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Baby Driver at AwesomeCon

June 18, 2017 Category :Uncategorized Off

You can head over to my webpage to see my AwesomeCon review.

I did want to spill the beans a bit on the first five minutes of the movie, which was shown during the panel. If you don’t like SPOILERS stop reading now. They’re very minor, though, so I think this will just whet your appetite more than anything else.

The segment starts off with a crew of four arriving at a bank in a red Subaru WRX. Two men and a woman get out, walk into a bank, and start a robbery. Meanwhile, the driver is listening to music with seemingly no care in the world. After the heist completes, the robbers get in the car. Instead of driving off forward, the driver goes into reverse, spins around, and takes off in the opposite direction. What follows is a lot of great car-chase action. The WRX skids and slides between cars, forcing the police vehicles in chase to crash into civilians. In one great scene (shown in some trailers) a row of spikes is placed on the street. Only the driver slides the car to hit the spikes sideways, causing them to lie in the path of a police cruiser, which unexpectedly crashes after hitting the spikes. A freeway chase ensues and a helicopter is involved. The driver spots two red cars going the opposite way and, after jumping the lane dividers, takes a place between them. While under an underpass he forces one of the other red cars to swap lanes with him, thus confusing the helicopter as to which car is which. A few other scenes include the WRX sliding between parked cars along with some amazing choreography. By the end of this first scene the group dumps the WRX for an unremarkable car under the cover of a garage and leaves.

That’s where the preview clip ended. I’ll be seeing this movie opening night.

Putting my money where my mouth is

April 28, 2017 Category :Uncategorized Off

This will be the first post I make to the new blog that won’t appear on the old blog.

With the change in YouTube that’s currently causing trouble for a lot of youtubers, especially those who make a living off youtube, I felt a bit split on the matter. Yes, it’s bad that Google (or alphabet, or youtube, however you describe the shot-callers) is making it harder for smaller, independent creators to continue doing what they’re doing. Different standards apply to them and established news media. But that’s a different discussion. For me, there’s an obvious solution to the question of how to get content out to people of YouTube is no longer a real option.

For ages, the essay has been the prime vehicle of distributing ideas. It’s probably why you have to write so many in school; they’re one of the best proven ways to get your ideas across if you can write well. There’s certainly advantages to videos and having a bunch of your favorite content creators collected in one website or app. But as far as actually getting ideas out there, essays are perfectly fine. With a blog, you can easily add video clips or pictures, too. I’ve long pointed out that if you really want creative independence, you can get your own domain, your own website (which is trivially easy to run, thanks WordPress), and set up your own advertising if you’d like. Yes, it takes effort, especially the last bit. But your ideas are then really out there, free, and unrestrained.

[admin] Moved servers from lunarpages to orobouros.xyz

April 7, 2017 Category :Uncategorized Off

I’ve moved the blog from the lunarpages servers to my own orobouros.xyz servers.  Once the domain is fully transferred over blog.orobouros.net will again correctly point to the actual blog.  For now, blog.oroboruos.xyz will work.

Living in a closet isn’t that bad: Tiny Houses

April 17, 2016 Category :Uncategorized Off

So I really like the idea of a tiny house. Long and short, and to be fair, is the idea is that you should be able to live in a higher-end trailer. It’s easy to deck out a tiny house with features that will total up to almost $100,000, which even for a 500 sq ft tiny home is about $200/sq ft. Of course what drives the costs up are your own heating, electricity, water, and waste systems. You’re not paying for water anymore if you can collect it from the rain on your roof! Beyond that there’s also the life-style benefits which mainly amount to moving very far away from materialism. You have to get rid of a lot of your stuff at the outset and from then on you really have to ask yourself if you really need every next thing you think about buying/keeping.

