While Nozomi is very gentle and has never so much as even barked at The Boy, I think she feels forgotten when we're all out together. If it's just her and me, we get along quite well. When she's near the boy, she seems bored and uninterested in the world.

]]>
Yes
That marketing email database that exposed 809 million contact records? Maybe make that two-BILLION-plus https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/03/08/verificationio_database_hole/ Sat, 09 Mar 2019 01:37:40 +0000 Jason ed87ef9b-420b-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

An unprotected MongoDB database belonging to a marketing tech company exposed up to 809 million email addresses, phone numbers, business leads, and bits of personal information to the public internet, it emerged yesterday. […] Today, however, it appears the scope of that security snafu was dramatically underestimated.

One of the common patterns that I've seen with marketing firms (primarily in Japan) is that the tech is usually controlled either by someone fresh out of school with very little real-world experience, or by a marketing person who knows just enough about tech to be dangerous. We should all operate under the assumption that no marketing company has adequate protections on their data.

]]>
Yes
Ramming truck into garage an attempt at vigilante justice, says Crown https://www.thespec.com/news-story/9209810-ramming-truck-into-garage-an-attempt-at-vigilante-justice-says-crown/ Fri, 08 Mar 2019 08:48:27 +0000 Jason f0fb3bc1-417e-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

A woman who drove into a house garage with a man working inside tried to exact vigilante justice and deserves a strong jail sentence, according to a Crown prosecutor. […] Hurren had faced an attempted murder charge that was later reduced to mischief endangering life. But on agreement in court, she instead pleaded guilty to mischief over $5,000 for ramming her pickup truck into the garage and trying to set it and another vehicle on fire.

Love can make people do strange things …

]]>
Yes
Thinking of Hamilton https://matigo.ca/2019/03/08/thinking-of-hamilton Fri, 08 Mar 2019 08:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6c54-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Over the last couple of years I've been remembering a lot from my time living in Hamilton. Be it the early memories before my parents split, those forged during the seven years my father and I lived on the east side, or the three years after college where I lived first in a basement, then in an over-priced apartment on "the mountain"1. As with any place where a person spends many of their formative years, there are a hundred stories I could tell that would reveal just how much of a fool I used to be and how little I've changed over the years. What's interesting is that I moved from Hamilton to Vancouver in 2002 because a lot of what happened to me while living in that city after college was seen as vastly more negative than positive. Time heals most wounds, though, and reading the local paper every couple of days shows what's changed as well as what's remained the same. As odd as it is for me to say, I would really like to go back for a little bit to roam around the city, show Reiko and the boy some of the places, and see for myself how the city has evolved over the years2.

Hamilton Street Railway Bus 781 (1976)

Growing up, I would see a lot of buses painted like this. The yellow paint has long since been relegated to highlighting the white and blue scheme that's in use today.

While attending college in 1998 and 1999, I met a man who had just moved back to the Hamilton area after living in Japan for 15 years. From 1983 to 1998 he lived near Osaka and taught English at a number of schools. Upon returning to Canada with his wife and son after the Great Hanshin Earthquake, he found that there was nothing he was qualified to do. He did enjoy working with computers, though, so went back to school to learn new skills and acquire certifications. He and I would often talk tech and work on various projects together. I'd ask him questions about Japan and he would ask about local businesses that had moved or closed down over time. The Hamilton he recognized was gone, replaced with the one I knew. A few months after finishing school, he still hadn't found any meaningful work and his wife had run out of patience with Canada. The family packed up and returned to Japan3.

While there's little chance that I'll move my family halfway across the planet to Hamilton4, I wonder what sort of reverse culture shock I might experience if we were to visit. The demographics of the city have changed quite a bit in the last two decades as have some of the landmarks, but there would still be a lot of history carried forward into the present. The college that I attended has long since changed location. The downtown commercial district doesn't appear to be a dirty, abandoned place anymore. The places I've lived still exist. The schools I attended are still standing, one of which has been converted into a retirement home, oddly enough. The awful traffic and fun-having spots haven't changed, either. Would I feel the same way about the city today as I did in the early 2000s? Probably not. The city has changed and so have I.

Reiko and I have talked about visiting Canada at some point when the boy is old enough for cross-world travel. When we do make a visit, I will aim to spend at least a month in the country. This would give everyone time to acclimate to the very different time zones as well as visit some of my family with a less-rushed schedule. Ideally we would fly to Vancouver, spend a few days there, rent a car, and drive east. This would give all of us an appreciation for just how large the country is while visiting friends and family along the way. Should I have the opportunity, I'll make an effort to spend some time in Hamilton just seeing how the place has changed. A number of family members still live there, so it wouldn't be too difficult to fit in some visits to the old stomping grounds along the way.

  1. The city of Hamilton has a 100-metre-high escarpment running through the middle of it so that there is a Lower-Hamilton and Upper-Hamilton. Nobody refers to the city this way, though. Instead they say "on the mountain" if it's part of Upper Hamilton.

  2. This is "odd" because I generally do not miss places.

  3. I have no idea where he is now. He does not seem to have an online presence at all … unless he's confined to Facebook or Twitter.

  4. I would consider moving back if The Boy wants to attend one of the many university campuses in the city.

]]>
Yes
That Time I Stayed Up All Night ... https://matigo.ca/2019/03/07/that-time-i-stayed-up-all-night Thu, 07 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6c47-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 It's interesting what the mind can do when focused on a task. Every so often I'll find myself so engrossed in an activity that six hours can pass as though it were no more than a handful of minutes. This just happened tonight, where I sat down at 10:00pm to do some priority data work for the day job only to finish and see that the clock was about to strike 4. WIth just three hours remaining for sleep, I wonder if it will make sense to get any rest at all.

Yeah … I think three hours would be much better than zero. Fortunately insomnia is not something I've had to contend with yet this year.

]]>
Yes
Zuckerberg says Facebook is pivoting to privacy after year of controversies https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/mar/06/mark-zuckerberg-facebook-privacy-vision Thu, 07 Mar 2019 02:16:20 +0000 Jason ff3552d0-407e-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

For 15 years, Facebook has pushed, prodded, cajoled, lured and tricked billions of people into sharing the most intimate details of their lives online, all purportedly in service of making the world "more open and connected".

On Wednesday, the company's CEO Mark Zuckerberg put forward a new idea: doing the opposite.

Liar.

]]>
Yes
A Face Full of Pollen https://matigo.ca/2019/03/06/a-face-full-of-pollen Wed, 06 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6c34-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Yesterday's weather was so nice after a couple of days of rain that just about every house in the neighbourhood had laundry hanging outside to dry. This house was no exception, as several baskets of clothes went through the washing machine and onto the line in the yard. Included in this laundry were pillow cases and pyjamas so that every recently worn article of clothing would be fresh and ready to go the next time we needed them. A noble goal that was achieved by mid-afternoon. There was just one little consequence of the nice weather: pollen.

Busy Bee

This week has seen my allergies flare up to a degree I haven't experienced in several years. Eyes so itchy that they feel dry despite the tears. A nose that can't decide whether it wants to run or plug up solid. A throat that is forever parched regardless of how much water, tea, or coffee I consume. How is a person to contend with such an above-the-shoulder assault? On Sunday I broke down to pick up some Contac allergy pills from a nearby pharmacist and these have helped immensely during the day. The recommended dosage is two pills twice a day. These things do not give me 12 hours of coverage, which means that there is a clear gap somewhere in the day. If this morning is anything to go by, the opportunity for attack is about quarter after three in the morning.

To the best of my knowledge, never have I woken up by sneezing. This morning made it clear that such a rude awakening was not only possible, but transferable between dreams and reality. One moment I was standing in what looked like a Home Depot looking at trees and seeds for the yard, feeling a tingle in the nose to warn me that the body was about to convulse, and the next moment I'm laying horizontally in a semi-fetal position pulling in a bunch of air in preparation for a sneeze. Given that two other people sleep in the same room, finding a way to sneeze quietly while still trying to understand where in creation you might be is no easy feat. The sneeze wound up being directed into the crook of my arm, which had the added benefit of a slight muzzling of the unconditioned reflex. Two more followed up in quick succession, and I made my way out of the room so that people could continue to sleep while I stumbled around in the dark in search of relief.

My nose was clogged beyond belief. My eyes itched so bad I wanted to tear them out of my head. My throat was so dry it felt like sandpaper. And more sneezes were on the way.

Because the boy is intensely curious about everything, medicine is kept far from his reach. I made my way past the safety gate into the kitchen and grabbed the box of Contac. Tempting as it was to consume the entire supply in a bid for more immediate results, I took just two pills1 with water and waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

An hour later the body was starting to feel almost normal again. Not wanting to wake Reiko or the boy, I stayed downstairs the whole time, but sleep was beckoning and a 6:00am teleconference would be no fun without just a little more rest. So, as I wasn't sneezing anymore, I went back upstairs to climb into bed. Sleep never returned, but I did get to listen to the morning traffic while killing time before the morning meeting. The pillow case that was likely responsible for giving me a face full of pollen didn't cause any more problems during this time, but I'm not taking any chances tonight. I'll take two pills right before bed and hope that there isn't another repeat of this sleepless adventure.

