Latest @humblebooks bundle: Science fiction by real scientists

If you want some really wonderful, hard science fiction written by real scientists, you have about seven days left to grab the latest Humble Book Bundle. I was already a fan of Stephen Webb, but there are dozens of authors with topics ranging from space exploration to medical science and engineering.

This is also basically an advertisement like yesterday’s post, but I think this is all wonderful stuff, and for good causes. Make sure to spruik US$15 so you get the entire collection.

The registration process threw me a bit though. If you purchase the bundle, then decide you want an account with your purchase, follow these steps:

  1. Buy the bundle with the email address you want your account created under. This doesn’t need to be the same address as your PayPal account, if you use that for payment.

  2. Click Login/Sign Up on the home page, and create a new account with the same email you used in #1.

  3. A page will appear asking you to verify. It also told me my “email address is not valid”, but it delivered it anyway.

  4. Copy and paste the activation link sent to your email, and log in.

  5. Click the Purchases tab, then the Claim dropdown link to claim the bundle.


It’s IT Pro Day ‘16!

Yes, it’s basically an advertisement. And yes, it’s horrifying that anyone in this day and age would resort to using 2 digits to represent the year. Damn it though, I’ll take what I can get!

September 20th is IT Professionals Day. Celebrating the unsung heroes who impact our lives every day, because IT is everywhere.


Rubénerd Show 352: The companion cube episode

Rubénerd Show 352

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

58:39 – Getting family podcast balance right; deciding what's breakfast food (English and German); broken neon signs (The Good Guys); Airbnb; Mercedes A Class; eschewing (gesundheit) new Western franchises for anime; memory/latex foam mattresses; Captain Snooze got a promotion; computer data rot; and an indulgently-rambling discussion on building a fault-tolerant personal archive out of MicroServers, FreeBSD and ZFS. Recorded mid-August 2016.

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

Released September 2016 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.


iTunes 12.5.1.21

We’ve got a slew of new Apple goodies to play with, but I’m always most interested in iTunes. When will the former centre of the Apple media ecosystem get better? I defended iTunes for years on the basis that version 1.0 running on Mac OS 9 on my blueberry iMac DV was so much better than anything else, but there’s no doubt it’s long past its prime now.

No substantive changes this time that I can see, though their imitation of the Rubénerd blue and pale grey colour scheme and bold headings (heh) are a welcome change from the pencil thin lines and muted colours taken from iOS 7.

The confusingly named “New” tab which lead to Apple Music has also been changed to “Browse”. Somewhat of an improvement, but not ideal.

Above all though, I’m disappointed to see the adaptive album colours gone. Recent versions dynamically chose a colour palette based on the current album’s art, which made for some striking themes.

For reference, I reviewed iTunes 9 in 2010, and iTunes 7 almost a decade ago to the day! I also posted excitedly at the airport in Kuala Lumpur when I was able to log in and stream Whole Wheat Radio; seems like a whole other time ago.


Moving from del.ici.ous to Pinboard

Changing habits, and services you once loved dearly, are hard. But I’ve been using a Pinboard for a few days now, and it’s so much better I’m regretting not switching sooner. You’d never guess the terrible username I chose!

I didn’t want to move from del.icio.us; I registered for my account in 2003 and used it fairly consistently ever since. Almost every bookmark I’ve ever saved for a decade and a half is on there, making it a fascinating trip back in time now. It even generated a ton of linkblog posts here back in the day.

Unfortunately, in what has become the new normal for beloved online services, it has been passed around like a that licorice jelly bean nobody wants, and regurgitated every time. It was sold to Yahoo!, then (famously) listed as sunsetted, then sold to AVOS, then sold to Science, Inc, then sold to a new company owned by Science and Domainersuite.

The latest iteration of the site is a bit of a mess; aesthetically and functionally. They’ve also got an online shop, not selling merchandise (sorry, “merch”), but reselling everything from security tokens to online courses. What these have to do with social bookmarking is a bit beyond me; perhaps its just a last-ditch attempt at monetisation.

