Giving up refined sugar

Becoming a vegetarian in 2015 was suspiciously easy. I’m an indecisive person by nature (I think), so it made choosing the lone item on a menu easier! Keeping a clean kitchen is much easier without ever touching raw meat. Food cooks faster. I’m eating more vegetables.

For me, it was more of an ethical reason than health. Someone who doesn’t have the guts to hunt and kill animals shouldn’t eat them. So I don’t.

But now it’s time to tackle the elephant in the room that even meat eaters should consider: processed, refined sugar. There are a few reasons:

  1. You develop a tolerance to sugar when you eat more of it. I noticed this when going back to just black coffee, then having a Friday bubble tea treat and being repulsed at how sickly sweet it was. To think I used to think this was normal!

  2. There’s a growing body of medical literature that recognises sugar’s negative effects on metabolism. As you eat sugar, your insulin levels spike, and it affects your fat absorption and other nasties. Sam Harris’ recent interview with Gary Taubes highlighted some of this (though I dispute some of his claims).

  3. My maternal family side has a history of obesity, my paternal had high rates of diabetes. Couple that with my dad’s terrifying heart problems recently, and I’m eager to get this shit out of my body.

  4. Who needs sugar when K-On reruns are available for all your blobby needs?

Some or all of these points may turn out to be questionable. I’m basing this on my own research which may not account for all the latest science. But even if half were discredited, no reasonable person would argue cutting down on refined sugar is a bad thing.

So I’m giving it up for a few weeks, and seeing how I go. Maybe after that I’ll go back to it for special occasion treats, but we’ll see.

If you’re reading this, all but point four does not replace advice from your healthcare professional.

This press release is excited!

It really grates when press say they’re excited to announce something, and it’s almost always for something questionably exciting. Mel agrees:

A quick search for the phrase “excited to announce” on Google throws up 138,000,000 references. They even helpfully try and complete your query because so many people are using that adjective in their press release copy.

Really? You’re so enthusiastic and eager to tell the world about your news that you can’t spend 30 seconds trying to think of an alternative word to adequately and originally convey your emotions?

This is lazy writing.

I put the word “excited” in the same bucket as those who describe awards as “prestigious”, or a musician as “famous”. If they were, you wouldn’t need to say so. People don’t say “a prestigous Nobel Prize” or “famous musician Rick Astley.”

I’m all for colourful, interesting language replacing this exhausted term. “Tickeled” is my favourite, but even “happy” conveys a more positive, genuine mood than “excited”.

White people on Asian infocomm

Western pundits, podcasters and press have dealt with the transition to the Asian century poorly.

Dave Winer:

Turns out LINE is a Korean chat app, like WeChat, I’ve been told.

Japanese. It’s a gigantic platform. I’m normally willing to give the benefit of the doubt, but that’s akin to saying Twitter is Canadian.

John Gruber:

My grasp of Chinese culture is rudimentary at best, and I’ve never traveled to Asia.

At least he’s honest. Though how someone making that much money hasn’t felt the need to travel is beyond me. I guess we all have different priorities.

I grew up and lived in in Asia for more than a decade, and the whitesplaining about tech and communications in the region has been embarrassing to watch, especially recently. John is an example of someone asking the right people the right questions. Dave often does. A significant amount of the tech press and journalists do not.

Journalists, bloggers, podcasts and whomever: if you need the perspective of a Caucasian who grew up in Asia, hit me up. Better yet, talk to an Asian person.

VirtualBox guest additions in Fedora 25

Fedora and I have a long and colourful history with screen issues. This is the latest chapter, today dealing with installing guest additions.

These are the dependencies:

$ sudo dnf -y install gcc automake make kernel-devel kernel-headers perl

Then you can run:

$ cd /var/run/media/[USER]/VBOXADDITIONS_[VER]
$ sudo ./

==> Building Guest Additions kernel modules.
==> Failed to set up service vboxadd, please check the log file
==> /var/log/VBoxGuestAdditions.log for details.

Welp, that didn’t work. Checking the logs:

==> failed: Please check that you have gcc, make,
==> the header files for your Linux kernel and possibly perl
==> installed

Maybe the kernel version and sources weren’t the same. To be sure:

$ sudo dnf install kernel*
$ sudo shutdown -r now
$ sudo dnf --best --allowerasing [above packages]

Done. So let’s try again.

$ cd /var/run/media/[USER]/VBOXADDITIONS_[VER]/
$ sudo ./

==> Building Guest Additions kernel modules.
==> Failed to set up service vboxadd, please check the log file
==> /var/log/VBoxGuestAdditions.log for details.

Welp, that didn’t work. On the VirtualBox issue tracker:

guest additions do not build with 4.8 kernel.
Got an error message while attempting to install guest additions in a Fedora Rawhide guest for the 4.8.0-0.rc0.git2.1.fc26.x86_64 kernel (worked with the last 4.7 kernel).

The solution:

The problem appears to be gone with VirtualBox 5.1.6. When installing the latest kernel in my Rawhide guest, the error does not occur.

This looks encouraging. What’s my VirtualBox version?

VirtualBox Graphical User Interface
Version 5.1.14

Welp, maybe it’s a regression?

% brew cask remove virtualbox virtualbox-extension-pack
% brew update
% brew install virtualbox virtualbox-extension-pack

Looks encouraging, much newer version.

==> Downloading [..] VirtualBox-5.1.22-115126-OSX.dmg
==> 🍺  virtualbox was successfully installed!