  1. Two pills is the recommended dosage for an adult.

]]>
Yes
Time for More Holidays? https://matigo.ca/2019/03/05/time-for-more-holidays Tue, 05 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6c24-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 An odd thing has happened at the day job over the last few weeks: I've run out of work. There's still plenty to keep me busy while on the clock, but this isn't necessarily the best use of the company's money. So rather than use my time for the day job, it may be worthwhile to take some days off and spend time with the family and 10Centuries. Quite a bit has been done with some of the more recent updates on the 10Cv5 beta platform. The Anri blogging theme is just about done, the Social theme just needs a few more tweaks, and the Admin theme … will likely be incomplete at the time the system launches. Fortunately there will not need to be a complex administration interface just yet.

The Anri Theme

One of the features I'm looking forward to seeing used is the custom RSS feeds. People who subscribe to a v5 site through an RSS service will get the posts that appear on the landing page based on what the site owner has chosen. However, visitors who want to have just the social posts or just the quotes and bookmarks will have the opportunity to do so through the RSS page. With this, people will have the ability to create a custom RSS feed. What's more, if a person is signed into a site, they'll have the ability to see "Follower Only" posts that will not be visible in the public feeds. All of this will be controlled with a series of toggles, which will then generate a unique RSS feed URL that presents data in XML or JSON format. Even if this is something that few people will use or care about, it's a feature that I've wanted for quite some time.

A number of my static sites have been moved over to the v5 platform already, and later this week I'll be taking the plunge and moving this site with all of its content over as well. While my personal blog does not see an enormous amount of traffic, it does see a fair bit more than the average 10C-hosted site. This is most likely due to its age and update frequency1, but it will certainly be a decent test of the home-based hardware I've prepared to host the service. I'm really looking forward to seeing how well everything performs. So long as the server keeps up its end of the bargain, the entire 10Cv4 platform will be migrated to v5 in short order. The migration scripts have already been written and tested. The home server has 4TB of dedicated storage for the service waiting to be used. And I am growing more impatient to release this updated system with each passing day.

When it comes time to think about a 6th version of the platform, I'll try to keep my mouth shut in public spaces until it's pretty much ready for release.

  1. I'll have more to say on this topic next week.

]]>
Yes
After 40 years in solitary confinement, activist Albert Woodfox tells his story of survival https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/mar/04/after-40-years-in-solitary-activist-albert-woodfox-tells-his-story-of-survival Tue, 05 Mar 2019 03:08:23 +0000 Jason f0198a24-3ef3-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

My wrists were handcuffed to my waist by a leather strap. These restraints would become standard for me for decades to come. They walked me to a car and I got in. A captain next to me started elbowing me in my chest, face, and ribs. They drove me to a building just inside the front gate that housed the reception center and death row. Inside was a cellblock called closed cell restricted, or CCR: another name for solitary confinement. In the stairwell they beat me viciously. I couldn't fight back or defend myself because of the restraints …

This was quite the read. While reading through Albert Woodfox's struggles, I was reminded of Jordan Peterson's 12 rules, and the importance of taking on as much responsibility as is bearable in order to find meaning in life. When a person spends 40 years in solitary confinement, it may seem impossible to be granted any responsibilities at all, but it can happen. Albert persevered where most men would have crumbled.

]]>
Yes
Joplin as an Evernote Replacement https://matigo.ca/2019/03/04/joplin-as-an-evernote-replacement Mon, 04 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6c0f-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Evernote used to be one of the main tools I used to keep myself organised. With this software I could keep track of medical receipts, write blog posts, plan lessons1, and accomplish a myriad of other objectives. Unfortunately, Evernote started to have way too much friction in its interfaces near the end of 2013. By October of the same year I had given up trying to use the tool on mobile devices. While I did make an effort near the end of 2013 to use it again, the software just proved to be too cumbersome and I left it behind.

Since then I've used a bunch of different tools in an effort to have what Evernote used to be around 2010. Microsoft's OneNote has tried hard, but their file formats leave much to be desired and I am not too keen on the layer-over-layer effects when trying to type and edit plain text notes. A couple of other tools I can no longer remember the names of tried as well, often coming across as just a plaintext editor with some ugly tabbing in place to simulate notebooks. They all went away as well. I've tried using simple text files, which works great for text, but this generally starts to get too complicated when I'd like to attach an image or audio file to a note. Just because I write notes with Markdown formatting does not mean that I want to first convert the files to HTML before reading them. There must be a better way.

Bryan Lunduke

A week or so ago I was listening to an episode of The Lunduke Show and the question came up of what sort of FOSS2 alternatives there were for Evernote. Bryan wasn't aware of any that came close to what Evernote had to offer, but had some pretty decent ideas. One that really stuck out in my mind was to use something like LibreOffice's Open Document file format in order to have something rich like is found with Evernote, as this would enable embedded files and similar sorts of rich content. This is something I haven't considered and liked the idea quite a bit. That said, someone in the comments suggested using a tool called Joplin, which seems to be a very stripped down version of what Evernote used to be, with the added bonus of being able to sync with Nextcloud.

Joplin - The First Blog Post

While the application has only been installed on my machine for twenty minutes, I like what I am seeing. It's simple enough for me to jump right in, and the fact that it speaks Markdown natively is a huge advantage over competing products. Now I don't have to invest the time to create something on my own that would likely just be an incomplete solution to a complex problem3. Depending on how difficult it is to edit the Markdown parser, I might just invest a little bit of time to help it understand 10C's footnote formatting.

No promises on when this edit might be available for others to use, though.

  1. I would often plan most of my lessons back when I would teach for a living. My lesson plans would take into account the materials and the different goals of the students, which usually meant that "cookie-cutter" classes just wouldn't be very interesting. By planning some customizations, students might pay more attention and get something out of our time together.

  2. Free & Open Source Software

  3. People don't realize just how complex a good note-taking tool needs to be to accommodate half the problems of half the people. This is why there are a billion different text editors available online.

]]>
Yes
Five Things https://matigo.ca/2019/03/03/five-things Sun, 03 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6bfa-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Another Sunday, another summary. Seven days have passed since the previous list, but I feel it's been much longer than a week. This misinterpretation of time is not necessarily a bad thing. The last few years have flown by rather quickly. I will be very happy to enjoy a slower routine for a while.

A Better Markdown Parser

On Friday I invested a couple of hours to integrate a "better" Markdown parser into 10Cv5, but yanked the code out when it was discovered that the thing would not parse as advertised. The key area of pain was with footnotes, which is something I make extensive use of in both blog and social posts. Regardless of what I tried, the new library refused to consistently parse the footnotes in any reasonable manner. So, deciding it would be better to just code the updates I wanted myself, I extended the current Markdown editor in v5 to handle footnotes with inline links as well as footnotes with multiple paragraphs. I had to stay awake until 1:30 in the morning to get the thing working, but it works:

Markdown Footnotes with Features!

Expecting …

Last Saturday the family and I attended a neighbourhood disaster preparedness course at the nearby elementary school. Most of the retired people in the the area cane to practise building tents, carrying injured people, and securing appliances to walls in the most hideous manner possible. One of the outdoor "attractions" was a truck that would simulate an earthquake of varying magnitudes for anyone foolish enough to get on. I declined the opportunity to relive 3/11 but have been feeling phantom quakes ever since.

Wanted: An Ubuntu-Powered Galaxy Note

I make no secret of my preference for Ubuntu Linux. The OS is installed on every notebook and server I use. That said, I would really like to have it a my phone as well. What I would really like, more than any sane person might believe, is a Samsung Galaxy 9 with Ubuntu. I would do the heavy lifting of making a UI and having the thing frustrate me less as time goes on, but this is what I would really like. The Galaxy Note 9 has a decent camera, a decent screen, and a pen that would let me relive the days when PalmOS was the mobile operating system of champions.

Sadly, this will probably never happen.

Breathing Slightly Better

Despite my protests, today I managed to get some Contac Plus to help relieve the itchy eyes, runny nose, and endless sneezing. The package insists I taken4 pills a day, but I'll limit it to just two for now. The body doesn't get medicine very often, so I'm thinking less is more. So far the theory is holding true, but I don't know if the same will be true on a sunny day. Some trial and error will be needed here.

Sounding Like My Father

The older the boy gets, the more of my father I hear. Tonight there was a little too much playing at the dinner table, so out came the "dad lines"; sentences that barely make any sense outside of their current context. Things like:

  • Your plate is not a frisbee
  • If we wanted you to have rice in your tea, we would have made you ochazuke1
  • You're not a dog, so don't eat like one

At some point I'm probably going to start swearing like my father used to, as well. I certainly hope not, though. There are some things the boy does not need to repeat.