It’s a great idea. I was going to share a blog post about tiny houses that I found funny because it pointed out a lot of things that you don’t see so much of on reality TV shows. You’re going to be sleeping in what amounts to a glorified coffin. You’re going to be keeping your poop in your home for longer than a few minutes. And you’re not exactly able to go to another room, either. There’s quite a bit of good criticism of the tiny house ideas online, a lot of it pretty funny. All of it amounts to: you’re pooping where you’re eating.

Even so I still love the idea. Thing is I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a tiny house. They’re probably great for vacation homes, or other situations where you need a place to stay briefly. Many of them are probably perfect as listings on AirBnB. I’ve gone on short trips with little more than a mp3 player, a book, and my laptop. I wanted for nothing knowing I’d have all my stuff at home again.

If I had a tiny house it’d definitely be for the times I want to get away. They’re also very efficient and self-sustaining, and as such perfect for remote or hard-to-reach locations. If I had a tiny house on several acres of land on Kauai or the Caribbean I’d likely spend the vast majority of my vacation time there. (Maybe there’s a way to time-share?)

But in the end tiny houses are a collection of good ideas that haven’t quite matured yet together. In contrast, look at the following video.


There’s a lot of space and energy saving options available today and they’d make a lot of sense for urban areas. Even 12V systems may actually be better for a lot of home applications depending on what you’re running off of them. AC/DC conversion isn’t cheap and most of your appliances do it. Avoiding excess materialism is also a great idea for anybody with limited living space. I know a few people who manage to keep only about as much as can fit in two large suitcases. They focus on what matters most in life to them.

On the balance I’m glad to see people move away from McMansions and towards more efficient and sustainable living. We’re not quite there yet. Tiny homes (be they trailers or micro-sized apartments) just don’t work for many people to become a long-term solution. Instead, I think a hybrid approach may be best. I lived in a 110 sq foot room for 6 years. It wasn’t fun but it was enough since kitchen and bathroom were elsewhere. Instead of trying to shrink everything down it’ll probably work better to have some kind of modularized living arrangements. If I were living in a big city I’d prefer to time-share a kitchen and bathroom, pay my share for upkeep, and pay rent only for a private room or two.

GNUsocial and the evolution of Federation

March 3, 2016 Category :Uncategorized Off

I’m not going to go into detail (yet) about what GNU social is. If you’re reading this without knowing and still want to understand what I’m saying here a bit, it’s basically a federated twitter. But better. What is important here is that by design, all or most nodes communicate with each other. A post made on one node is available on another if any users follow each other between the nodes. This kind of federation allows a great strength of the network. No one node breaks the network if it’s faulty or compromised. But it’s also raising some questions. I myself think there’s a few simple technological solutions here.

So as I get into the details here, let me point out something that should be obvious and obviously unavoidable. Those who wish to impose or operate under strict control will find a way to do so, for better or worse. The best option for such cases is to entice less strict control by allowing for control measures only minimally restrictive but meeting the needs of the user. I think we can do that with GNU social.

So before I explain my ideas I should explain the driving ideas behind them.

  1. The user should be the primary authority on their experience.
  2. Site admins and owners should take measures only to the degree that is necessary to guarantee the user their desired experience.
  3. Tools should be as simple as possible while allowing the greatest flexibility in their application.

On account of the federated nature of GNU social we have a largely untackled problem. How to administer a site where most of the ostensible users aren’t under the authority of the site system admin? Existing options boil down to muting individuals and blocking entire nodes. With only a few more options I believe that all realistic cases would be covered.

For the user, and as part of the default frontend, I recommend a single option. Call it “privacy mode” or similar. The user will see only content posted by people they follow and will automatically set the option “only show my updates to followers.” Additionally, remove the options to see all “public” and “whole network” views. If a user wishes to use the platform exclusively to communicate with friends, family, and associates, let them. Everybody else gets the full experience, with only specific users muted. I believe this would cover the vast majority of users and is very simple. Should users desire a more sophisticated option there’s always the option of creating a new front end.

