Please donate to the NSW Rural Fire Service if you want to help with the unfolding Australian bushfire disaster. Thank you. ♡

The envelope method, and 64-bit YNAB4 works

It’s hard not to talk about the envelope method of budgeting without sounding like a fanatic, but it’s been so transformative in how I’ve managed my finances over the last half decade. I always know where every cent is, and just as importantly, what the job of each cent is.

The strategy for using it is surprisingly simple. Each month, divvy up your total income into virtual envelopes. Some are fixed expenses, such as rent or regular charity donations. Others are more flexible, such as groceries and homelab parts. And others are paying forward, such as savings for a holiday or a BSD conference! If life happens and you need to spend more in a category, you can cover it by lowering it from somewhere else.

Tracking each cent might seem tedious, but I reconcile my accounts each weekend over coffee and derive a tremendous amount of relief knowing that I have an exact picture of my finances. It also makes tax time, investing, and budgeting for large expenses ludicrously easy and stress free. It’s not that I have time for it, as much as I don’t have time not to do it.

Application icon for YNAB 4

You can use a simple spreadsheet for this. But perhaps the most well known tool to do this was You Need A Budget. Clara and I first started using this back when it was a desktop application. I recommended the hell out of it back in the day; it was easy to use, and ran beautifully on Windows, Mac, and Wine on FreeBSD. But then two things happened:

  • nYNAB was launched, which is a web service. The monthly subscription didn’t bother me as much as having all my transactions and tax history on a remote server I don’t control. Their security page mentions data is encypted at rest, but doesn’t say if it’s encrypted locally before transmission with my passphrase, or whether it’s done at their end. Not mentioning this leads me to suspect it’s the latter, which is problematic.

  • macOS Catalina only supports 64-bit applications, and YNAB doesn’t intend to fix their admittedly-deprecated 32-bit desktop application. So modern Macs can’t run it.

Which leads me to this excellent conversion tool by Bradley Miller. It pulls the last desktop application release and replaces the runtime to be 64-bit. Here it is in action:

> Extracting the 32-bit app from YNAB4_LiveCaptive_4.3.855.dmg
"disk3" ejected.
> Extracting the 64-bit Adobe AIR runtime from AdobeAIR.dmg
"disk3" ejected.
> Converting the 32-bit app to a native 64-bit app
                   _                  _ 
                  | |                | |
                __| | ___  _ __   ___| |
               / _  |/ _ \|  _ \ / _ \ |
              | (_| | (_) | | | |  __/_|
               \__,_|\___/|_| |_|\___(_)
> The app 'YNAB' has been saved to:
> "/var/folders/hk/thebirdisthewordrandom/T/tmp.birdword"
> Drag the app to your /Applications directory to install
Press [ENTER] to open the folder containing the app
> Done!

Now YNAB4 runs on Catalina, giving it a new lease on life. Albeit without official support, but it’s a moot point considering it was already retired.

My end goal is to replace this entirely with a reworked spreadsheet I’ve half-moved over to for a while, and eventually to one I’ve been rewriting in Perl and SQLite3 because why not. But it’s a relief that we can keep using the tool in the meantime.

Some very quick feedback: someone claimed on The Twitters with some juveline insults that I was being hypocritical, given YNAB4 used a third party server in the form of Dropbox for mobile sync. Except, I didn’t use that. Whoops, this is awkward! I’ll publish their apology just as soon as they get around to writing it, which I’m sure will definitely happen.

The first FreeBSD conference in Australia

FreeBSD has existed as an operating system, project, and foundation for more than twenty years, and its earlier incantations have exited for far longer. The old guard have been developing code, porting software, and writing documentation for longer than I’ve existed. I’ve been using it for more than a decade for personal prohects, and professionally for half that time.

While there are many prominant Australian FreeBSD contributers, sysadmins, and users, we’ve always had to venture overseas for conferences. We’re always told Australians are among the most ardent travellers, but I always wondered if we could do a domestic event as well.

And on Tuesday, we did! Deb Goodkin and the FreeBSD Foundation graciously organised and chaired a dedicated FreeBSD miniconf at the long-running event held each year in a different city in Australia and New Zealand.

Me awkwardly presenting my talk on FreeBSD at OrionVM

We had room 9 at the Gold Coast Convention Centre and a selection of excellent speakers including:

  • Ben Woods, who flew over from Perth to discuss the FreeBSD Ports system and help run the event. It was his first talk, but it didn’t show!