  1. A Japanese meal that actually consists of rice in a bowl of tea

]]>
Yes
1981 https://matigo.ca/2019/03/02/1981 Sat, 02 Mar 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6be5-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 One common trope that we've all heard is how raising a child is like reliving our own childhood. While this has proven to be grossly inaccurate in my own experience, watching the boy grow up has surfaced some long-buried memories of my own childhood when I was about his age1. This happened again today while we were at the mall and he picked up a toy car of Anpanman driving a steamroller. Regardless of how nonsensical the toy was2, it reminded me very much of a time when I was still an only-child, walking along King St. in Hamilton with my parents. There was a toy that I very much wanted that resembled the toy my son asked for today.

Hot Wheels — The Flintmobile

Some time in the summer of 1981, just a few months before my sister was born, I would walk with my parents to the mall downtown. The distance on the map shows we would travel almost two kilometres in each direction, though I don't recall how long this trek would take. What I do remember very clearly is a corner store3 somewhere between Wellington and Catharine Street4 that had a large collection of Hot Wheels cars in the window. One particular car that I would look at every time we went by was the car that Fred Flintstone would drive in the cartoon. It was a bizarre imagining of a prehistoric vehicle, and I wanted it.

One day my parents caved and picked up the car for me. After paying for the toy, they opened the package and I took it outside immediately to play with it on the sidewalk. My parents and I continued on our way to Jackson Square, Woolworth's5, or wherever the heck it was that we were going that day, and I would push the Flintmobile along the sidewalk a few feet at a time.

My parents were either very patient with me, or I don't recall how quickly my father6 insisted I carry the car and keep up with them. If I was as active or talkative at the age of two as the boy, then it's probably some combination thereof. From this point on, however, I would always have a toy car with me whenever I left the house. Fred Flintstone's car stayed with me for the summer, and I remember preferring a red Nissan I called "Turbo" around the same time as my sister was born.

This entire memory, and most of the footnotes, flashed through my mind in the split second it took my son to hand me the toy and ask that I open the package7. Maybe the old adage isn't so inaccurate after all.

  1. The boy is a little over two. Where does the time go?

  2. Anpanman is a children's superhero who files. He'll always choose to fly, even when he has the opportunity to sit in a vehicle going to the same destination.

  3. This was a corner store in the truest sense of the word: a small convenience store that was incredibly cramped inside and was run by an older gentleman. I used to remember his name, as my parents would always say hello, but time has taken this away.

  4. I remember the street names because I would go to the very same store 16 years later every morning to buy a National Post newspaper and can of Pepsi while en route to the second college I attended.

  5. This store is long, long gone from Hamilton.

  6. My father was far less patient than my mother.

  7. He hasn't yet learned how to ask that we buy things for him.

]]>
Yes
Infiltration https://matigo.ca/2019/03/01/infiltration Fri, 01 Mar 2019 06:00:00 +0000 Jason 11ef6bcd-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 The unseasonably mild end to February has resulted in the nearby parks springing to life. Trees are beginning to bud. Flowers are beginning to sprout. Pollen permeates the air. Everyone looks forward to seeing the plants and animals return to an energetic state of being, but allergies can ruin any sort of enjoyment a person might feel.

Bee Collecting Honey

Allergies seem to be a problem that adults face when they've lived in the same area for a couple of years. The first time I can remember dealing with persistently itchy eyes was around the age of 12. I was staying at my mother's house for the summer in a very rural part of Southern Ontario and every morning would start with me rubbing a bunch of gunk out of my eyes, sneezing once or twice, then getting on with the day. If I were running around and playing with my sisters, then everything was good. If I stopped to read a book1, then my eyes would first begin to water, then itch, then turn red. It was not a fun time, but I quickly learned that I should walk around the 8 acres of lawn while reading if I wanted to avoid the effects of pollen … so I started walking, head down, with a book in my hands. A lot.

Some time around 1995 I was given an over-the-counter allergy medicine that worked pretty well. There was just one little problem: it was expensive. Every pill worked out to about $1.80 which, at the time, was a lot more than a cup of coffee. I have five sisters and two brothers. The family wasn't poor, but it wasn't exactly sitting on a huge pile of cash, either. As a result, I would get a box of 20 pills at the start of spring and it would be up to me to manage when those pills would be taken over the non-winter seasons2. April was generally the month when the allergies would first kick in, and August/September is when they would come back one last time to make me question how it is that humans ever gathered the restraint necessary to not burn the whole planet down, eliminating any chance of pollen interacting with our sinuses.

This was the pattern for the next few years. A box of Contact C in the springtime, and careful rationing over the next six months. After getting a "real job" it became possible for me to buy my own pills whenever it was necessary, but the years of careful rationing had been a good lesson to learn when not to take medicine.

In 2002 when I moved to the west coast of Canada, my allergies all but disappeared for three full summers. It wasn't until 2006 that the itchy eyes made a return along with a new twist: an untrustworthy nose. I would take the recommended dosage of Contact C every day for over a month, spending just over $70 for the luxury of being able to see and breathe. Exercise didn't help. Staying indoors at a place with a really good air filtration system didn't help. Going to the ocean where the wind would generally push pollen away from the beaches didn't help, either. These were miserable months.

Then I moved to Japan and the allergies disappeared again for three full summers. From 2007 to the tail end of 2010 I could enjoy the sights and smells of the country without considering whether the local vegetation was out to spoil my good health. But the autumn of 2010 saw the return of itchy eyes. 2011, not long after the Great Tohoku Earthquake, saw a complete return of itchy eyes and an untrustworthy nose, plus a new symptom: a scratchy throat at the very back of my mouth. When the three problems are competing for attention I consider moving further east in a bid to get a few years of peace … though this is all but impossible now.

With today being the first of March, I'm going to do what my parents did all those years ago when I started suffering from this insufferable seasonal punishment. I'll head to the nearby pharmacy and drop the $22 for a box of 20 allergy pills. The medicine will be kept nearby, but only called upon when the air is particularly difficult to contend with. If I were to take the recommended dosage every day regardless of need, a box would last just ten days and I'd wind up giving the pharmaceutical companies $150 for access to distraction-free sight and smell. This might not sound like a great deal of money, but it's more than I'd like to spend. Besides, taking medicine when the body doesn't need it is a recipe for disaster. If we build up a resistance (or reliance) on chemicals that make us feel better, then consequences await us. For allergy medicine, the consequence would likely be a prescription for something much stronger that also costs much more. This is something I'd really much rather not contend with.

  1. This particular summer, 1991, I read four Star Trek books. The one that I remember most clearly was a Next Generation book, Boogeymen, which was one of the first books I bought with money I earned. This would have been during the decade of Trek where I used a great deal of my free time to read every Star Trek novel that had been published. Up until I moved to Japan, I was able to say with confidence that I had read every Trek novel published by PocketBooks. I've gone back to read some of the older books from time to time, but the writing strikes me as incredibly simplistic and shallow compared to many of the more recent novels.

  2. Yes. My parents would buy just one package per year. If I took the pills on days when I could have just suffered through a mild bout of discomfort, then it was on me.

]]>
Yes
Rolling Over https://matigo.ca/2019/02/28/rolling-over Thu, 28 Feb 2019 13:00:01 +0000 Jason 11ef6b88-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Today is the last day of February. There are just ten more months until 2020. We have just eighteen years to replace all of our 32-bit *nix-based systems that need to understand what day it is1. As one would expect from a person who embarks upon a 1,000-year project, time is something that I think about quite often. A lot of people knew about Y2K before it happened. Some people know about Y2038. Very few people (that I know) seem to be aware of the two other impending date-based issues that will affect our technology in the near future. One is the Network Time Protocol rollover on February 7th, 2036. The other is the GPS Week rollover on April 6th, 2019; a little less than six weeks from now.

Fortunately most of our modern technological devices will be ready for the GPS rollover as regular software updates to cell phones, tablets, and desktop operating systems make this a relatively painless bit of math. One area that I expect to see suffer from hiccups, however, will be car-mounted navigation systems. These expensive tools are not known for quality code or regular software updates, which means that some people can expect to see the displayed date in their car to be off by almost 20 years.

The problem basically breaks down like this. The GPS satellites use a 10-bit number to keep track of what week it is. 10-bits has a maximum human-readable value of 1,024. This number of weeks works out to 19.7 years, and every one of these periods is known as an epoch. We're currently at the tail end of the second epoch. From April 6th the week number will roll over to 0 and we'll enter the third. If you have an in-dash navigation system in your car, now would be a good time to see if it's possible to update the software.

Then in 2036 …

Another epoch will be coming to an end in 2036 when the Network Time Protocol runs out of numbers and resets. What's interesting is that NTP uses a 64-bit time value, which should theoretically be large enough to count the number of seconds between the birth and death of our universe. NTP, however, consists of two 32-bit parts; one for seconds and another for fractional seconds. This means that NTP will roll over every 232 seconds, which is about 136 years. Unlike Unix, NTP's first epoch has a start date of January 1, 1900, meaning that it will run out of seconds on February 7th, 2036 at around 06:28:15 UTC. Given that it's network-connected devices that make use of NTP to synchronize their time when booting, and most modern systems will not allow their internal clock to be set to a date before 1970, it shouldn't be too difficult a task for systems to understand when the second epoch begins and just roll with it.

We should still make sure that everything is tested and in place beforehand, though.