The frustrating thing is it didn’t have to be this way. I like Pinboard because it reminds me of the classic, no-nonsense delicious, and I’m happy to help pay Maciej’s bills. With a simple design and clear business model, he’s been profitable from day one. del.icio.us could have done that.

To their credit, del.icio.us still has a data export option, which Pinboard was able slurp up with ease.


The first Lockheed L-1011 TriStar

Photo of the first Lockheed Tristar

I saw this image by Jon Proctor on Wikimedia Commons and knew I had to share it. How spectaculary retro, right down to the eagle logo on the tail for the type.

The Tristar was the second “jumbo jet” to be announced, after Boeing’s legendary 747-100 and the newly-renamed McDonnell Douglas DC-10. Financial troubles at Rolls-Royce delayed the introduction of the TriStar, resulting in the DC-10 commanding a lead in the market Lockheed could never recapture.

From a design perspective, the second nacelle “s-duct” made the type look more like a jumbo Boeing 727 than a DC-10; the latter’s protruding engine looks ungainly by comparison. I was too young to ever fly on a TriStar, but its curves and clean lines render it one of my favourite commerical aircraft designs.

For those interested, Airliners.net has the best L-1011 photo archive, along with every other aircraft out there.


iTerm2 3.0.9

The tireless iTerm2 contributers keep pumping out awesomeness. The second point in their 3.0.9 release notes shows especially shows the care and attention they put into this:

- Fix a bug where iTerm2 would hang if a profile’s command terminated quickly, or could not be executed.
- When a profile’s command can’t be executed, print the reason for the failure to the session.
- Fix a bug where you could remember the “cancel” action when prompted about pasting.
- Make Japanese keyboards produce a backslash when Yen is pressed so long as shift is not also pressed.
- When a profile’s command can’t be executed, print the reason for the failure to the session.

I was Terminal.app user with dvtm for years, but iTerm2 won me over with its native (and restorable) tiled terminals. Coupled with the new polished UI and a giant screen, you can’t get much better.


Collecting a decade of work

I just got this email from UTS, and am publishing the text-based version for posterity.

UTS Spring 2016 Graduation: Confirmation of your Graduation Registration: ‘Collect’

Dear Ruben,

We are pleased to confirm that you have successfully registered to collect your graduation documents in-person.

Your graduation documents will be available from the Building 10 Student Centre, Level 2, 235 Jones Street, Ultimo, from Monday 10 October 2016.

Please be advised that your graduation documents will be held at the Building 10 Student Centre for a period of 12 months from 10 October 2016. If uncollected after 12 months, graduation documents will be destroyed (see testamurs, academic records and AHEGS), and you will be charged a fee for reproduction.

Should you have any further queries or require assistance contact your Student Centre online via Ask UTSor phone 1300 275 887/+61 2 9514 1222.

I’m not going to the graduation ceremony. Partly because I don’t need the pomp and circumstance, but also I’ll be overseas on leave, and spent the money I would have put towards aforementioned pomp and circumstance on a graduation reward camera : ).

K-On!! key visual by Kyoto Animation, used here to review the fact I unashamedly loved the original, and that they're graduating like me!


USB aquarium alarm clock pen holder light

I really have no idea how I stumble upon things like this, but I’m captivated by this eBay auction in a way I haven’t been in a very long time. The model number absolutely nails it.

USB DESKTOP AQUARIUM MINI FISHTANK w/ RUNNING WATER + LIGHT + CLOCK [Model No: USB-FISHTANK]

And look at the features, taken right from the page:

  • USB Desktop Aquarium
  • Mini Fishtank
  • Running Water Circulator Pump
  • River Rocks + Artifical Plant
  • USB Power Connector
  • LCD Calendar Clock
  • Alarm Clock w/ Snooze
  • Multifunction Penholder
  • Multicolour Interior Light
  • Nature Sounds

This tickles me in the same way the Mug Boss did in 2006. I would never buy one of these, or accept one as a gift, but I can admire it as the clearly spectacular piece of abstract modern art that it is.


