Ten friggen years of Rubénerd

Rubenerd in 2004

Yikes. I’m so tempted to leave it at that.

Ten years ago, I’d just left high school, applied to university, and had no fucking clue what I’d be doing, who I’d be, even where I’d be living. For all the certainty about my career path my sister envied, the future was still terrifyingly blurry, yet reassuringly distant. What would change, what would stay the same?

Out of that awkward, melodramatic haze we all go through during that time, I decided to start a blog podcast RSS-able site thing. 2004 was an exciting time to enter the blogging world; you could hear the enthusiasm in those classic BloggerCon talks; tools like Radio UserLand and Movable Type were all the rage. RSS was the decentralised future (well, unless you used FeedBurner).

Ten years on, there are 4102 posts (of which I’m proud of a dozen). 2011 and August 2006 were my most prolific year and month respectively. The domain has changed twice; once because of a dodgy webhost, and back to here again. 100+ posts were lost in a database wipe. I’ve made more friends through this than I thought possible. Of my regrets, I should have written more about what I loved (rather than what angered me), and that I didn't start sooner.

Introspection isn’t my strong suit, so I’ll let 18 year old me finish this post. I looked about the same, just with blonder hair and no panda eyes:

Well here it is: my first blog entry on this new platform. When I set up Rubenerd all those centuries ago it never really had a purpose, in all honesty is was always a website that just had random stuff on it that I either thought was groovy, weird etc. Now it's a blog site with random stuff on it that I think is groovy, weird etc.

I've kept a log at home for some time now, I think my first entry dates back to around 1999, but just in the last 2 years I've been a lot more involved and my entries have been progressively getting bigger and bigger. I don't know, but the idea of keeping a record of my life, however dull it is, might be fun to look at in years gone by!

Anyway I was finding that I was writing some pretty involved stuff and I thought that maybe one percent of it, or maybe two, might be useful to someone, especially with respect to some of the tech problems I've had and solved over the years. So here it is.

I hope you find this site useful or at the very least good material for whatever you want to do. I had a podcast going for a while but for the time being my Webserver is simply too small to accommodate them. Maybe in the future I'll take it up again.

Happy holidays!

Thanks everyone for all your support over the years. See you in 2024 :).


(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.