Y2038

A Visual Representation of the Y2038 Problem

And then there's the next big epoch to overcome: the Unix timestamp. These numbers are used, quite literally, everywhere. Me being me, I've yet to go a day in the last decade or so where I didn't knowingly use, see, or read a Unix timestamp. What's interesting is that there is no universal solution to this problem. A lot of modern systems support the newer 64-bit timestamps, but there are a lot of lower-powered or older devices that use 32-bit processors where a 64-bit timestamp simply will not work, and any change to how the 32-bit number is parsed would open a huge can of worms that would result in a decade of bug-hunting. Most modern Unix-based systems built in the last five years will be good until the 64-bit epoch hits us on December 4th, 292,277,026,596. This isn't something most of us will need to worry about.

Our 32-bit systems, though … these will come back to haunt us. Thermostats, refrigerators, and other home appliances can last a long, long time. Not all of these devices will need to know the exact date to function, but some will have schedules to follow. If the calendar rolls back to the early 20th century, who knows what sorts of activities an appliance might not automatically handle for us.

The Unix epoch will likely be mostly resolved in the next couple of years as smart people sit down and tackle the problem. Some older hardware and software will not be salvageable, but this won't stop solutions from being brought forward and implemented. The one area where I am concerned about this roll over is in the older, legacy systems that some companies still run. Many organizations that use software originally written in the 80s and 90s for 32-bit mainframes most likely run these systems in virtual machines now rather than on 20+ year old hardware. The great thing about running software in a virtual machine is that these complex systems are incredibly portable. Server hardware can continue to evolve and get replaced every few years, and the virtual machine can be booted up on a new machine in a matter of minutes to take over from a decommissioned system. It's both cost effective and smart. As time goes on, though, the people who know how to maintain the software on those virtual machines retire. As people retire, they take important skills with them. When nobody with the requisite skills remains to manage the legacy system, it becomes a "black box" that nobody touches until someone in 2037 asks if the company is ready for the Unix epoch.

Then we have another Y2K moment.

  1. The Y2038 problem will not be talked about nearly as much as Y2K was, nor will most people even realize its significance.

]]>
Yes
Where Is the Line? https://matigo.ca/2019/02/27/where-is-the-line Wed, 27 Feb 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11e6dfd2-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 In late November of last year, Microsoft won a contract with the US military that will result in combat units using more of the company's offerings on the battlefield, including the HoloLens augmented reality headset. A number of employees at the company have expressed concern with this, saying in an open letter that they do not want to develop weapons, which is a completely reasonable position to take. Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO, doesn't see the contract as an issue and believes this to be a "principled decision", which is also a reasonable position to take. As someone who has been asked in the past to write software that went against my morals1 the question I would have if I were in this position would be far more complex than it sounds: where is the line?

Microsoft Hololens.jpg

At what point does a person draw the line and say "This far and no farther"? At the moment, given that I work in education, the answer is pretty clear for me. I will not write nor provide software that will be used to kill, injure, or spy on people. My work can not be used to infringe on the digital and physical sovereignty of others under any circumstance, regardless the promises made by people within the organisation in positions of power. If I am asked to do any of these things, even for something as seemingly benign as putting Google Analytics on a corporate website, I will decline the work and suggest someone else do it. If the infringement is greater, such as collecting the position of a person's mouse, every keystroke, and perhaps even audio data while using the company's resources, then I will protest as high up the chain as I can go until the offending business decision is cancelled. If this doesn't work then I resign and move on2.

This is all well and good for someone working in education, but how about a company such as Microsoft?

Working at Microsoft — or Apple or Google or Canonical — would make the line a little harder to identify primarily because of the military's extensive use of operating systems. Most modern, well-equipped military forces around the world use Windows and Linux extensively. Devices can run Android or iOS. Software that runs on any of these operating systems can be used for the sole purpose of death and/or destruction. If I work with a company that makes operating systems and do not want to participate in any way to the development of weapons or enabling of murder, do I have that luxury? Probably not. Even if I were to not contribute to Windows, people at Microsoft will be working on projects that could be used by a military; be it domestic or foreign. So would the line be somewhere around: so long as my project is not specifically used as a weapon? Would it be a little more specific with: so long as my project is not the active development of a weapon? Both of these seem conveniently myopic.

As unpalatable as the idea may be to some people, companies as large and established as Microsoft are going to work for governments and military organisations. While Satya Nadella has not said that they'll be officially entering the weapons market, he doesn't have to. A lot of Microsoft's products are already in heavy use by powerful entities we may not necessarily agree with. By supplying the US military with HoloLens hardware and some custom software, they'll be doing all the things one would expect from a big company. If employees are morally opposed to the idea and are assigned to the project, they can request to be transferred3. Is this perfect? Not in the least. It is, however, a potentially viable alternative to being a part of active weapons development.

For me the line is pretty clear cut and my positions are generally understood by the management at my employer. For larger open projects that I contribute to, such as Linux, I understand that my code4 could be used within a system designed to harm people, from Claymore mines to ICBMs, and there's literally nothing I can do to prevent this. What I can do, however, is refuse to participate in the active development of weapons … and the people protesting the decision at Microsoft can do the same. The key is not just protesting a decision, but being willing to walk away when the alternative is untenable.

  1. I did not end up writing the software. My bosses were quite upset with me for refusing the demand, as it was coming from the company's investors at the time, but I wasn't going to sacrifice the data privacy of others for my own pay cheque. Instead my immediate manager wrote the code that broke the promise we made to our customers and I left the organisation a few months later.

  2. I understand that this is primarily possible due to the privilege that I have earned over years of hard work, which has (only recently) resulted in a well-paying career that has made saving money possible. Not everyone can afford to walk away from a job for moral reasons.

  3. with the understanding that any request will likely limit their career opportunities going forward.

  4. which has been mostly limited to Bluetooth drivers and fingerprint readers.

]]>
Yes
Something Is Different https://matigo.ca/2019/02/26/something-is-different Tue, 26 Feb 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11e6dfc2-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 On April 10th, 1815 Mount Tambora experienced one of the most powerful eruptions in recorded history. One year later, the entire northern hemisphere of the globe experienced The Year Without a Summer. History is replete with examples of seasonal anomalies where temperatures were either warmer or cooler than expected. This year, something is different.

Jonn Elledge has recently written an opinion piece on The Guardian asking if he's the only one terrified of the warm weather. He's not. This week the daily temperatures in this part of Japan have been hovering between 14° and 17°C, which is about 10° warmer than usual for the end of February. The higher temperatures haven't been limited to just the UK and Japan, though, as similar irregularities are being seen across Europe and much of Asia. The absence of summer two hundred years ago was likely the result of ash in the atmosphere blocking sunlight. The absence of winter this year is not the result of a lack of volcanic eruptions. Again, something is different.

Whether some people believe it or not, the climate is changing. Politicians and billionaires can debate whether this is the result of human activity until their blue in the face, but the reality before us is undeniable. The warmest 20 years on record for many of the G7 nations have all happened in the last quarter century. Doing the math, it's hard to say that this February warm spell is just a fluke of nature that should be enjoyed rather than heeded. As a civilization, we need to look at what is happening around us and plan accordingly. Leading scientists say that we have fewer than a dozen years to avert disaster. Some say we've already passed the point of no return given that the majority of the world's insects are dying in staggering numbers.

Right now, what matters more is that we address the changing climate than try to affix blame or point fingers. The planet will continue to exist without us and, being the ever-resilient biosphere it is, new species will evolve and conquer the world. But this isn't the point. The universe doesn't care that we exist. The planet doesn't care, either. But we should. We should care very much, and do what is necessary to ensure that we not only exist, but continue to strive towards a better future.

]]>
Yes
How to Disappear Completely https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LOulCAz4S0M Tue, 26 Feb 2019 12:15:37 +0000 Jason 39cac09a-39c0-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

Lily Ryan shows us how to "disappear" from mass surveillance facial recognition systems.

She had an interesting set of careers before getting into pen testing systems 🤔

]]>
Yes
'Jihadi bride' doesn't fit: we need a new language for female militants https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/feb/26/jihadi-bride-shamima-begum-female-militants Tue, 26 Feb 2019 11:48:36 +0000 Jason 736a441f-39bc-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

Our need for new, measured and more forensic language to characterise female militancy and the agency that underpins it is now clear. Yet we must remain sensitive to the coercion and violence many female Isis members experienced themselves

Here's a word: militant. If there is to be honest equilibrium between the genders, then whether a person is a male militant or female militant is inconsequential. Drop the adjective. They are a militant. Debate all you wish about the reasons, but do not debate the word.

I'm quite frustrated with the double standard feminist opinion writers have.

