Why do you timezone, Ruben?

A gentleman by the name of Eric emailed this comment:

Why do you always write your articles in the future?

I take it he’s in the Western Hemisphere. It’s not the future where I am, except when I steal Amelia Watson’s time-travelling watch. But I take the point; timezones are hard.

My blog here briefly showed both my localtime and UTC under each post. I got rid of the latter because I thought it made things more confusing. Maybe I need to go back to calling out my timezone to each post.

While I’m talking about these spherical anomalies of time and space, handing timezones was one of the last nails in the coffin of WordPress for me back in the day. I used to write from multiple places in The Before Times™ and when I was studying overseas. To this day, most of my posts from 2005-12 were filed with +08:00 for Singapore and KL, even though half the posts were from Adelaide or Sydney. That might not sound like much, but I also used to write late into the night. That discrepancy of a couple of hours was enough to push hundreds of posts into the wrong day. The horror!

It’s probably not worth sweating over having the exact time on a blog like this. But as my dad always said, a task worth doing is a task worth doing right. Then he hit his head on a kitchen cabinet.


Expanding our FreeBSD home file server

This is what I’d call a thinking out loud about personal circumstances post, rather than anything prescriptive or useful for discerning computators general. You’ve been warned!

Clara and I are running low on drive space on our OpenZFS file server, once again. We have a running joke that driveageddon seems to rear its fragmented head every August. Maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, though it’s files doing all the filling on these implausibly-fast spinning platters of metal.

(Has someone made a discus anime?)

Our FreeBSD server is the centre of our world. It uses a combination of NetBSD and Debian VMs running in Xen (to be replaced with bhyve at some point) and FreeBSD jails to serve and delegate anything we can offload from our personal and work machines. I have other boxes for tinkering and testing, but this one runs the latest -RELEASE with as unexotic a configuration as I can make it. Vim is saying unexotic isn’t a word. It’s probably right.

My attitude for at least the last six years (possibly longer) has been to buy a pair of the largest drives I can afford, and to cycle out the oldest pair. 2019 was the year I finally said goodbye to a pair of HGST 3 TB units that had performed flawlessly for almost a decade. They’re now in anti-static bags in a safe-deposit box, acting as a cold backup for our most critical family photos and documents.

There’s a thought there that I haven’t had to replace a hard drive due to outright failure in a long time, but I’d dare not mention that here lest I invoke the wrath of Murphys Law. Good thing I didn’t.

But here’s the thing. This time I’m not faced with the same space or chipset constraints, so I could add more drives instead of swapping. Last year I replaced our workhorse HPE Microserver with a refurbished Supermicro workstation board with 8× SATA and 2× NVMe (albeit one on a PCI-E daughterboard) and an old Antec 300 case with 8 LFF drive bays. I even considered getting an additional RAID controller, provided I could use it in JBOD mode for ZFS. That was an unconscionable number of abbreviations and acronyms, and I’m not even a network engineer.

You could argue the timing is great. Chia has driven up the cost of drives, meaning this year I won’t be getting as much of a capacity jump as I have in previous years. Granted going from 4 to 10 would be nice, but it’s still only 6 TB of effective extra space for many hundreds of dollars; not to mention that I insist on using ZFS mirrors for redundancy and ease of replacements/upgrades. Adding drives instead will give me all the extra capacity.

It all makes sense, but my main concerns are still noise and heat. Clara and I live in a one-bedroom apartment now, which is much nicer than sleeping in a studio while the computer in the other end of the room loudly seeks and scrubs its ZFS pools on a recurring basis. But we work from home now, and I have experience with specific WD drives in my bedroom growing up that I don’t want to inadvertently repeat. I’d likely tolerate it, but it’s not fair to Clara having something clicking and buzzing away within earshot all day.

We’ve lucked out thus far with our current HGST, WDs, and Seagates. The read/write heads on the SSDs are also so silent as to be practically non-existent (cough)! But I’ve read reviews of current larger drives of people complaining about noise; the WD Golds and Toshibas seem to frequently cause people ire.