  • Philip Paeps, one of the community’s most fun speakers who pontificated on the state of FreeBSD security and detailed the use of ZFS to those unfamiliar.

  • Me… gulp, on how OrionVM and I use FreeBSD, with a slant towards how to get Linux people interested, now that my new role has me pitching it to new clients. Thanks Deb for the photo!

  • G Matthew Rice who flew all the way from Toronto to talk about the Linux Professional Institute’s BSD certification programme, and some of the interesting trends he’s seeing in the industry.

  • Peter Grehan, yes, that Peter Grehan, talking about the FreeBSD hypervisor bhyve. He also helped me clarify a few points on my own slides, for which I’m tremendously grateful.

Perhaps the biggest challenge was overcoming the global press about the Australian bushfires, something I certainly didn’t help with. But we had a great turnout, and some genuine interest was shown in the project. Ben may have also convinced me to be a port maintainer which is now high on my list of personal projects to get started on!

Thanks to Deb, the FreeBSD Foundation, Ben for helping convince the Foundation to run an event here, and everyone who spoke and attended. In my own selfish way, it was equal parts humbling and… dare I use the marketing phrase everyone uses now, exciting, to be making history down here with everyone. Thanks also to the lovely Michael Dexter who put in a good word for me with the Foundation to present a talk. I’m overcoming shyness one step at a time.

We missed Groff, but maybe he can come down here one day :).

Cancelled flights between Sydney and Melbourne

I’ve been doing more business travel the last few years, especially between Sydney and Melbourne. While I’ve only ever had problems with flight delays and diversions, plenty of people I meet have faced cancelled flights on the route, and it seems to be getting worse.

Patrick Hatch wrote about the trend in the Sydney Morning Herald:

[Qantas’] average monthly cancellation rate for Sydney-Melbourne flights was 9.5 per cent in the six months to November, according to data collected by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics.

Experts asserted this was Qantas cancelling under-subscribed flights in an attempt to consolidate people on fewer planes and save money, a claim Qantas denies. Yet Virgin Australia only reported an increase from 5 to 6 percent on the same route.

Patrick wrote for context:

Qantas operates up to 46 return flights daily on Sydney-Melbourne, which is the world’s second-busiest air route, with flights every 15 minutes during the peak periods.

I appreciated the clarification, having just said it’s the busiest in the world.

I can see why having regular flights would be more convenient, but I’d love to see fewer flights and wide-bodies making these flights instead. They’d be more comfortable, less likely to be cancelled for business reasons, more environmentally sustainable per seat, and cause less congestion and work for flight controllers per travellers.

Overnightscape Central: Detectives

View episode

The Overnightscape Central is a fun weekly podcast hosted by the illustrious PQ Ribber. Hosts and listeners of The Overnightscape Underground participate in a topic each week, and you’re welcome to join.

03:40:09 – Rubenerd!! Frank Edward Nora!! Doc Sleaze!! Chad Bowers!! Dave in Kentucky!! An extra-excellent Central – deeply examining Detectives and their pop culture significances!!

You can view this episode on the Underground, listen to it here, and subscribe with this feed in your podcast client.

Overheard C and Python

This was the tail end of a discussion that just took place at the café I’m working from this morning. Transcribed without comment:

In C++ you have clean code, do you have to worry about that in C?

C++ is not clean code! The world is C and Python!

Then someone at a different table dropped a class, sorry, glass.

Rubenerd Show 403: The hot cake episode

Rubenerd Show 403

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

52:15 – Forbidden 403 HTML status codes, unhelpful profiling, Australian bushfire updates (looters, conspiracy theories, hot takes), unexpected Adelaide nostalgia and early breakfasts, unintentional philosophical ramblings on the character and motivations of certain people, and an ongoing good natured but otherwise inexplicable retail saga. With thanks to Phil Collins.

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

Released January 2020 on The Overnightscape Underground, an Internet talk radio channel focusing on a freeform monologue style, with diverse and fascinating hosts; this one notwithstanding.

Subscribe with iTunes, Pocket Casts, Overcast or add this feed to your podcast client.

Intel’s discrete GPUs at CES

Asha Barbaschow from ZDNet wrote a fantastic summary of Intel’s CES announcements this year:

Showing off Tiger Lake during the company’s keynote at CES in Las Vegas on Monday, Intel executive vice president Gregory Bryant said the new processor will deliver “double digit performance gains”, “massive” artificial intelligence performance improvements, better graphics performance, and 4x the throughput of USB3 with the new, integrated Thunderbolt 4.