]]>
Yes
Canada: Jagmeet Singh gets chance to take on Trudeau after byelection win https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/26/canada-jagmeet-singh-gets-chance-to-take-on-trudeau-after-byelection-win Tue, 26 Feb 2019 11:42:01 +0000 Jason 87bc66cf-39bb-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

First non-white leader of major party in Canada enters parliament ahead of October election

This is excellent news. While I'm not on board with the whole NDP platform, Jagmeet Singh will bring some much-needed accountability to the Canadian parliament. Hopefully he won't lose sight of his stated goals …

]]>
Yes
Sofa surfing made me realise housing should be a basic human right | Penny Anderson https://www.theguardian.com/society/commentisfree/2019/feb/25/homeless-sofa-surfing-housing-human-right Mon, 25 Feb 2019 11:46:31 +0000 Jason fea92a67-38f2-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

Evicting a tenant should be a difficult, restricted process with in-built delays for mediation and strict rules on actual evictions, such as a winter break. If housing is to be a basic, incontrovertible human right, evictions must become the very last resort. Governments must provide a roof over everybody's head – we should have no more time for excuses.

While the premise is sincere, the reality is far more complex. To claim that housing is a human right is to put a rather large burden on society. Everybody needs a home where they can be safe from weather and other people. What should be expected of the people who require social housing, though? And what should be done if those expectations go unfulfilled?

I don't mean to sound cruel or heartless. I've been close to homelessness once before as well. I've also volunteered for two years at a homeless shelter. Not everyone can be given a home and a bit of money forever. This is an incomplete and irresponsible solution.

]]>
Yes
Value for Who? https://matigo.ca/2019/02/25/value-for-who Mon, 25 Feb 2019 09:00:00 +0000 Jason 11e6dfb2-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Over the last couple of years it seems that just about every website that publishes news has integrated a service called Outbrain for reasons I can't quite understand. As one would expect, Outbrain is an advertising platform that puts links to stories from other websites in front of your face in the hopes that you'll click on the asinine drivel that would better fit tabloid sites. Publishers clearly go to great lengths to make the "promoted links" appear almost native in a bid to get people to click and, as Outbrain has been around a decade, people clearly do just that. But who benefits from this arrangement?

Outbrain

Of the sites that I visit for news, be it world or tech, a little more than half make use of services like this. Most of the outgoing links point to content that does not seem to benefit the company using the service and generally makes the content I've just read appear less valuable. Given that most news sites are part of vast media empires, why not have a small development team create a parent-company-specific version of Outbrain that links to posts on other sites based on a series of tags/keywords/whatever so that readers are encouraged to "stay local", as it were? This wouldn't be terribly difficult and it seems to be a common cross-advertising mechanism employed by some of the Canadian news sites that I frequent.

There's no denying that news sites need to earn money in order to remain operational. There's no denying that subscription revenues are generally insufficient to make it possible to ditch the advertising network hooks. This said, there's no denying that by keeping people on the same or related "sister sites" would make it much more likely that people will click the links, load the pages, and be presented with advertisements. I visit the sites I visit because I know the quality of the writing and have confidence that what I'm reading is generally accurate. I won't visit random links that are "promoted" by an external advertising entity because there is no reason to trust that the stuff I'll read will be worth the investment in time and bandwidth.

]]>
Yes
Five Things https://matigo.ca/2019/02/24/five-things Sun, 24 Feb 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11e6df9f-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 For the first time in many years, I found myself kneeling in front of a toilet while the body reacted in an inescapable act of self-defence. While the cause is not all that interesting, the consequences — in my mind — are. Situations such as this can often result in some hard lessons being learned, leading to better decisions going forward.

With that said, it's time for another instalment of Five Things!

Nozomi's Feeling Energetic Again

This past week has been quite warm, with temperatures consistently hitting 15°C by lunchtime. Thanks to this warm weather, the local vegetation is springing back to life and Nozomi is enjoying her visits to the park a lot more. Interestingly enough, she's even showing signs of wanting to go for longer walks, which is fine by me.

A Roaring Puppy

The Boy Climbs Stairs

The boy has bee fiercely independent since the day he was born, so it's no surprise to see him tackle real-world challenges head-on. For the last couple of months he's needed a stabilizing hand when going up a flight of stairs. This doesn't appear to be necessary anymore.

Watching how he interacts with the world to overcome challenges has been quite interesting. Unlike Nozomi, he will puzzle out a problem until a solution is found. While he will get frustrated and cry from time to time, he generally approaches the world with the eye of an inquisitive problem solver. Most kids are like this, I understand, but it's good to see that my child isn't disinterested in learning. For most of our lives we need to run as fast as we can just to keep up. Being able to work out solutions makes it easier to do so.

R.E.M. On Repeat

For the last couple of days I've had R.E.M's Me In Honey looping endlessly in my head. This song was one of the less-appreciated tracks on the popular Out of Time album, which was also one of the very first CDs I bough to replace a worn-out cassette tape.

Maybe if I listen to the whole album again the looping will stop ….

Changing Tastes

Sometimes I compare my current podcast subscriptions to those of the past and see interesting patterns. When I first started to really listen to shows back in 2010, the majority of podcasts were technology-focussed with a distinct Apple bias. As time went on these shows were replaced with think-pieces that discussed mental well being, long-form stories, and science. By 2015 most of these were replaced again by hour-long music shows put out by some of my favourite artists. Today, looking at the subscriptions, there are very few shows that have been in the rotation for more than five years. The ones that aren't leaving anytime soon are:

There are a bunch of others I could recommend, such as Spacepod, but I haven't been subscribed to them for over five years just yet.

Lost In Thought

Over the last couple of months I've found myself lost in thought a great deal more. Regardless of where I am or what I'm doing, an idea can capture my attention to such a degree that the rest of the world effectively disappears for a little while. While this is nothing new for anyone who enjoys thinking, what I've noticed is that the subjects that capture my attention the most are no longer related to technology or the day job, but topics such as individualism vs. collectivism, the role of education in learning, and digital sovereignty.

The more I think about these things, the less I understand about the current culture around modern technology and its ongoing evolution. We, as a society, are giving up the freedoms our ancestors thought about, valued, fought for, and — in some extreme cases — died for. What does this mean for us long term? I don't know, and it's this lack of knowledge that triggers bouts of intense internal debate in an effort to understand the long-term effects of today's magical conveniences.

]]>
Yes
A Lack of Honour https://matigo.ca/2019/02/23/a-lack-of-honour Sat, 23 Feb 2019 07:00:00 +0000 Jason 11e6df8d-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 It's a faaaaaake!

A typo in a URL resulted in me being brought to a site that looked like the image above; an easily recognisable duplicate of an Apple site with a message warning me of impending doom. Three viruses? Oh no! Unfortunately for the dolts, I've seen stuff like this a thousand times in the past and know how to identify fakes when they're presented to me. Unfortunately for many, this would appear as completely legit and warrant the handing over of hard-earned cash.

This upsets me.

The scam itself isn't what's upsetting, as these things have circulated around the web almost since its inception 30 years ago. Instead it's the the lack of honour the people who made this site have for themselves and the world at large that bothers me. In 2017 I wrote about a fake invoice scam that has undoubtedly resulted in money changing hands. A year later there was the password extortion scam. Both of these were emails. Today's scam attempt required a person to misspell a URL for a popular Linux distribution. The underlying distaste is the same, though. People who have the ability to put together a site that looks like a legitimate commercial product in the hopes of scamming money clearly have a talent for certain things, but choose to use these traits nefariously in the hopes that a steady stream of revenue can be taken from less-observant individuals.

It's genuinely disgusting. Not because this is a scam, but because the people who put this site together could probably build something of value that people would happily pay for. In the world of tech there are still a million problems to solve, with each one being capable of a worthwhile revenue stream. How else can we explain the dearth of applications that are essentially slight variations of what we had decades ago? How many text editors could a person possibly need? Looking at most app stores, the answer appears to be somewhere in the high 20s. How many different Tetris-remixes might a person find of value? Again, looking at most app stores, that number is also in the high 20s. It's unlikely that the creative dolts behind the above scam are incapable of creating something of value that people would genuinely enjoy.

One of the many great things about the Internet is the low barrier to entry, the incredible access to a hungry market, and the untapped potential of human imagination. Sure, we've created a lot of great things over the last few thousand years. There's no denying this. Humanity isn't done yet, though, and this is what drives the disappointment.

We all need to earn money. We all need to pay bills. We all want to have a long-lasting career that is worth doing. Scamming less-observant individuals out of a few dollars here and there may resolve the first two objectives, but it does fuck all for the third — which is arguably the most important of the three for anyone with even a hint of creativity within them. Anyone can try to scam their way through life. It takes a respectable person, however, to identify areas of potential. What's interesting is that we can find potential by looking at the places where responsibility has been abdicated.

So, for anyone who might be thinking of how to scam people out of a few thousand dollars, here are some legitimate problems that might benefit from your creative efforts:

  • a financial planning application that doesn't send any data to a third-party
  • a web browser that has every site in existence black-listed, requiring people to specifically permit traffic to and from a specific domain
  • a better tool that can archive, index, and search our SMS messages
  • a password manager that isn't a cumbersome pile of complexity
  • a self-hosted Evernote competitor that stores data in a LibreOffice format (for rich notes)
  • a better public geolocation API

There are a million other legitimate problems that can be solved, but these are the first six that sprang to my mind. Scams can be found anywhere and everywhere in the world, preying on the unobservant and earning an non-respectable income over time. Using the creative talents to solve actual problems? That's where self-actualisation can take place.