For admins things are a bit more complicated by the fact that there are users on remote systems who can potentially post to the local system. Current options are limited to sandboxing and silencing, the latter of which as I understand it doesn’t do anything to remote users other than not display their content. Sandboxing is a good start and with some small expansions should meet most use cases. The goal here is to make it easy for admins to select only the degree of filtering needed, which tends to move into two types, open and closed networks. One use case, say for a family, would restrict connections to all but a few specific nodes and users; it would be a closed network. Occasionally a few new nodes or accounts could be added to expand the network. For most nodes a social network experience would involve restricting only a few specific nodes (for reasons we don’t need to go into here). They’d be open as they allow connections by default.

An “allow” and “deny” list with wildcards should do the trick. An example will be more useful here:

A closed network
Say a family wishes to set up a few nodes, johnsonfamily.com and johnsonfamily.org. The allow list contains “*@johnsonfamily.*” and allows connections to all users on all nodes named “johnsonfamily” with any URL ending. Should “johnsonfamily.net” show up, but be run by somebody else, the admins just add “johnsonfamily.net” to the deny list, and no more access to that node, but it would still allow “johnsonfamily.xyz” should it be an available node.

An open network
Alice runs a node at alicesocial.com and allows signups to anybody. She likes cats and advertises her node as a place to share cat pictures. A lot of her users also like dogs, and her friend Bob runs bobsocial.com with a focus on dogs. Charley likes reptiles and has charliesocial.com. Users on charliesocial.com follow users on Alice’s and Bob’s sites and keep sending them iguana pictures. So does user Izzy on bobsocial.com Alice adds “charliesocial.com” and “izzy@bobsocial.com” to her deny list and no longer is there any communication between alicesocial.com and charliesocial.com, nor any communication from izzy. However, Charlie feels bad about it and she wants to talk with him and only him over GNU social. So she adds “charlie@charliesocial.com” to the allow list. Now ONLY charlie’s posts make it through. Alice has chosen to allow him but will miss out on most of the context of what he’s saying.

With this kind of setup, admins can choose a generally closed or open setup, tailored to their needs. A script on a server can automatically add all followed users on remote instances to the allowed file, if the admin wishes, so that even if all hosts are denied, local users can still follow whomever they desire (but again without seeing a lot of context). These are simple tools that would allow admins to set up their site as they wish. They should be easy to implement and easy to understand. Communication will be allow between parties IF a user is on the allow list AND the user IS NOT on the unallowed list.

As a final note, I’m curious about how federation is accomplished with data sharing. Some nodes will store content locally, others rely on it to be available remotely. The advantage of the former is performance for the local users. However it may also lead to hosting undesirable or illegal content. As social networks grow exponentially there may also be a data volume issue, especially for nodes running on cheaper servers. In addition to the controls above, I would recommend making a similar finer-grained control for caching content, with lists to either explicitly cache or leave remote content by users. The “whole known network” could become very large with a lot of useless data sitting around. Allowing optional, specific caching would allow the network to scale better and for admins to keep federation intact without the need to worry about the implications of hosting foreign content.

Facebook isn’t even hiding its manipulation anymore

February 25, 2016 Category :Uncategorized Off

So this is where we’re at now with Facebook (from FACEBOOK REACTIONS, THE TOTALLY REDESIGNED LIKE BUTTON, IS HERE)

Commenting might afford nuanced responses, but composing those responses on a keypad takes too much time.

Go ahead and read the article if you need some background. In fact, there’s some information in there on how Facebook is going to use this new feature. Make no mistake, this is all about money for Facebook. It’s about keeping you engaged. For the longest time the idea behind social media (at least as we know it now) is that you traded your time (as in the time spent viewing or avoiding viewing ads) in exchange for the provided service. Your mileage may vary but this seems more like a ranch now, and we’re the cattle. You get fed a diet of palatable information in order to keep you around long enough to get some ad clicks. The difference is that what most people either assume or are willing to negotiate upon is the idea that they choose what they see. That went out the door a long time ago for Facebook and much more recently with Twitter (and their new non-chronological timeline and shadowbanning). The latest round of “like-emojis” is just one more step in the same direction, but for me it may be the final straw. I’ll decide for myself what I see from my social networks.

