Concatenating images with ImageMagick

It sounds counter-intuitive, but I do almost all my image processing for this blog using my almost two-decade old Swiss Army Knife shell script library. Every image is scaled at multiple resolutions to save non-Retina readers bandwidth, and is sent through the excellent pngcrush and jpegoptim tools to losslessly reduce their size.

On the weekend I learned that ImageMagick’s append option can also be used to place images side by side, either horizontally or vertically. Note the operator changes from a minus to a plus:

$ magick convert \*.png -append vertical.png
$ magick convert \*.png +append horizontal.png

My mnemonic is to imagine the - is a dividing line, with images above and below.

Some of you may now be reasonably asking why I haven’t given a photographic example. That’s a great question. GraphicsMagick also has a similarly-named option, though I haven’t tested.

2.5 and 5GbE adaptors

Clara’s and my new home FreeBSD server consistently outperforms my old HP Microserver for Samba and Netatalk file shares to our Macs and other *nix machines. The fact that the switching hardware, cables, and end points are identical shows just what a bottleneck that hardware was; I suspect it was a combination of poor cooling, not having AES-NI for drive encryption offloading, and some suboptimal ZFS settings that I’ve since corrected!

But now I’m interested in inking out more, especially when I use the InfiniBand kit at work and see how blistering fast transfers can get. Allan Jude and Michael Dexter suggested during one of the BSDCan streams last year that it was worth paying the extra for 10GbE, but dongles on the client side seem to be more expensive and much bigger.

I’ve been following Serve The Home’s 5GbE adaptor reviews. Here’s their most recent for a StarTech device with which they were underwhelmed, and a Sabrent unit which is a bit more robust. All of them use Aquantia/Marvel AQC111U chipset.

I already have an Intel 10GbE card for the aforementioned FreeBSD tower, so these dongles would be used for Clara’s and my Macs. I’d love to avoid installing kernel extensions to get one of these working. Sonnet earned my trust and respect with their Mac expansion cards in the late 1990s, but the website for their Solo5g says drivers need to be installed. Update: they use the same chipset as above.

Some Mac hardware ships with 10GbE; I’d love for an adaptor that uses the same chipset, if that were at all possible somehow. One can dream :).

Network backdoors and layers

There’s a truism in computer security that an undocumented backdoor for a small group of people is a front door for everyone. It will be found and exploited, regardless of how sinister or noble the intentions of the designers were. It’s one of the reasons people like me get so up in arms about legal requirements for backdoors; an attacker doesn’t care if a security hole was deliberate or accidental. And let’s be clear: there is no working around the fact these are security holes, legally mandated or otherwise.

I was reminded of this again last week when Lawrence Abrams reported on Dutch security firm EYE discovering a back door in ZyXEL routers. An administrative account was included with hardcoded credentials to install firmware updates via FTP. The company since submitted a patch, and the fact the boxes are getting automatic updates is encouraging. Here comes the proverbial but: it’s a stark and worrying reminder that these bad security practices still exist, and we all know it’s everywhere.

My two favourite quotes from university were that IT is about people not machines, and that security is Swiss cheese; you’re fine provided the holes don’t line up. A company I worked for briefly after high school used routers from a few different manufacturers in the hopes that deliberate or accidental back doors and security holes wouldn’t compromise their networks; a practice I since learned is widespread. Like cheese.

Prussian blue

I’ve decided to spend time this year learning more about the etymology and history of phrases and names I assume or take for granted. I’m most interested in technology, engineering, and science, but I love when we get an overlap between those and art!

The Great Wave off Kanagawa

I overheard the phrase Prussian blue in a documentary and decided to check it out. Wikipedia described the dye’s discovery:

Prussian blue was probably synthesised for the first time by the paint maker Diesbach in Berlin around 1706. [..] The pigment is believed to have been accidentally created when Diesbach used potash tainted with blood to create some red cochineal dye. The original dye required potash, ferric sulphate, and dried cochineal. Instead, the blood, potash, and iron sulphate reacted to create a compound known as iron ferrocyanide, which, unlike the desired red pigment, has a very distinct blue hue.