We can all do better. So let's stop with the stupidity.

]]>
Yes
Do online recipes come with too much backstory? Itâs all part of the joy of food https://www.theguardian.com/food/2019/feb/23/do-online-recipes-come-with-too-much-backstory-its-all-part-of-the-joy-of-food Sat, 23 Feb 2019 04:22:12 +0000 Jason 9793ae51-3722-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

By removing the cultural framework from food, we lose the centuries of wisdom it contains. Throughout human civilisation, food has codified every aspect of culture: science, health, geography, economics, relationships, and even politics.

Indeed. Sometimes the backstory to a dish is more interesting than the recipe.

]]>
Yes
The Art of Silence https://matigo.ca/2019/02/22/the-art-of-silence Fri, 22 Feb 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11e6df7c-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Over the last couple of months I've begun to really focus my attention at the day job on things that I can accomplish rather than the things I'm asked to do. This doesn't mean that I wilfully ignore tasks and responsibilities. Instead, it's become crucial for me to expend energy only where it will have a positive impact for colleagues. What this means is that I generally argue points much less when participating in large group conversations where decisions need to be made, as I've pounded the desk long enough on the same issues for years. If people didn't listen back then, why in the world would they listen now? This has not gone unnoticed by some of the people I work most closely with, who have mentioned that they "miss the feisty Jason".

Personally, I like it better this way. The lack of arguments means that I get to spend less time feeling frustrated and more time solving problems. The larger projects that I participate on are generally overrun with corporate politics with a pair of rival fiefdoms duking it out for … dominance of some kind? I don't know nor care, really, as it's a waste of energy.

With this background laid out, I can now get to the reason for this post.

A couple days ago I heard a wonderful little sound-bite that will join the oft-quoted wisdom that it's better to keep silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. This new one works for people who are able to converse in multiple tongues:

The ability to speak several languages is an asset.The ability to keep your mouth shut is priceless.

People who know me will likely find this comical given my propensity to speak when given a soapbox and a topic. However, as I continue to work towards being a better me it's become clear that sometimes it really is better for me to be silent rather than get involved in forgettable squabbles; particularly those that take place at the day job.

We all have things that we are passionate about. There's a time and a place to express that passion. In my case, I'm going to choose to put my energy into solving real problems in a positive manner.

]]>
Yes
A Little Bit Earlier https://matigo.ca/2019/02/21/a-little-bit-earlier Thu, 21 Feb 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11e6df69-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 When I sit down to write a new blog post the sun has typically long since disappeared over the horizon. With the day at its end, I've generally had time to formulate some ideas on what I'd like to write about that day and which points I might bring up. This is the theory, anyway. As one would expect, come the end of the day my brain has turned to mush and the vast majority of what gets put onto this site makes no sense. Sentences are put down one at a time with long gaps in between. Exhaustion has set in and the mind wanders. Hearing the attention-grabbing chimes from the work email account doesn't help matters. As this is the general pattern, I wonder if it makes sense to write at the end of the day. Perhaps it would be better to write before starting work or, better still, during lunch. The enforced "break" would be a good way to ensure time is not being "given away" to the day job.

A quarter century ago, when I was an eager and optimistic high school student, I would dedicate an hour to writing almost every morning. Publishing personal missives online was not a very common activity in 1994. Instead I wrote fiction on lined paper with a series of pens. A lot of the work was garbage but, every so often, there was something that would stand out from the rest. This happened in the spring of '94 when Mr. Robinson, my English teacher at the time, read a short story titled "The Box". It was written like a classic Twilight Zone episode, complete with a preamble reminiscent of the legendary Rod Serling.

Rod Serling

The story starts with a middle-aged teacher who is just going about their life, doing the things they need to do, when one day they are presented with an object. They're told that they can have anything they desire. All they need to do is open the box, state their desire, push the single button inside, and the wish will be granted. As one would expect, there is no such thing as a free lunch. In order for the wish to be granted, someone the teacher does not know will die. This is where the story gets interesting, as it begins the main character's exploration of their own ethics. Could they be so selfish as to request something knowing that another human being — even one they didn't know — died as a result?

All in all, the story worked out to about 12 A4-size pages in length and impressed Mr. Robinson so much that he sent it to some magazines that published short stories. One based in the US responded and a few months later my story was in print and read by … I don't know how many people. I would assume a few thousand people, but there's no way to know for sure. It didn't matter, though. The story was published and I began down the journey of writing a whole lot more, but only during daylight hours1. This was what I believed to be a recipe for success.

I was wrong, of course. Nothing else I've written in the 25 years since has been picked up by a publisher and for good reason; I'm not writing for the purposes of being published by an external entity. I publish my own words on my own terms and on my own timeline. It doesn't bring fame or fortune, but it does offer an opportunity to reach some people.

Could writing during the daylight hours actually be a recipe for "success"? This depends on the definition of success, of course. What I am looking for is better, more consistent writing. Posts on this site can continue to be on whatever topic tickles my fancy at a given moment, but it must be cromulent. It's this lack of cromulence that bothers me when I look at many of the articles on this site. Writing during the day may change this.

There's only one way to find out ….

  1. It was around mid-1994 that I started programming, and the best time for me to do this was in the evenings when my homework and house chores were complete.

]]>
Yes
Should we be surprised by John Wayne's racist and homophobic views? | Caspar Salmon https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/feb/20/john-wayne-racist-homophobic-views-1971-playboy-interview Thu, 21 Feb 2019 03:06:47 +0000 Jason b9c8160a-3585-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

The online commentary about a Playboy interview unearthed from 1971 shows a lack of education about the western actor, his times and even American history

I wonder when people will get tired of looking for reasons to pretend to be angry. "Oh, someone 40 years ago had views that we generally don't accept today!" Boo hoo. Just wait until people start reading about ideologies from the 19th century … then the 18th century … then the 17th. Hell, let's look at just how much flagrant racism and hatred there is in every religious text ever.

People evolve. Let's learn from the past and vow to be better. Holding someone long dead to the same standard as someone alive today is fucking dumb.

]]>
Yes
Gigabits https://matigo.ca/2019/02/20/gigabits Wed, 20 Feb 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11e6df57-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 A little over a month ago the day job provided a Lenovo X1 Carbon notebook to replace the personal MacBook Pro that I've used almost exclusively for the better part of three years. All in all it's been a pretty decent machine that, if it had more RAM, would be the ultimate computer for just about anything I might need to do at the day job1 for the next couple of years. Despite this limitation, there have been some pleasant surprises over the course of the last few weeks, such as the gigabit ethernet.

The Thinkpad X1 Carbon

Since moving to the new house, I don't use WiFi with the notebooks very often. The wireless data is fine for phones and tablets, but the heavy-lifting machines are generally moving information that I would rather not leak over the airwaves2. For this reason, the notebooks are connected to the network that runs throughout the house. What's nice about this is that I can move at the full speed of the network adapter when moving information inside the house, and this makes it possible to do crazy things in a pinch. When I used the MacBook Pro, the wired network connection was provided via a USB-to-Ethernet adapter that topped out at 100MBits per second3. The Thinkpad, however, has a gigabit adapter. The server upstairs is also gigabit. The network supports 5Gbit across the wires.

You can probably see where I'm going with this.

Words fail to describe just how crazy it feels to run a virtual machine on a local machine using an image on a server upstairs without observing any noticeable performance issues. Seeing that the daily 5GB backup file was generated, shipped upstairs, and removed from the local machine in under 16 seconds leaves me wondering just how much faster computers need to get … because I sure as heck don't need any more speed. A dual-core i5, like what's found in this notebook, is not the beefiest of processors but a Samsung NVMe device sure hides the fact. I understand that this is an incredible luxury, as not everyone can receive a decent machine from their employer and use it on a speedy wired network that has just one person using it4. This doesn't mean that it can't be appreciated, though. The digital tools in this house pay for the mortgage, put food on the table, and makes it possible to set some extra aside for the boy's future education needs. It's nice that modern tools can continue to surprise and amaze us.

  1. I say this knowing full well that the more powerful and capable a computer is, the more I will find for it to do. I'm gearing up to transform almost 500GB of data from SQL Server, MySQL, FileMaker, and other proprietary database engines into a standard format that can be loaded into Salesforce and/or an Oracle-powered ERP. This will certainly put any computer to the test.

  2. Yes, I understand the basics of how data is encrypted before being transmitted, and yes I am using some pretty strong encryption, but I am still working with sensitive information for much of the day. I'd much rather just use a wired network.

  3. I used to have a Thunderbolt adapter that could push out a gigabit per second, but it would add a lot of load to the system for some reason. I opted to replace it with the lighter (and less power-hungry) USB version.

  4. Reiko's notebook and phone both use the WiFi. She's not interested in using a network cable. As for the TV and DVR, those things will never be connected to the network as I refuse to let the hardware manufacturers collect data about family usage patterns.