I’d just posted recently that I intend to use blogs more. It’s my content, it’s my website, and ultimately I favor having 10 people that actually give me a few minutes of their thoughts than hundreds who can’t even spare a second. And frankly there’s no reason to rely on centralized, corporate social networks anymore. While they certainly pushed the technology forward in terms of accessibility and features, these days most internet users have their own machines that could be online 24/7. And virtual servers are so cheap these days that $5/month will get you a server capable of hosting hundreds of moderate-load users. So, I’m stepping away from Facebook and Twitter. Not abandoning them; they still have some value. That value decreases each time an algorithm is used to decide for me what I should be seeing. Their days are numbered and I’m going to get with the future now.

I’ll probably make a real post later about GNU social and why it’s better than both Twitter and Facebook, and also has advantages over other decentralized, peer-to-peer social media networks. But until then, read up about it for yourself. Just keep in mind one thing: it’s designed to be a federation. You don’t run your own server in isolation. Each server, if a user there follows a user on another server, is networked together. You can easily follow people from different servers and interact with them all the same. People think each one is a twitter clone, running in isolation, and that you’d need an account on every server you want to use. Not so, one account allows you to follow, like, reply, and repeat (virtually) everybody else. It’s more like email. Just because somebody isn’t on your email server doesn’t stop you from sending to and receiving from them.

The more things change…

February 17, 2016 Category :Uncategorized Off

So I’ve decided to bring back this blog. Almost five years ago I intended to use it but never really got around to keeping up here. At the time I was still happy enough with existing social media. That’s changed. Facebook is fairly blatantly selling its users as ad consumers. Not an unfair practice but when money interests determine what you see from people online it’s fundamentally broken. It’s no longer social media, it’s consumer media. And twitter is just going to complete hell. They’ll be MySpace 2.0 before the end of next year if not much sooner. Five years ago the options for alternative social media were limited. I think Google+ just came on the scene and never really made it anywhere big other than continuing its existence because of a huge backing from the parent company.

Things have changed.

Diaspora* is a great idea but the entry barrier is a bit too high for most users. Synereo is still under development but it looks like people have figured out how to make social media have a heartbeat without basically being whored out to corporate interests. And most important GNU social is finding an increase in interest as twitter goes down. Long and short, I see the first big generation of social media giants collapsing soon. And as a technologically inclined person I want to be part of the future, so I figure why wait for things to get bad (Digg, what?) before finding something better.

There’s also a more philosophical reason. I read an article about a blogger who was imprisoned in Iran for writing about the government. He was recently let out after five or more years without access to the internet. He was shocked by what it had become in only a few short years. He mourned the loss of the “blogosphere” and the rise of the soundbite instant-gratification social media. And he was right about a lot of stuff. The “decline” of the internet (really, the users) over the last few years is probably related to being lead by shaped internet feeds. You get stuff fed to you instead of going out to find what you like.

So, I’m “returning” to blogging. These days it’s trivial to share links. If somebody really cares about what I have to say they’ll come here. That’ll be very few people. But it’ll be better for those who do want to see it and I’ll at least avoid polluting social media with uninteresting noise. Why try to have a conversation with 500 people who will give you only a second of their time if you could have a nice long talk with five people who actually care?

That all being said, I’m going to push the idea of jumping ship from Twitter and joining GNU social. That’s a topic for another blog post, but in short it’s more like social media really should be, like email. You choose your server/host but can still follow people on other servers. I’m @orobouros@loadaverage.org. That’s one server, there’s plenty others. (Avoid quitter, but again, that’s a story for another post.) Let me know if you sign up for GNU social and I’ll probably follow you back. It’s been great so far.

Test the Second

June 18, 2011 Category :Uncategorized Off

Well, I’m just testing this out for a second post.

Hello world!

June 18, 2011 Category :Uncategorized Off

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!