No offline OneNote

Work has started mandating use of Microsoft Office for Mac. I’ve been happily using Open/Neo/LibreOffice for almost my entire professional and personal life, so I’m having to do a lot of learning and relearning. For example, Microsoft has this tool called OneNote, which for someone who uses nvALT and similar tools looks fascinating.

Unfortunately, OneNote 2016 asks for a login, and there’s no way around it. What if I want to use this notebook offline? Or synched with Dropbox? Or for private business work that has no business being on a public cloud?

Judging from this request on Microsoft’s User Voice forum, I wasn’t alone in being baffled by this.

In some cases you do not want or are not allowed to upload your notes to a cloud, therefore you should add offline notebooks to OneNote for Mac.

Microsoft’s official response wasn’t encouraging.

Thanks for expressing your support for local notebooks on Mac. We have no plans to support local notebooks in our other clients, since storing your notebooks in the cloud enables experiences that are not otherwise possible.

This is tantamount to saying water is wet because it’s not dry. Like all those people who tweet “use a MasterCard” when I ask about Amex, or “use Windows” when I ask about a Linux distro, their suggestions are technically correct and completely unhelpful.

It’s their software, and they’re free to add and remove whatever features they want. I’m also free to close and uninstall it, now that I know it’s not usable.


Rubénerd Show 351: The minty creole episode

Rubénerd Show 351

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

28:38 – A somewhat sleep-deprived ramble into promises, fascinating accents and creoles, the wondrous benefits of rampling, recordings for other shows, moving in with significant others, introversion, and FINALLY timing a DHL sign.

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

Released September 2016 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.


Four rules for web form design

Based on a harrowingly unproductive experience this afternoon, I’m proposing the following rules:

  1. If a user has entered information, or changed fields in a web form, do not force a page refresh if the form hasn’t been submitted.

  2. If you must, then preserve that entered information.

  3. If you can’t, or mustn’t (ala passwords), refer to point #1.

  4. You’re free to disregard or disagree with these, but know you’re deploying a user-hostile application.


Lesson 10 in grilled cheese sandwich observation

It’s been seven years to the day since our last grilled cheese sandwich observation lesson. I was reminded of the old Rubénerd phenomena from a message from a dear friend.

Clearly this issue needs to be resolved. I will quote an earlier lesson, with required modifications:

Welcome to your tenth grilled cheese sandwich observation lesson. If you missed our previous lessons, feel free to refer back to them before proceeding. And as usual, feel free to take notes.

As far as I know, nothing that the fabulouls Hewshack has drawn Sinon holding here is a grilled cheese sandwich, and quite frankly it concerns me that you think they are.

Incidently, the last grilled cheese sandwich obersation lesson pre-dates Sword Art Online and the hipsters who not only didn’t like it, but had to tell everyone constantly about it. I should use it in more examples.

Previous lessons


The iPhone 7

The technical specifications and design of the new iPhone look amazing, but the conversation has been fixated on the lack of a headphone jack. This shouldn’t surprise anyone.

First, Apple isn’t alone doing this; they weren’t even the first. Motorola removed the jack from the Moto X, and we can surely expect the likes of Samsung to follow now that their photocopiers Apple has.

iPhone icon by the Tango Desktop Project

I don’t buy the simplistic argument that the 35mm jack is the same as the removed floppy drive in the iMac though, for reasons those feinging ignorance still know, and I won’t insult your intelligence by spelling out.

That said, it does fit Apple’s behaviour and design priorities. Apple doesn’t like messy wires. If something can be made thinner, lighter and faster by outsourcing functionality to another dongle (which adds the weight and bulk back in spades), so be it. If you want the otherwise vastly-better ecosystem of Apple devices, you need to accept this or move on.