And the name?

It was named Preußisch blau and Berlinisch Blau in 1709 by its first trader.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa is probably the most famous early artwork that made use of Prussian blue, though as the name eludes, it was sourced from Europe. It’s been used to the point of being a cliché, but it’s still one of my favourite artworks.

It’s also on the World Health Organisation’s List of Essential Medicines for its use as a heavy metal poisoning antidote.

Hololive EN New Years, 2021

A dozen cases are being reported in New South Wales again over the last few weeks, so Clara and I being safe and not going anywhere if we can help it. We were probably going to spend the first day of 2021 yesterday watching Hololive characters anyway given the timezone difference was fortuitous, but shaddup.

Ame did nine hours, which we ran for most of the day. Everyone’s favourite shark Gura chimed in halfway through with her own stream too. They motivated us for the first time in a while to think what our resolutions and goals for the year were.

Ame's stream
Gura's stream
Ina's stream

But our favourite was Ina, who went into Minecraft and set off some little fireworks behind her torii gate. She had a few misfires, but it was beautiful!

Happy New Year to you and your folks.

Wordle for 2020

I used to do annual Worldles as a fun way to visualise what I’d talked about the previous twelve months; that being the typical duration of a year. Here they were for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Alas, while the blog is still around, the original site is not. But the site still lets you import text and generate some silly fun, and it ended up with something far more detailed:

Word cloud from post titles over the last twelve months

FreeBSD didn’t come as a surprise, nor did my renewed interest and advocacy for RSS. I talked about music more than I expected, and I’m pleased to see that virus didn’t get more of a mention. Lots of new stuff too, it seems.

Useful dreams

Douglas Heingartner shared the findings of a Danish research paper in Psych News Daily which suggested a majority of respondents have useful dreams:

The results showed that 62% of the participants said they’d had dreams that were of help, or of good use. About 56% said they’d had dreams that influenced their opinions about others, and 54% had had dreams that changed their behavior. [..]

Among the 62% of respondents who reported having had helpful dreams, the most frequently-cited area of help was in assisting with creative tasks. This was followed close behind by emotional problem-solving, with “providing personal insight” coming in third. [..]

The findings of this study represent “huge potential for a major part of the general population,” the authors write, “in terms of using their nightly dreams for solving waking life problems to a much greater extent.”

I’d score myself among those respondents too, but not even for creative reasons. I used to solve so many programming problems in my sleep when I was a full-time developer; not necessarily in a dream state, but I’d wake up with that euphoric Eureka! feeling all the time. I also frequent an island cafe with my late mum when I need life advice and guidance.

I’d love to learn more about the subconscious; I’ll bet there’s a whole world there waiting to be explored and understood further.

Things I was thankful for in 2020

This has been a hard year, and today from a personal perspective has been the cherry on top I fully expected (inb4 confirmation bias). But I’m going to let it get away with sending us off like this, so I’m writing an (incomplete!) list of things I was thankful for this year, written to the sounds of Mori Calliope telling the year what it can do, and reminding us it won’t bring us down.

Clara, and health

Dad didn’t lose his life or home in the Australian bushfires
This was only in January, I already can’t believe it. Helping him pack some essentials and evacuating on advice of the Rural Fire Service was… I can’t summon the words right now. But he and his home survived, and hopefully we’ll have a postponed Xmas again soon!

Reconnecting with friends
Dealing with anxiety over the last few years led me to distance from people I care about. I reconnected with so many of them again this year, from high school to now, and they’re all awesome… and understanding. Thanks everyone.

