Versions of ksh93 in macOS, FreeBSD

There’s not much point to this post; it was bourne of some idle curiosity. Ah man, that pun was top shelf. macOS has shipped with the KornShell since Tiger, but I was interested to see which version it had. Here’s 10.14 Mojave:

$ /bin/ksh --version
    version sh (AT&T Research) 93u+ 2012-08-01

I’d been installing it with Homebrew (via Ansible) since I switched to it as my primary interactive shell, but it’s the same:

$ /usr/local/bin/ksh --version
    version sh (AT&T Research) 93u+ 2012-08-01

The latest version from FreeBSD ports is fresher:

$ ksh93 --version
    version sh (AT&T Research) 93v- 2014-12-24

Although I had a treat:

# pkg upgrade ksh93
==> [...]
==> Installed packages to be UPGRADED:
==> ksh93: 20141224 -> 2020.0.0.a1,1

The port’s commit history shows a lot of changes over the last month which I’m still mentally processing.

Speaking of plastic

Speaking of plastic waste, I saw a couple of video news clips on Twitter.

Watch video from the Australian Academy of Science

The Australian Academy of Science posted above about my personal environmental rage topic, microplastics:

They can be intentionally manufactured that way (primary) or they may result from lager pieces of plastic breaking down into smaller fragments (secondary). It’s estimated that 1.5 million tonnes of primary microplastics are washed into the ocean every year.

1.5 million tonnes just for the microplastics we intentionally make for shitty cosmetics and scrubs? For those who didn’t see my post about it last year:

Plastic micro‐beads are comparatively recent. They were proposed and developed with full knowledge that it’d be washed down sinks, and end up in the oceans. And they didn’t care. These are incontrovertible facts; I don’t buy any defence of this decision.

Oil spills garner headlines, but I put these people in the exact same league. Possibly worse, because while oil is used to power things, micro‐beads are an entirely useless marketing gimmick. They saw a potential environmental disaster, and thought they could make a quick buck off it.

Get this out of toiletries, now. Governments, legislate against this shit, because we can’t trust businesses to act in our collective interest here. And to the people who thought this was a good idea; choke on a plastic-filled fish. Bon Appétit, halfwits.

Not that I was furious.

Watch The Big Bang Fair presents Swimming In It

And DW News reported on a project by the Bing Bang Fair:

British Synchronised swimmers Kate Shortman and Isabelle Thorpe attempt to recreate their World Championship routine in a pool filled with plastic - a challenged posed by The Big Bang Fair to help highlight how the eight million tonnes of plastic dumped in the world’s oceans every year affects marine life.

I’ll bet they had no trouble finding all that plastic too. Imagine if they all left that pool after shooting that, and returned a thousand years later somehow. It’d all still be there. A testament to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in all their shortsighted glory.

But there’s some promising new research by Alvin Orbaek White, as tweeted earlier this month in The Conversation:

For our new study, we took plastics – in particular black plastics, which are commonly used as packaging for ready meals and fruit and vegetables in supermarkets, but can’t be easily recycled – and stripped the carbon from them, then built nanotube molecules from the bottom up using the carbon atoms.

I’d still say we should be avoiding the use of it altogether, but let’s not make perfect the enemy of good. There’s so much of this stuff floating around; literally.

Yurucamp Nendoroids

Yurucamp was one of the most heartwarming anime series Clara and I have seen in a long while. It’s in my top ten of all time, I don’t even care. I was waiting for scale figs to come out, but these Nenderoids are almost too cute.

Here’s the effervescent Kagamihara Nadeshiko:

The quiet Shima Rin:

And our favourite, Inuyama Aoi:

My only conciliation is a studio apartment can’t fit any more of this stuff.


Benjamin Wittes on the Mueller Report

Benjamin Wittes’s recent interview with Sam Harris on Making Sense gave some much-needed perspective and insight into the Mueller Report that, bluntly, I hadn’t given much thought to until now. I’ve quoted a few sections, but you should hear the whole episode if you want the full picture.

Benjamin on the first volume of the report:

One can say “therefore he’s been cleared of collusion” or “the pattern of behaviour that Muller documents is bizarre, concerning from a counter-intelligence and what leverage the Russians might have on him, etc, but does not obviously violate criminal law”.