My next phone will be the iPhone SE; it remains the best form factor, and has the benefit of having a jack for all my devices. Time to enjoy the convenience while I can.


Japan on Brexit

As reported in the International Business Times:

Japan has sent warning about Brexit in a 15-page message to the United Kingdom and the European Union. The Asian nation is worried that the UK’s exit from the EU would negatively impact the Japanese businesses operating in Europe, and has therefore warned that some companies might have to transfer headquarters from the UK.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan has fired off a 15-page warning to the UK and EU, declaring the country’s wish list for the British exit and reminding the UK government that it had lured Japanese companies to Britain by promising it was a “gateway to Europe.” But with the UK leaving the European Union, it would no longer serve as the opportunity it claimed it would be.

“In light of the fact that a number of Japanese businesses, invited by the Government in some cases, have invested actively to the UK, which was seen to be a gateway to Europe, and have established value-chains across Europe, we strongly request that the UK will consider this fact seriously and respond in a responsible manner to minimise any harmful effects on these businesses,” Japan has demanded.

Surprisingly, many commentators I’ve seen against Brexit also suggest Japan is over stepping here. I’d argue the portion highlighted suggests their concerns are entirely reasonable, and not limited to Japan. If this were an agreement with customers, it’d amount to bait and switch.

Something tells me the Leave crowd didn’t think a lot of this through.


Amex Australia customer survey

People are so quick to go online and write about negative experiences, so I’m attempting to balance with positivity. In this case Amex asked me to do a user survey based on an automated call I’d done earlier in the week.

I got the new PIN sorted out within a minute, so rated it “good”. In the field for comments on why I didn’t choose “excellent”:

It turned out my issue was I hadn’t assigned a PIN, even though I had been using the card already. The service asked me to create a PIN before forwarding me to a customer service agent, but the PIN was what I needed! So a simple prompt asking if this had solved my problem would have been useful.

And in the field for why I would recommend Amex to a friend:

Customer service


Webmaster Hales on four power supplies

The imitable Webmaster Hales sent the following feedback about my four power supplies post yesterday:

Hey Ruben,

Redundant power supplies are not unusual in server gear. I'm not sure about the multiple PCI slot positions though -- at first I thought they might be SATA bays, but it turns out they are on the front. In fact the front is nothing but SATA bays:

Photo of the HPE Proliant ML350 showing a ton of internal drive bays

A reverse image search of your picture reveals that it's of a HPE Proliant ML350. Pdf with lots of info.

Regards, Hales

Thanks :). And that machine looks like a monster; imagine having all the money in the world and filling such a machine with SSDs or 15K SAS drives.

We use plenty of 1U and 3U rack servers in our data centres at work, but it’s very different seeing this kind of capacity in a tower machine. Those server PSUs also look like they’d be just as loud as those rack servers, so presumably you’d want to stash this as far away from general human habitation as possible.


Rubénerd Show 350: The sandy camera episode

Rubénerd Show 350

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

19:13 – An Officeworks small talk adventure, USB keys, evening beach strolls in North Arm Cove, choosing a pocket travel camera, catching up with people, Seinfeld on the latest QS, podcaster theme songs, and other insufficient catchup material!

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

Released September 2016 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.


rgb2ycbcr and rgrep

I was trying to tab complete rgrep, but got this command instead. From its man(1) page:

rgb2ycbcr converts RGB color, greyscale, or bi-level TIFF images to YCbCr images by transforming and sampling pixel data. If multiple files are specified on the command line each source file is converted to a separate directory in the destination file.

This would have really helped me a few years ago, because the Gimp didn’t do CMYK. I’m not sure if it does now.

Regarding rgrep, I’ve aliased it to grep -R. I haven’t checked if ack has compatible options to alias to that.


Four power supplies

I have no idea where I stumbled on this image, but four power supplies is pretty impressive. Or judging from the PCI slots, is it two motherboards with dual power supplies? If it were the latter, I’d love to just have the case to merge some disparate machines!