Goodbye, Bronwyn Bishop

Australian Speaker of the House Bronwyn Bishop has resigned, after several weeks of damning evidence showing her abuse of government entitlements. Likely most famous was her taxpayer–funded, meme–generating helicopter trip to a party fundraiser.

For a government claiming the “age of entitlement” (whatever that means) is “over”, this was particulraly egrigous. Ditto how hard they came down on former speaker Peter Slipper, who’s expenses look like a coffee run compared to Ms Bishop. And even as Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced her resignation, he chose to blame the system rather than Ms Bishop specifically. Of course.

History will tell if she’s judged most harshly for her biased performance as Speaker (ejecting hundreds of opposition members, compared to single digits for the Government), or her entitlement abuse.

May some dignity and respect return to the post. We all deserve better of our elected officials.

Rubénerd Show 284 2015-08-02

Rubénerd Show 284

The coffee-spy solitaire episode.

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

58:27 – The Five Eyes and ECHELON, US sharing intel on Japan with Australian, radomes, the state of IT security, type safety, The Small Faces, the Nespresso system, Arpeggio Decaffeinato, drinking decaf coffee, George Clooney, scripting away work, the utimate PySolFC card game suite for Linux and Mac, PySolitaire for Windows, the Intel 486SX CPU and playing DOS games on an HDTV. Goodbye 80s~90s song by BeFive.

Recorded in Sydney, Australia. Licence for this track: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. Attribution: Ruben Schade.

Released August 2015 on The Overnightscape Underground, an Internet talk radio channel focusing on a freeform monologue style, with diverse and fascinating hosts.

Ignore certificate warnings in wget

If you find yourself using wget instead of curl (either by necessity, or because you have no taste), you may get errors like this:

ERORR: The certificate of `' is not trusted.

This should raise warning flags. If you wish to ignore (and I won’t be held responsible for any ill effects), use this flag to bypass:

% wget -no-check-certificate $url

Done and done.

Stop -webkit-font-smooting: antialiased

There was a CSS statement that was very much in vogue a few years ago, and we're still dealing with vestiges of it today:

-webkit-font-smoothing: antialiased;

It was (ab)used in a misguided attempt to render thinner fonts, but all it did was lower their effective resolution. When you start messing with how an operating system renders fonts, you get into serious accessibility (and aesthetic) problems.

I was reminded of this today. Compare this screenshot from, taken with Safari (ala Webkit) and Firefox on my non–retina desktop monitor. No prizes for guessing which is which.

Safari and Firefox showing font rendering with webkit-font-smoothing

Using lighter font weights is fine, provided you can still make out the shapes. Using a narrow, poorly defined font with thin weight and abusing the webkit-font-smoothing property is a bad typeface trifecta.

If you ever find yourself asking "should I use this CSS property?", the answer is no. Ditto infinite scrolling, but that's for another post.

San Francisco trialling urine–repelling paint

Today's bandaid–solution story comes from the BBC:

Be warned: If you pee on a wall in San Francisco it may come straight back. The city's public works agency says it is testing a new urine-repellent paint in areas popular with people looking to relieve themselves.

Anyone choosing to use the treated walls as a toilet will see their urine "bounce back", according to a spokeswoman for the agency.

In a trial project, San Francisco authorities have painted nine walls in areas close to bars and in neighbourhoods with large homeless populations.

I suppose it’s easier than dealing with socioeconomic issues that may lead to someone doing that in the first place.

Signs posted on the walls, written in English, Chinese and Spanish, say: "Hold it! ... seek relief in an appropriate place".

"The idea is they will think twice next time about urinating in public," said Rachel Gordon, a spokeswoman for the city's Public Works Department.

It's the same flawed argument that people packing heat protect us from gun nuts. It assumes people shooting/urinating are in a right state of mind, and can understand consequences.

I'd be more interested in a corruption repellent. If a white collar criminal or government official steals money, the electrons used in the transaction (amplied for effect) bounce off their monitors and give them a shock.

Stopping SOGo Connector notifications

On a classic Simpsons episode, Homer was dismayed to discover the reception for his Everything Is Okay! alarm was less than favourable. It seems people don’t like being loudly shouted at unless one has something urgent and important (not the same) to attend to.