On the second volume:

The gravamen is the President acted in a way that Muller did not say was obstruction of justice, but conspicuously didn’t say was not obstruction of justice. I personally find it extremely hard to read that evidence as anything other than a long-term pattern of attempts to obstruct an investigation by the President. Whether that’s a concern primarily for criminal purposes or impeachment is a complicated question, or maybe it’s both.

On whether Mr Orange was exonerated:

The office of special counsel says the President cannot be indited for obstruction of justice while he’s in office. Muller interprets this, correctly, as binding him. […] Did anyone else commit obstruction? His answer is no. Can the President be indited once he leaves office? His answer is yes. So if the President is guilty of a crime, it’s important to have the record clear, so a future prosecutor can make an appropriate judgement. This is the legal justification for the investigation. […] He does explicitly say the one exception here is if I could clearly exonerate the President, I would. I can’t, so I’m not going to.

On impeachment:

Does the evidence describe impeachable offences? Unambiguously, it does. […] High crimes and misdemeanours is a term of art in the constitution, not a reference to the US criminal code. […] refers to a body of unacceptable Presidential behaviour that you can remove somebody from office for.

I didn’t know the difference, but he provided a useful example:

If the President, one day, took a lawn chair onto the front law of the White House and said “I’m just not gonna do the job any more, I’m just going to play chess with people”, nobody would suggest he committed a crime. And yet he would be impeached and removed from office for it. The set of things that are impeachable offences include a lot of crimes, but it is not co-extensive with the criminal code.

He concludes:

I believe Donald Trump committed criminal acts documented in volume two of this report. He also committed impeachable offences.

It’s a fascinating reversal of the impression I got as a layperson reading about the report. The spin doctors and liars are in full force.

Thanking Dropbox for the final stick

I got the latest, infamous Dropbox update this weekend:

Screenshot showing the Chromium Embedded Framework in the Dropbox application bundle.

For those who haven’t seen, Dropbox has updated their client application with a ton of new features built on Chromium. I’ve come to accept Electron and desktop JavaScript are normal for mediocre IDEs, text editors, and chat clients that I still avoid as much as humanly possible. But having it in what I consider internet plumbing is something else.

I was a relative late-comer to Dropbox; I read about their early security problems and decided it wasn’t for me. I dismissed it as pretty rsync, like so many. Then Mac users began showing me how it worked with tools like nvALT and editors for iOS, and how easy it was to share files with other people. Encrypted sparsebundles also offered a private way of using it.

Earlier this year it changed to only allow three devices on their free tier. Then they introduced that confusing new branding. Now, the company is attempting to make Dropbox into a kitchen sink productivity application. I wish them luck, although the direction has lead it away to what made it useful for me. At least it finally gave me the impetus to move Clara and I over to Nextcloud.

I wonder if this is all an elaborate ploy to generate press in anticipation of a buyout or similar deal, like Slack and their phallic, anti-Semitic new logo. I suppose Mission Accomplished then.

Reading atlases, and Stepanakert in Artsakh

I spent a not insignificant amount of my childhood reading atlases, the country sections of encyclopædias, and CD-ROMs. Give me a flag, or the shape of a political border, and I can almost certainly tell you what the country is. It’s probably only good for party tricks or quizzes, but still! I like to think that if I never got into IT, I’d be a cartographer.

I realised though that for all my obsessive reading, there were small pockets of the world I missed. So I’m rectifying it now thanks to Wikipedia’s Country Portal, the CIA World Factbook and my vintage computer with the DK Multimedia Reference Atlas for comparison.

This month I’ve been looking again at the Caucasus. There are so many fascinating places and intricate demarcation lines cemented from thousands of years ago, to relatively recently. The shape of that land wedged between two large inland seas must surely rate as one of the most geographically unique and beautiful in the world. Check it out in OpenStreetMap, and just spend hours panning around and zooming in.