Let’s start it up and try again in this Fedora guest.

==> Uncompressing VirtualBox 5.1.22 Guest Additions for Linux...........
==> VirtualBox Guest Additions installer
==> Removing installed version 5.1.14 of VirtualBox Guest Additions...
==> Copying additional installer modules ...
==> Installing additional modules ...
==> Starting the VirtualBox Guest Additions.

Phew. The guest still has that [awful screen flicker] when you open a window (and this previously-working hack no longer fixes it), but I’ll take it to get this work done.

Charities worth your time and money

The latest Australian budget has cut our national foreign aid budget again, so I’m putting my money where my mouth is and donating a larger part of my income. If you’re Australian, I can vouch for, and donate to, these:

  • Cure Cancer Australia: They directly fund medical researchers, and they don’t hire high-pressure chuggers like other funds regrettably do.

  • Global Development Group: You can choose to let them decide where your money goes each month. Causes include the World Food Programme and Syrian refugee assistance. This is where I’m spending most.

  • Guide Dogs NSW/ACT: I had no idea private donations are the bulk of their income. They should get more government funding, but here we are.

  • Heart Foundation: Cardio-vascular research, advocacy and assistance.

I’ll be adding to this list.

The blight of expired Let’s Encrypt certs

As Let’s Encrypt has made it affordable and easy to generate and install HTTPS certificates, so too have the number of sites exploded with expired certificate warnings.

Expired Let's Encrypt certificate warning in Safari

In the past, a certificate was an investment. You treasured it, and (mostly) kept it current. Now they’re becoming disposable.

I don’t fault Let’s Encrypt for this. The official client, and most of the others, provide instructions on setting up a cron job to generate them regularly. But it’s an interesting side effect.

Peversely, if we’re concerned with people clicking through expired cert warnings without reading or caring, this latest trend is only going to reinforce it.

(As an aside, a couple of readers have asked why I keep referring to these as HTTPS rather than SSL certificates. Crypto people are nothing if not precise, and SSL is not offered on Rubénerd, or most other sites any more. The newer versions of the standard are called, rather short-sightedly, TLS. But that name holds even less mindshare outside the IT industry).

Old driver decision tree

Finding vintage computer hardware for sale online is challenging, but finding drivers is arguably just as difficult. The following tree based on my latest adventures updating my vintage tower. Bold text denotes a branch end.

  • Search engine acknowledges driver exists
    • Search result is a forum
      • Forum post references Mediafire, Mega, etc
        • Link not found, link removed
      • Post links to internal site
        • Requires registration, probably invite only
          • Attachment has been removed
    • Search result is a scummy driver site
      • Requires registration
        • Download adware
    • Search result is legitimate download
      • It’s not for the OS claimed on the site
      • It’s not for the hardware claimed on the site
  • Search engine doesn’t have anything for that hardware
    • Decide to trawl eBay
      • Long shot, but find driver CD or disk
    • Ask social media if they know
      • “Why do you want to run such old hardware?”
      • “Why not buy different hardware?”
      • “Your interest in retro computing is dumb lol”
      • “Um…”

Unboxing a 1997 Iomega Jaz Drive

I did my first unboxing video last month, and naturally it was for a twenty year old disk drive!

I’d always wanted an Iomega Jaz Drive growing up, but I could never justify the size or cost. Now they’re old enough to be cheap, so I picked one up sealed on eBay for $30.

Oliver’s law of assumed responsibility

If you’re seen fixing it, you will be blamed for breaking it.

Quoted on

The Rubénerd Show is back on iTunes

Many of you repoted issues accessing the Rubénerd Show earlier this year. Overnightscape Underground master feed subscribers were fine, but iTunes was returning this erroneous error when people were accessing this show directly in iTunes:

“Item Not Available: The item you’ve requested is not currently available in the Singapore/[Country] Store, but it is available in the Australian Store. Click Change Store to view this item.”

Assuming you even had an Australian store account though, you’d get this:

“The item you’ve requested is not currently available in the Australian store.

Not to get all Merlin Mann on you, but turns out there were a few issues with the show feed that have since been fixed, and it had nothing to do with geography. Well, other than our bungled NBN, but that’s a separate issue.

The feed is now fixed. Most podcast clients were fine during this, but I noticed Overcast removed the feed when iTunes did; Marco must poll iTunes. His permalinks still handle accented characters poorly, but it doesn’t cause listening issues.

I’ve set up a redirect, but if you subscribed to the feed manually and are no longer getting shows, please update your client to point here instead:

Fixing the problem

I wanted to give a big shoutout and thanks to Chel and Hahn from the Podcasts Connect support team at Apple for putting me on the right track. For those facing a similar issue with older shows, these are what I had to address:

  1. iTunes now supports HTTPS delivery of audio and the RSS feed (nice), but the latter can’t be served with Let’s Encrypt (darn). I’m now serving the show feed on a separate, HTTP subdomain.

  2. The minimum show art size has been bumped up to 1400x1400. I set mine at the maximum 3000x3000 to stave off the next necessary jump.

  3. At some point, I’d clobbered my RSS iTunes tags such that they weren’t nested properly. This was nobody’s fault but my own! Double and triple check your iTunes tags, then get a cup of coffee, and check again. They look okay? No, really, check again.

  4. How are those iTunes tags looking?

Thanks for listening, hiven glaven.