This isn’t about iOS notification spam this time however, it’s the otherwise excellent Inverse SOGo Connector plugin for Thunderbird. With it, you can sync your contacts with third party DAV services, such as Fastmail.

Set it to perform periodic sync however, and you'll be notified every fifteen minutes of every operation, even if it didn't do anything.

SOGO: No changes

These popups have no reason to exist. Fortunately, these can be disabled. In the address book, right click your synced account, click Properties, and tick "Notify only if data syncronised".

Update: They persist even with this setting checked, darn. Untick all notifications, and you’ll be fine. Realistically, unless you're a socialite or in high pressure sales and are constantly getting new contacts, you won't need these notifications anyway.

Update Again: I knew I remembered the name Sogo from somewhere; they’re a Japanese department store chain that had a branch in The Paragon in Singapore when I was growing up. It’s a Metro, now.

Integral to the success of integers

Despite their predictable moderation issues, I still find myself on the Stack Exchange network daily. In the process, I often notice interesting questions from other sites on the network, including this one.

The word “integral” in calculus unrelated to “integral” / “integer” in algebra?

I think that the word integral in calculus is nothing to do with integer or integer numbers.

But why is integral is chosen for integration? In algebra, integral means related to integers, and this is exactly the same as the word integral in calculus with a very different (?) meaning; are they connected? If not why from millions of words are they same?

I remember asking the same question to my year 12 maths teacher, but she shrugged, and I forgot about it. Funny how seeing something years later can trigger all these memories!

They share a Latin root corresponding the the concept of 'wholeness'. In the context of integers, this would be interpreted as 'whole numbers' - i.e. numbers with no fractional part. In the context of integration, this would correspond to 'summing up to create a whole' in the sense of the integral representing a continuous sum or area. I think that's why they use similar words.

It's not often you learn about etymology from a mathematician, but that was the accepted answer. It seems plausible.

Rubénerd Show 283 2015-07-27

Rubénerd Show 283

The 80s shopping centre episode.

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

46:50 – Topics include spherical alignment, timezones and climate, the friggen cold, going places for work, how spaces impact us, identifying Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s, the interior of 70s and 80s shopping centres, lamenting the rise of 2010s glamour architecture, the new-old Alexandria Homemaker Centre, new-old De Ruuci stores, brutalist architecture, the Singapore Power Building, and those faded showroom lightboxes.

Recorded in Sydney, Australia. Licence for this track: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. Attribution: Ruben Schade.

Released July 2015 on The Overnightscape Underground, an Internet talk radio channel focusing on a freeform monologue style, with diverse and fascinating hosts.

Subscribe with iTunes, Pocket Casts, Overcast or add this feed to your podcast client. For all Overnightscape Underground shows, subscribe in iTunes, Pocket Casts or add this feed to your podcast client. More clients are available on the subscribe page.

Mount ZFS in FreeBSD single user mode


I've had a decent amount of experience with ZFS for data volumes, but it wasn't till FreeBSD 10 that I've been using it for my boot volume. In the process, I've found myself relearing a lot of tooling.

A mistake BSDers are all too familiar with is an rc.conf typo, which results in this after a reboot:

/etc/rc.conf: 19: Syntax error: Unterminated quoted string
Enter full pathname of shell or RETURN for /bin/sh:

In the case of UFS2, you'd mount read-write and edit the file. With a ZFS pool however, you get this:

# mount -w /
==> mount: /: unknown special file or file system.

Instead, you mount the following:

# mount -u /
# mount -a -t zfs

Now you can correct your mistake and be on your way.

Raw tech specs

This article by Matt Bircher discusses iPods, but this paragraph is relevent to the entire consumer tech sector.

The average tech nerd will look at the $149 price of the Nano and compare it to the $199 Touch and wonder why someone wouldn't spend the extra $50 to get "so much more." This question simply displays a lack of understanding as to how the market at large currently works. It's similar to someone saying "why would you buy an iPad when you can buy a Windows laptop of the same price that does more?" You can't always say what's best for people to buy based on the raw tech specs.

And yet, Android and Windows device makers still largely sell them like this.

It reminds me of a quip about Commodore's marketing department in the 80s. The Amiga was sushi, but they sold it as raw fish.