This post was as open-ended as the bag of kettle chips I regret eating. Maybe I need to do some Acoustic Research.


Australia’s Internet fun this morning

Network graph showing huge spike in latency from about 10:00

How’s your Monday going?

Update: Reports stating there was a fibre optic cut from Perth to Singapore. That’ll do it!


Clarelynn Rose, Copperfield

This morning’s Music Monday came from the Whole Wheat Radio stream, and was just what I needed having gazed onto my work and personal calendar for today. This is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard.

Play Copperfield

Her official store links to CDBaby which was unfortunately taken offline a few years ago, but the page lists a few other online store options. I just put in a request on her CD page for how much her discography would cost to ship to Australia :).


Another short collection of life lessons

In no particular order this Sunday evening:

  • Always use microwave handles instead of stop buttons. A mechanical override to prevent a literal stack overflow will always be faster and more reliable than a soft button. That is, unless you like cleaning exploded porridge or laksa.

  • You don’t always need to agree with someone to find their other points valid or interesting. Twitter has trained us to think we can’t.

  • Sometimes it is worth crying over spilled milk. Maybe you’ve had a rough day and you need the release. Bottling it up and putting it back in the fridge isn’t healthy.

  • Always check your pants leg to ensure they’re not tucked into your socks. Unless that’s your style, in which case… always check your pants leg to ensure they’re not tucked into your socks.

  • Experiences are usually, but not always, more valuable than things.

  • The Friday Night Rule preventing new code deployments should also apply to First Thing Monday Morning, despite being the furthest from another Friday Night. You don’t need to start your week with a broken build or offline server.

  • Don’t take a mid-thirties guy on the Internet seriously, especially if he write lists in no particular order.


Feedback for week 30, 2021

I talk to enough people outside IT and finance who are surprised that we refer to weeks with numbers as well. I know its a tad arcane, but it’s useful shorthand to disambiguate this post from others. Well, I say that, but then I spend a paragraph discussing it, thereby negating and shorthand that I would have gained from merely referring to this block of time in seven-day increments.

You know what else came incrementally over the last seven days? Blog comments! Ah, that was an excellent segue. Though I feel like if I have to tell you it was excellent, it probably wasn’t.

At this stage I should rename this blog An Asynchronous Conversation with Jim Kloss (the quality would no doubt improve). Jim observed my mobile-friendly site test last Thursday, and decided to take it upon himself to see if Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test passed Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. Surprisingly, it had issues!

Page partially loaded: Not all page resources could be loaded. This can affect how Google sees and understands your page. Fix availability problems for any resources that can affect how Google understands your page.

Does that mean my silly little site here is better than Google? I’ll let you be the judge.

In the embarrassing mistakes department, Lucas Vacula sent in a correction for the title of my CISA vulnerability report post, which I’ve since fixed:

Just a friendly heads-up that your CISA post’s title says 2011, not 2021. I know a lot of people say that the US government is both a decade ahead and a decade behind in terms of tech, but I don’t think this is what they meant! :p

Appreciated, thank you. I’d make a joke here too about US intelligence effectiveness, but I live in Australia, and those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw proverbial shade. I say shade, even though my self-deprecating last name is spelled Schade. Does that mean I’d throw myself?

A new contributor who wished to remain anonymous sent me a long and beautiful email thanking me for my discussions about mental health at the Olympics, and to say she binge-watched the Beach Volleyball anime Harukana Receive on my passing recommendation (“only a few butts” and “it made me cry!"). She’s had some rough personal circumstances over the last few years, so I was happy that my silly ramblings here helped. When people ask me what motivates me to write, this is up there. ♡

The coffee shop scene from episode 8, my favourite in the series.

And finally we get to Rebecca Hales, one of the two great people who share that name who contribute here, and arguably the most clued-in commenter I’ve ever had when it comes to sports and fitness.

I didn’t pick you as a gymnastics guy but thinking of you being jealous by an acrobatic Russian guy in Singapore was too funny. Have you been watching the swimming?!

I’ll admit, I find swimming boring. This is tantamount to blasphemy given it’s one of Australia’s strongest sports, and the only one where Singapore has won gold. I’m sure they’d deport me if the borders were open.

