(Pardon the typos, I'm typing this on my phone).

As we speak, Sydney is making international headlines for all the wrong reasons. A hostage situation in a city coffee shop has also sparked [reported] fears that other devices have also been planted elsewhere. The Sydney Opera House and other landmarks have been evacuated.

I'm sitting here at a coffee shop back home in Hornsby, in northern Sydney. After relaying NSW Police instructions to stay in our offices, our building manager came through a short time later to tell us we were closing up. As far as I know, people in buildings surrounding Martin Place are still in lockdown.

I feel for the people held captive in that café, and as much for their family and friends. It would be a truly terrifying situation, and I can't begin to imagine how they must be feeling. No, really. In all the media hype, discussions around political motivations and such, let us not forget this. We all hope for a peaceful resolution.

That said, I'm already feeling anger. I know those who would attempt to sway us will almost certainly have their way, once our Attorney General George Brandis and his band of Coalition MPs have had time to digest and exploit this tragedy to further their farcically ineffective surveillence bullshit. That metadata collection worked great for those people, didn't it?

What heartened me was seeing ordinary Australians walking the Sydney CBD streets, rolling their eyes at these idiots, enjoying coffee, taking in the otherwise beautiful day, politely apologising for bumping into you, and carrying on like nothing was up. That's how you handle cowards attempting to force your hand.


Romeo The Puppy, 1999–2014

Romeo the puppy

So my mum used to tell me, after a day of pet shop searches in 1999, she chanced upon this timid little fluffball in the corner of a cage. Upon picking him up, he burrowed his face into her neck and gradually stopped trembling. The proprietor warned that he may be the “runt of the litter”, but it was already love at first sight.

From that point forward, he was a member of the family. I'd just started high school, but already I can barely remember the time he wasn't around.

Romeo the puppyRomeo the puppy

Above all though, he shared the closest bond with my mum. Dr. Tan once said Romeo had almost done more for her health (and certainly more for her wellbeing) than any of her chemotherapy. He knew when she passed away in her sleep in 2007; a part of him was never the same.

He was quiet and gentle, but fiercely loyal. Despite all his health obstacles later in life, he would wander the house utterly unfazed. Through six understandably confusing house moves in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Sydney, the addition of his sister Tigerlily in 2001, and numerous vet visits, he was still our little trooper who was already ready for a soft cuddle or some silly fun. Honestly, who else but Romeo could manage to tip their house sideways while they were still inside?

Romeo the puppy

Last night, surrounded by family and one of the most caring vets we've ever met, we said goodbye to our old friend and a fixture of our lives for 15 years.

My boss was gracious enough to give me the day off today, which let me start trawling the archives for photos. Over the coming days, I'll be filling a Romeo Flickr album so the world can see what a silly, lovely little guy he was. You may claim to have a friendlier dog, but you'd be wrong.™

Rest in peace, my dear friend. ♡

Romeo the puppy

Devuan forking Debian over systemd

Yui and Debian

Much electronic ink has been spilled extolling the virtues and horrors of Linux's new de facto manager systemd. I'm in the camp of the people who started the Debian Fork site earlier this year:

We are Veteran Unix Admins and we are concerned about what is happening to Debian GNU/Linux to the point we decided to fork the project.

And why would you do that? Some of us are upstream developers, some professional sysadmins: we are all concerned peers interacting with Debian and derivatives on a daily basis.

We don't want to be forced to use systemd in substitution to the traditional UNIX sysvinit init, because systemd betrays the UNIX philosophy.

We contemplate adopting more recent alternatives to sysvinit, but not those undermining the basic design principles of "do one thing and do it well" with a complex collection of dozens of tightly coupled binaries and opaque logs.

I'd also add that systemd is emblamatic of a larger shift from *nix to Linux-centric design. For those of us running BSD, Solaris and other *nix servers, its a regrettable (if not entirely unpredictable) trend. That said, I wouldn't want systemd on my FreeBSD boxes anyway, so touché.

But back to the point of this post. After threatening a fork, and with more high profile defections from the Debian project, it's happened:

Devuan will derive its own installer and package repositories from Debian, modifying them where necessary, with the first goal of removing systemd, still inheriting the Debian development workflow while continuing it on a different path: free from bloat as a minimalist base distro should be. Our objective for the spring of 2015 is that users will be able to switch from Debian 7 to Devuan 1 smoothly, as if they would dist-upgrade to Jessie, and start using our package repositories.

Jokes about the name aside, I'm cautiously relieved. We'll have to see what kind of response this gets to assess its long term viability, but I wish them all the best.

No-nonsense MemTest86 bootable USB keys

No need for nasty GUI-based bootable memory key generators or other convoluted 15 step processes, you can just dd MemTest86's USB image:


key="/dev/sdb" ## TRIPLE CHECK this drive location first

curl -OL "http://www.memtest86.com/downloads/memtest86-usb.tar.gz"
tar xzvf memtest86-usb.tar.gz

sudo dd if=memtest86-usb.tar.gz of=${key} bs=10240 conv=sync

And for the obligatory caveats:

  • Triple check the destination for your key. Easy hack, run dmesg immediately after plugging in your key. I won't be held responsible for lost data.
  • memtest86+ may have an equivilent generic bootable image, I haven't checked. Last time I tried to, it required converting an ISO which I'm not interested in doing.
  • As an alternative, many live bootable Linux distros also have memtest86+ in their boot options.

Accidental Tech Podcast on Git

Accidental Tech Podcast's new cover art

The gang on ATP #91:

Marco: Git needs a million frontends on it to make it usable [..] even the git commands you use on the command line are front-ends to five other commands doing what you want it to do.

John: Git is not a great example of a user interface.

Marco: [..] version control and distributed version control are already complicated problems. Add to that the creator of Linux making the one he wants to use; Git is exactly what you would expect that to be!