Not requiring a separate chip to handle Thunderbolt is huge. Currently you need to have a capable computer, meaning the USB 3 port you have in your machine might be Thunderbolt capable, or it might not be. You always had the best chance of having it with Macs, but even then their 12-inch MacBook only shipped with USB 3 despite the connectors looking the same. This announcement takes us a step closer to ubiquity.

I wonder if AMD offer Thunderbolt on their Zen-architecture chips?

Photo from Intel showing their 10th generation mobile CPU.

And on their new discrete GPU:

Intel also offered a preview of the first Xe-based discrete GPU, code named DG1, with Intel vice president of architecture for graphics and software Lisa Pearce saying the new Intel Xe graphics architecture will provide “huge performance gains” in Tiger Lake.

I’ve seen Linus Tech Tips and other outlets discuss this card in detail, including the fact that while it might be a welcome boost for mobile, it has a long battle ahead to compete, and it’s not Intel’s first foray into this market segment.

Despite these muted responses, I’m hugely excited for this. Finally we might get some awesome graphics on free/open source platforms that don’t depend on binary blobs or reverse engineering producing a necessarily inferior experience. Integrated Intel GPUs have always been easier to deal with on FreeBSD and similar systems due to mature, free drivers. If I could get the performance of a comparable Nvidia or AMD card on my home BSD tower, heck even half the performance, it’d be Christmas, Chinese New Year, and my birthday in one.

Living in electric dreams

I haven’t done much blogging this week, or even lined up posts to trickle out during the week. In past years we’ve had a chill start as the masses slowly go back to work, but this year started with earnest. Such a great story.

That hasn’t stopped me from having some weirdly specific dreams.

  • I had developed a new compression algorithm that lent itself well to streaming chunked data, making rsync a hundred times more efficient. I’d decided to give it to the OpenRsync devs first to test on their BSD-licenced version of the tool before getting a call not from Andrew Tridgell and Paul Mackerras, but Al Gore.

  • I’d decided that the Ricoh GR III wasn’t for me after all, and I got a Canon mirrorless. Then proceeded to feel pangs of guilt and betrayal because I had always been a Nikon SLR guy.

  • I was asked to debate a climate denier, but I said they should get a scientist instead. This made me into a meme which started appearing on the sides of buses; unfortunate given I was back in Singapore and those double-deckers have lots of vertical space.

  • I replaced all the LEDs in my apartment with a newer generation of LEDs, I think so I could change the colour temperature more easily. But the ceiling started to melt, and I had to collect the falling drops with buckets covered in anime faces.

It’s at this stage that I’ll admit that this was the one dream. Or perhaps it was multiple over the course of the night that blended together.

I may even republish their spam

Here’s a delightful email I got this morning:

Amazing job on your page it has some good references to “marketing” so I wanted to get in touch with you and ask, what you think about this article BRAND AND MARKETING STRATEGIES: TAKING YOUR BUSINESS TO THE NEXT LEVEL

You can read it right here: $REDACTED

I would like to hear your opinion on this article. Also, if you find it useful, please consider linking to it from your page I mentioned earlier. If you prefer you may republish the article. Let me know what you think.

My post she linked to was almost a decade old, and specifically mentioned how I didn’t like Hootsuite’s Social Bar. There’s your evidence that these spammers don’t read the stuff they purport to. But better still, this was halfway down their own article:

It may seem a little low-tech compared to some of today’s more advanced tools, but email remains a massively popular form of communication. If done well, it can provide an impressive ROI, or return on investment.

If done well being the operative phrase. Maybe I could have been suckered into their stuff if they heeded their own advice.

Music Monday: Janet Devlin, Mad World

It’s Music Monday, that time of the week in which it’s Monday, and I blog about Music. Why was Music capitalised in that previous sentence twice, and again here? And why, having discovered my mistake, did I elucidate further rather than simply correcting the examples for which attention has now been Needlessly drawn? Wait, damn it.

Play Mad World - Gary Jules (Janet Devlin Cover)

I do like me some Tears for Fears, and Gary Jules’ cover of their Mad World song is one of my all time favourite songs. I’d never heard of Janet Devlin until tonight, but wow.