That’s it for this week, is a phrase with five words. Thanks :).


Sunisa Lee’s All-Around Gymnastics win

I saw my American and Southeast Asian friends explode with joy over Sunisa Lee’s gold medal win in All-Around Gymnastics at the Tokyo Olympics yesterday. I haven’t caught up with Gymnastics yet (I used my precious spare time last week for Table Tennis), but that’s what the weekend is for :).

Alongside this personal achievement, she’s also the first Hmong-American Olympic gymnast in the States, and either the first or among the first medallists of Lao decent. Seeing the wholesome joy of her family, friends, and supporters made my morning.

(I’ve been to Cambodia and northern Thailand when I lived in Singapore, but Laos is on the proverbial bucket list. Vietnam too. But I digress)!

Play Suni Lee's family and Hmong community celebrate her gold medal gymnastics win at Tokyo 2020 Olympics

In light of recent news though, it didn’t take long for social media to have the hottest of takes. The most prevalent was the assertion that she somehow “stole” it from Simone Biles, who bowed out to take care of her mental health. Others euphemistically said she “stepped in” or “replaced” her, presumably in an attempt to not sound so callous. It’s the barest of distinctions.

I’ll admit, after writing about mental health last Thursday and how much I respected Ms Biles for what she did, I anticipated any subsequent American winner would be tarred with this accusation, or worse from someone overseas. I say “tarred” because the slimy goop comes from the same primordial pool that her critics likely climbed out of. Those pools Ms Lee could easily do a double backflip over without a second thought.

This was a great achievement. Anyone who claims otherwise is, to reintroduce a descriptor I used throughout high school, a sackbutt.


KTMB USB keys, and what do we call them?

Speaking of train journeys and nostalgia for Peninsula Malaysia’s railway operator, you can get official KTMB USB keys. Here’s one handsome example of their Blue Tiger unit that plies from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, along with a rather handsome metal case:

Thumbnail showing the aforementioned USB key and case

Clara and I got official Singapore Downtown Line MRT keys in 2019 from the Land Transport Authority gift shop, and have more clear files and lanyards from various Japanese railway authorities than we know what to do with. This seems like a natural progression.

This raises a question though: what are these things called? Have we ever decided, or standardised on a name? I erroneously called my first 256 MiB [sic] unit a memory stick in the early 2000s before realising that was a Sony memory card format. I call them USB keys out of habit, though that sounds more like a hardware auth token than anything else. KTMB calls them pendrives which I think sounds classy. My dad calls them thumb drives. USB drive sounds like it could refer to any portable hard drive or SSD.

I asked a colleague, and he calls them “malware vectors”. Such a buzzkill.


Read at school, avoid in adulthood

This passage from AJ Ayer’s Autobiography, shared via Damon Young on The Bird Site, was chef’s kiss:

In addition to the work which we had to do in our own time to prepare for our lessons, we had to cope with what were known as Extra Books. This required us to master a book of Homer’s Odyssey every half. The standard expected of us was such that we came to know the Greek text very nearly by heart. I do not think that any of us got the full 100 marks in the examination on it, but several of us came as close as 97 or 98, which I even then felt to be quite a creditable achievement for boys of thirteen or fourteen. Perhaps as a result, I have never cared very much for Homer and have never read his works since I left school.

One day I might get back into Shakespeare. But I’m not in a hurry, for this reason.


CISA’s exploited vulnerabilities report for 2021

Update: Thanks to everyone for pointing out that I wrote 2011 in the heading, not 2021. Good thing I got the permalink right!

The US CISA published its annual report on Wednesday:

This Joint Cybersecurity Advisory was coauthored by the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

This advisory provides details on the top 30 vulnerabilities—primarily Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs)—routinely exploited by malicious cyber actors in 2020 and those being widely exploited thus far in 2021.

There’s nothing too surprising here if you’ve been following the industry’s adventures over the past twelve months, but it’s always appreciated getting a well-cited summary, and some context around which were most exploited. It’s interesting comparing these with what the popular tech press chose to cover, and how often.