]]>
Yes
The Last Archive https://matigo.ca/2019/02/19/the-last-archive Tue, 19 Feb 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11e6df47-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 In November of 2013 a podcast that was adored by many came to an end. The Enough podcast was hosted by Myke Hurley and Patrick Rhone and was a show that I looked forward to each and every week. When they went off the air, so to speak, Myke made it clear that the show's audio files would not be hosted forever. When the CDN contract came up for renewal, the 225 episodes would no longer be available. However, both Myke and Patrick made it clear that anyone who wanted to host the files for others to listen to and download were free to do so. With the permission given, I went ahead and made a site hosting most of the audio files. Thanks to the Wayback Machine, it was even possible to recreate most of the show notes and links.

The Enough Podcast

For a while there were a couple of people who were sharing the files with the world. One person put all the files in a .zip and shared the data with a torrent. Another created a basic website with the audio files set up for downloading. It was just my site that made it possible for people to subscribe via RSS and see the notes if they wanted to. As time went on, the torrent ran out of seeds. The downloadable file via the web went offline a couple of years later. Now it's just my site that is sharing these files with the world … and the world is still interested.

Earlier today I noticed that there was a much higher number of audio downloads than usual. On an average day I can expect to see a hundred or so podcast episode downloads from 10C sites that I manage. By noon the number was quite a bit higher than this. Turns out a couple of people had found the Enough Archive and started downloading every episode, which I am always happy to accommodate1.

What I wonder is how many podcasts reach their natural conclusion and disappear from the Internet, and how many people go looking for those podcasts afterwards. Is there a market for a service that could take these old shows, their notes and audio files, and share them indefinitely with the world? Would podcasters who lose interest in making a show be interested in paying for such a service? When I talk to some smaller podcasters, there doesn't seem to be much interest. The larger podcasters tend to belong to networks so don't need to think about such things. But how about the shows with several thousand or tens of thousands of listeners? Would a one-time payment with a contract to provide the audio files for a minimum period of time be a decent business proposition? I wonder.

Given the number of people who continue to download The Enough Podcast, five years after the last episode was released, this does seem to be something that the Internet would benefit from.

  1. Why have an archive if people can't use it, after all?

]]>
Yes
Licence a snowblower? City nails one operator, lays 100 other charges https://nationalpost.com/news/local-news/egan-licence-a-snowblower-city-nails-one-operator-lays-100-other-charges/wcm/4f14de8a-e6a4-429c-8bd7-49f074b069df#comments-area Tue, 19 Feb 2019 00:43:41 +0000 Jason 67526bcf-33df-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

The owner of a snow-clearing company was given a $260 ticket because the company snowblower did not display a numbered licence plate issued by the city.

Too many regulations in Canadian cities …

]]>
Yes
Looking Forward to Spring https://matigo.ca/2019/02/18/looking-forward-to-spring Mon, 18 Feb 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11e6df39-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Halfway through the month of February the weather begins to inch ever closer to something that doesn't require someone to wear a scarf. More people venture out to the parks and more people bring their dogs out. All in all, it's a wonderful time for anyone who has been hibernating for much of the winter … like Nozomi.

Blue Skies Above

The "high" temperatures for much of January were consistently hovering around 5˚C in the afternoons. Nozomi may be covered in fur, but she has found this winter to be particularly uncomfortable. We go out to the park two to three times per day so that she can stretch her legs and enjoy fresh air. However, because of the low temperatures, she generally didn't want to travel farther than a hundred meters in the park. The warmer weather this week was a welcome change for her.

Two days ago we went out for a nice jaunt before lunch and she was in her element, jogging from tree to tree in search of a new scent. As it was just her and I in the park at the time, I took off her vest so that she could enjoy the sun for a few minutes while I snapped pictures. It was a lovely afternoon out. She didn't want to come home too quickly.

Nozomi Enjoying Freedom

But now the temperatures are about to dip and Nozomi is curling up on her heated blanket, refusing to come out from her little room under my desk for more than a couple of minutes at a time. She's looking forward to spring, as are we all.

In a couple of weeks we'll be getting some grass laid in the yard, which will be a welcome change from the exposed soil that we've had since the initial landscaping work was completed last autumn. Once this is done it'll be easier for Nozomi to enjoy some time outside in the afternoon anytime she'd like. The fence around the property is closed enough to prevent her from escaping (without human help), so this will make it easier for her to go out on her own occasionally … despite her insistence that someone always be with her.

]]>
Yes
Five Things https://matigo.ca/2019/02/17/five-things Sun, 17 Feb 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11e6df26-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 It's Sunday night, so time for another list of random thoughts that probably make no sense. What's unfortunate is that these weekly brain dumps are incredibly self-censored. The topics that usually float around my head the day before the return to work are generally not accepted by polite company. People would likely feel bad for the caramel ice cream.

Fantastical fantasies involving dairy products aside, let's jump right in!

27.34

I've been doing some analysis of the visits to my blog this week in an effort to optimize and refine some of the features that are being built into v5 and was surprised to find that the average number of non-bot visitors a page on this site might see in a given week is 27.34. In addition to this, of the 2,784 posts on this site, only 87 have not been accessed by a person in over a month. Given how abysmal a lot of the earlier posts are, I wonder if it's time to think about "the right to be forgotten".

Chatting with Neighbours

Nine months have passed since the family and I moved into our home, yet I still don't know half the people in the immediate neighbourhood. While out for a bit of a walk today I met two people down the street for the first time who regularly see Nozomi and I head out for a walk. Usually when people discover that I can (roughly) communicate in Japanese, there is a regular assortment of questions that I am invariably asked. Queries about my nationality, language abilities, length of time in the country are the most common tropes. However these neighbours were more interested in something else: my line of work.

Nozomi gets three walks a day when there isn't a typhoon bearing down on us. In the morning around 8:00, after lunch, and again before dinner at 7:00. Men of working age generally do not spend as much time at home as I do, which had some people wondering if I worked for the mob or sold drugs to be able to seemingly stay at home all day. A neighbour a few months back even asked if I was unemployed on account of the bad beard I was growing at the time.

The truth is seldom as interesting as neighbourhood rumours, so when these two men discovered what I do and for what company, they nodded and said that my job made more sense than some of the hypotheses people have had over the last couple of months.

Ka-mon Jeeson

The boy has gotten into a terrible habit of calling me by my first name rather than the title children usually have for their fathers in Japan1. This has happened primarily because Reiko uses my name a lot when talking to me. Sometimes he'll stick to the standard "Papa" but, usually when we're at home or in the park, he'll look right at me and request something while calling me "Jeeson". This means that I now have the additional task of teaching the boy to call me either "Papa", as is standard in Japan for young children, or "Dad", which is what I'll likely prefer when he's a bit older.

Nodding Off

Over the last couple of months I've found myself falling asleep for a couple of minutes in the middle of every day. The naps are rarely more than 5 minutes in length and seem to happen after playing with the boy for a bit. I wonder if this is a sign that I'm too old for toddlers …

Limited Conversations

Despite having the occasional chat with neighbours, I rarely get a chance to talk to adults outside the house about things not related to anymore. This has resulted in having the same conversations again and again with different people. While I can appreciate the opportunity to practise my Japanese, I do wish I had friends who lived closer. A lot of the people I've met here in Japan have been great and I'd love to maintain a connection. Getting together, though, has become quite difficult given that I work primarily from home.

I should do something about this ….

  1. I would love it if the boy called me something like "Grand Master Flex" or some other late-80s era MC name. It's unlikely to happen, though.

]]>
Yes
It's almost impossible to function without the big five tech giants | John Naughton https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/feb/17/almost-impossible-to-function-without-big-five-tech-giants Sun, 17 Feb 2019 08:07:26 +0000 Jason 0ff84f86-328b-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

The "big five's" grip on our online world is such that it's almost impossible to function without them

I disagree. One can easily do so as long as they're invested in digital sovereignty. People who care not a lick for it will have a hard time avoiding the big tech companies because of how much self has been given over to them.

]]>
Yes
Less Patience. More focus. https://matigo.ca/2019/02/16/less-patience-more-focus Sat, 16 Feb 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11e6df15-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Some people have observed that, over the last couple of years, I've gone from being generally mild-mannered to being much more direct and impatient. This started to manifest shortly after leaving the classroom and has become progressively more noticeable since. Whenever someone brings this topic up, it's generally cushioned with fuzzy language like "You seem more confrontational lately" or "Your sentences are much shorter than before" or "Is this a bad time?" There's no denying that my day-to-day attitude has evolved over the last couple of years, nor is there any reason for it to change back to what it was. There simply isn't time to waste with careful consensus building or opaque, academic-sounding sentences anymore.

Behold My Field …

At the end of the day, the lack of free time is what is driving the need to be more precise in my speech and less tolerant of laziness or general apathy in others. The calendar for the day job is generally cram-packed with meetings and "crunch-time" work that carry financial consequences if handled improperly. The calendar for the home is just as busy, albeit with different things. My time at the day job is typically sold at a rate of about $36/hr, while my time away from the day job is considered worth $50/hr1. So when someone wishes to dilly-daddle, taking their time to accomplish a task, I see it as a poor use of time that is costing me elsewhere. This isn't to say that everything I do is related to money, as it's most certainly not, but our time is a limited resource. We can shorten it as much as we'd like, but we sure as heck can't acquire more. If demanding that a salesperson respond to a phone message in less than 3 business days or getting frustrated with the DBA at work because they continue to make the same rookie mistakes after six years on the job2 makes me "the bad guy", then so be it. There's work to be done.