Politically speaking, the region also has a disproportionate number of unique writing systems, enclaves, autonomous states, and limited-recognition countries, thanks most recently to the history of the Cold War. I can’t stop looking at this street photo of Stepanakert in Artsakh taken by Govorkov in 2013:

Looking down the street in Stepanakert

The Artsakh Republic is a predominately-Armenian region that claims independence from Azerbaijan. The geometric shapes of their Armenian-inspired flag look almost South American, I like it.

Plastic straw ban follow up

Earlier this year I said plastic straw bans were a great idea. I said that even if there are orders of magnitude larger sources of pollution, positive steps aren’t mutually exclusive, and if it’s such a trivial change for most of us, why not?

But there are two further points to consider.

Most of the world’s plastic pollution comes from developing parts of Asia. Disposable material is cheaper for low income families to buy (at least up-front), and much of the rest is shipped there by the developed world to deal with.

I also grossly underestimated the effect this would have on accessibility, and for that I’m sorry. I figured it would be easy for people to bring their own straws as needed, or for restaurants to stock them as opt-in. But there have been enough heartbreaking stories of people being refused service because wait staff don’t believe they need them. This is, to put it at its mildest, dehumanising.

My core position hasn’t changed: we’ve reached crisis point with plastic waste, and anything we can do helps. We should be generating less of this shit, and realigning business incentives towards more sustainable products. Certain restaurant staff also clearly need empathy training, as I needed to today.

I’m sure we can come to a common ground here that’s respectful, but also acknowledging that the vast majority of plastic straws, and other forms of disposable plastic, really need to be replaced.

Manchester Baby, and Elizebath CityCenter [sic]

This is the best spam I’ve received in a while:

16.2% NET Returns | Elizebath Tower | Buyback Options
Invest in UK Manchester CityCenter Spaces
16.2% Net Annual Yield | Immediate Income
Prices From £ 49,000

Elizebath is definitely how the reigning monarch’s name is spelled, and an English person would definitely use Center not Centre. I also read the numbers like Lionel Hutz with, extra punctuation?

Speaking of Manchester, here’s a photo of a replica of a Manchester Mini taken by the delightfully-named Parrot of Doom:

KVM trolley suggestions for data centre operators

Work has a secondary data centre PoP in Sydney for clients needing disaster recovery and remote backups within the same locale. We use the common trolley KVMs supplied by the data centre, because its not a full deployment worth buying our own gear for.

Use of these shared KVMs over the years has lead me to a few observations and suggestions for those tasked with deploying and maintaining these trolleys:

KVM VGA cables should be routinely inspected for bent pins!
Plugging into a BSD or Linux server is fine; but plug into Windows Server GUI with a flaky green and black display and you’re gonna have a bad time.

USB peripheral cables should be clearly marked.
If I’m booting from a USB key, and there are only two ports, I’m only going to be plugging in a keyboard. Yes I can just plug one at a time and see if the light comes up for Num Lock or the LED under the mouse, but we shouldn’t need to.

Wheels should not be wobbly, and be sufficiently oiled.
If you’re there late at night, the last thing you need is a shrill, piercing noise of someone passing you with their trolley. You also run the risk of vibrating surfaces distributing screws off the trolley and into the raised floor air conditioning vents, never to be seen again.

Debris should be routinely cleared.
It’s a fact these trolleys double as portable work surfaces for cable crimping, replacing snapped Ethernet plugs, and discarding redundant blanking plates. Then there are the cable ties, rubber bands, pens, and the odd expensive fibre module. I take litter with me because I’m not a monster, but some people are.

We should consider naming KVM trolleys something else.
These days people assume I’m referring to hypervisors, even if my experience is with Xen/QEMU and to a lesser extent bhyve. It’s also only a letter away from the Malaysian train service. The order of the letters are entirely arbitrary, maybe we should call them VMKs. Except that’s too close to VMDK, damn it.

There should be another thing, because I like even-numbered lists.
Purple monkey dish washer.

I’m not part of the core backend team anymore, but these small changes would still immeasurably improve my quality of life.

El Goonish Shive

My colleague David shared this long-running web comic by Dan Shive he’s been reading since it started seventeen years ago. I have no context for any of the latest strip, but I liked this last panel:

A lot of people seem great until the wrong subject comes up.