This does not mean that I'm intentionally rude or terse with people, nor does it excuse the occasional bursts of frustration that can result in a linguistically complex tongue-lashing. What it does mean, however, is that I will continue to work incredibly hard at everything I do, be it at the day job, with the family, or for personal projects with the hope that others will also do their best most of the time; which I feel is generally the case.

For most of the last 15 years, I've tried to take it easy and not rock the boat too much. This strategy, if you could even call it that, meant that I wasted a great deal of time waiting around. I would much rather not spend my time waiting, particularly when there are people and puppies that want attention.

  1. This may come across as a little odd, given that I am generally working from home, however I will consider the time I spend with my family to be of greater value than the time I spend in front of a computer solving what are essentially math problems.

  2. Yeah … I'll just leave this topic alone for now. Suffice it to say, a person earning more than double my salary should know the basics of how a database works if their job title is literally "database administrator"

]]>
Yes
Angry over campus speech by Uighur activist, McMaster University students contact Chinese consulate, film presentation https://www.thespec.com/news-story/9177855-angry-over-campus-speech-by-uighur-activist-mcmaster-university-students-contact-chinese-consulate-film-presentation/ Sat, 16 Feb 2019 10:32:43 +0000 Jason 317e2740-31d6-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

Though student organizing and heated debate are a common and important part of campus life, contact with the Chinese consulate may cross a line, experts said.

McMaster may be based in Hamilton, where I grew up, but it stands for nothing that I recognize as Canadian. The students are such whiny, snivelling dolts who are so blind of their privilege that it's disgusting to observe them even from half a world away. They respect "free speech" about as much as ISIS respects equal rights for women.

]]>
Yes
Samsung's new Tab S5e is super thin, supports Bixby, and costs just $399 https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2019/02/samsungs-new-tab-s5e-is-super-thin-supports-bixby-and-costs-just-399/ Fri, 15 Feb 2019 23:41:47 +0000 Jason 4254855d-317b-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

The high-end nature of the Tab S5e comes in its design. The all-metal unibody is the thinnest and lightest of any Samsung tablet, weighing about 14 ounces and measuring 5.5mm thick. Samsung didn't skimp too much on the display, either, sticking a 10.5-inch, 2560×1600 AMOLED panel with a 16:10 aspect ratio on the tablet. […] However, the Tab S5e's internals aren't exactly built for multitasking. It runs on an octa-core Snapdragon 670, which is suitable for mid-range tablets.

It's interesting how often Android tablets are collections of compromises. Unfortunately these devices will likely ship with a locked boot loader, making it impossible for people to upgrade or change OSes on their own.

]]>
Yes
Goodnight Opportunity https://matigo.ca/2019/02/15/goodnight-opportunity Fri, 15 Feb 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11e6df08-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Opportunity Rover at Cape Tribulation on Sol 3902

For almost 15 Earth years, the Opportunity rover allowed us to explore a narrow strip of Mars. For most of this time I have enjoyed going to the NASA Missions website to see the new photos from our red neighbour, most of which came from Opportunity. While there are other machines still operating on the distant world, none are quite as special as this rover was.

]]>
Yes
Day Seven https://matigo.ca/2019/02/14/day-seven Thu, 14 Feb 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Jason 11e6def0-562c-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3 Despite my best efforts, there is still work to be done on the Anri v5 blogging theme. What I expected to be a two-day job appears to have been a four or five day task. Go figure! That said, there is quite a bit of functionality that has been put in place today, and I thought it would be interesting to go through some of the elements on here.

Logging In

The Login Form

One of the complaints that people have had about some of my websites is the over-reliance on JavaScript for things that a form could handle natively. While I'll admit that I do generally prefer to use JavaScript when interacting with APIs, it's not an absolute requirement on that part. For this reason, most of the forms across the Anri site do not require JavaScript to function. The login page will take the information presented and work with it as best it can. The toggle at the bottom to remain logged in1 is 100% CSS, and will work even when a person disables JavaScript in their browser.

Settings

The Settings Page

Just like the initial demo theme, it's important (to me) that people be able to make changes to their website without signing into the admin site. When a person is logged in, so long as they have ownership of the site, they'll be able to control basic aspects of the site. At the moment the options are rather sparse, as are the explanations, but this will fill out pretty soon. Some of the elements that need to be added include being able to change the site URL, force HTTPS, change themes, and more. That said, baby steps are required for the moment so that something can be released and tested by real people.

Proper Social Posts

Simplified Social Posts

Social posts will now appear on the site properly and show a little icon next to the time if it's been imported from an external service. For social posts that take place on the 10C network with other people, a speech bubble icon will let people know there's more to the conversation. Clicking the timestamp will open the page with the full conversation in view. What's nice about this is that comments on public blog posts, quotations, and bookmarks will appear in context. There won't be any need to go hunting around for links to see how a conversation unfolded. More than this, if you've logged into the site, you'll be able to comment right from there.

Better Font Usage

Font Style and Size

Previously the fonts were not exactly the easiest to read, especially on hi-DPI screens. To that end, a different font is being trialled and the sizes have been adjusted to ensure that different objects do not have wildly different sizes. This was a bit of an issue on cell phones previously. Future updates will allow anyone to change the size of the font on a 10C-powered website, and the preference will be saved in the browser. By doing this, a person who chooses to have larger or smaller text will be free to make changes without affecting anyone else's reading experience. The information will be stored either in LocalStorage, or in the browser's cookies.

Popular Posts

Nine Popular Posts

Another nice feature is the "popular posts" list in the footer. The list will show which items have been accessed the most in the last two weeks based on the performance logs. Some tweaks still need to be made to the SQL query that works this list out, though, as it does not make sense to include hits from GoogleBot, Bing, Yahoo!, or other crawlers. This will require some active examination of browsers to ensure automated systems are reduced as much as possible while also paying attention to people's right to privacy.

Still Left to Do …

The Writing Area

This evening's work in progress has been the new writing area. The system will successfully publish blog posts and social posts, but quotations, bookmarks, and pages are not quite ready. Hopefully this is something that can be done tomorrow during some of the "downtime" I expect to create at the day job2. Post editing will also need to be enabled, but that will be done after the page can handle all the different post types.

In addition to this, some other features that need to be coded are:

  • Contact Form Message Reading/Responding
  • Interactive Commenting
  • RSS (both XML and JSON)
  • CC License Support

There are undoubtedly some others that I'm forgetting, but these are the key items that need to be tackled. When a few more elements are good to go, I'll migrate matigo.ca over and start having all traffic for that site managed in v5. The domain is the highest-trafficked site with just about 5,000 unique visitors a day (for reasons I don't quite understand), so will be a good test of the system performance and security. Hopefully there will not be any serious issues.

Tomorrow I'll get back to working "normal hours" with the day job, and there are at least three meetings where my presence is expected. Fortunately the day after is Saturday.

  1. all tokens in 10Cv5 auto-expire after 30 days of inactivity. Otherwise, a token can be used until the end of v5.

  2. I'm being asked by a couple of managers to work less. This is a topic that I've covered a few times on here, but now some people are starting to get serious about it. If the company wants me to do less work for them, then I'll use the recovered time for 10C … and the family.

]]>
Yes
How dangerous is Jordan B Peterson, the rightwing professor who 'hit a hornets' nest'? https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/feb/07/how-dangerous-is-jordan-b-peterson-the-rightwing-professor-who-hit-a-hornets-nest Thu, 14 Feb 2019 03:49:08 +0000 Jason 7b6b346d-300b-11e9-9881-54ee758049c3

The key to Peterson's appeal is also his greatest weakness. He wants to be the man who knows everything and can explain everything, without qualification or error. On Channel 4 News, he posed as an impregnable rock of hard evidence and common sense. But his arguments are riddled with conspiracy theories and crude distortions of subjects, including postmodernism, gender identity and Canadian law, that lie outside his field of expertise. Therefore, there is no need to caricature his ideas in order to challenge them.

So Dorian Lynskey, the author of the opinion piece, calls out Jordan Peterson's arguments for being "riddled with conspiracy theories and crude distortions of subjects", but can't provide a single piece of evidence in the entire article outlining which arguments are wrong or distorted. This is what bothers me so much about a lot of the debates that goes on in the various forums. People want to say that someone doesn't know the facts, but can't state the facts themselves. more than this, when people try to provide information to counter a point, they cannot provide sources to back up their claims.

Dr. Peterson is just like every other person on the planet, in that he can make mistakes and have an incomplete understanding of a subject. The best way to correct those mistakes isn't to just write them off and say "these are wrong", but to clearly state what is wrong, provide references for follow-up investigation and study, then encourage a response after a sufficient passage of time.

The art of debate and reason is clearly lost … if we ever truly had it to begin with.

]]>
Yes