Me awkwardly presenting my talk on FreeBSD at OrionVM

Becoming more involved with FreeBSD and NetBSD
I spoke at the FreeBSD miniconf at 2020 in January, met some more members of the Australian BSD community, and I was mentioned on the BSD Now podcast! I still have impostor syndrome something fierce, but people have helped coax me out of my /bin/sh.

Hololive EN
People acting anime characters in realtime while playing games like Minecraft sounds niche but not groundbreaking. But their English-speaking generation launched this year have brought us so much joy. Clara and I will always be Investimigators, but Gura and Ina have become de facto councillors given the heavy questions they answer with care and good humour. I only half joke that they’ve probably saved lives during these depressing times.

Screenshot of one of our Minecraft villages

I blame Hololive-EN for getting me into this time sink game that I’d so successfully avoided for a decade. WOW it’s fun. You could do worse than spending your evenings building out villages and exploring with your girlfriend if you can’t travel or go outside.

OpenZFS 2.0
I use and advocate for ZFS everywhere I can, professionally and personally. Merging the disparate branches of open source ZFS into one tree was a huge technical and community achievement, and most importantly signalled the stability, long-term support, and viability of the world’s most trustworthy file system and volume manager now that Oracle holds the other keys. I run it today, and can’t wait for it to be in FreeBSD BASE next year.

I like Vim and have used it for years, but this whole time I didn’t realise that Emacs interfaces to my brain better: read into that as much as you want. Finding all these great tools that can run it has been too much fun.

This blog
I added 490 posts this year, and reached 7,200. Writing each one was a cathartic exercise to write, and even got mentioned on some high-profile news sites, aggregators, and mailing lists. I’ve had so many great emails, comments, and feedback. You’ve even taken time to read my site or RSS feed, and the post I’m writing now. Thank you.

Happy New Year. Ganbatte kudasai! Let’s do our best to make 2021 better.

The world’s chunkiest card reader

Those of you familiar with my ramblings know I have a penchant for vintage computer hardware, especially if I can somehow shoehorn it into a contemporary system. There’s something so fun, and almost magical, about having lights blink from a piece of hardware long past its use-by date. It’s like I’m literally keeping a part of computing history alive.

I also have a specific interest in Iomega hardware from the 1990s and early 2000s, having grown up using their kit and been interested in their advertising and designs. They were doing coloured peripherals right alongside SGI, and years before Apple introduced the iMac. They weren’t the most reliable drives by any stretch, but I adored my Zip drive for backups, ferrying school work, and stretching my paltry hard drive. I understood why writable optical media made more sense economically and for compatibility by the end of the decade, but super-floppies were way more convenient.

Photo showing the CD-RW card reader on top of my FreeBSD server

Clara and I were at Vinnies looking for some second-hand RCA cables and records for our Hi-Fi system, when I chanced upon an external Iomega CD-RW Plus Drive, model 32888. I’d had my eye out for one of their external purple “Zip” branded units, and a silver USB 32971 floppy drive with card reader, but I’d never seen this chunky boy before. And I couldn’t refuse for $20!

The drive and cables were in immaculate condition, almost as though it was never used. CNET lists it as being compatible with any 75 MHz machine running classic MacOS or Windows 98! It has a CD-RW and DVD-ROM optical drive (52x24x52x/16x), a USB port, and a card reader for SD/MMC, CompactFlash, SmartMedia (!) and M8 Memory Stick.

Unlike other drives which multiplex across one cable or use an internal hub, this drive has two discrete USB 2.0 cables for each of the devices. This meant I could plug it into my new FreeBSD tower, and it just worked! Here’s dmesg(8) for the CD:

ugen0.6: <vendor 0x059b IOMEGA CDDVD522416EC3-C> at usbus0
umass3 on uhub0
umass3: <vendor 0x059b IOMEGA CDDVD522416EC3-C, class 0/0, rev 2.00/1.03, addr 6> on usbus0
umass3:  SCSI over Bulk-Only; quirks = 0x0100
umass3:12:3: Attached to scbus12
cd2 at umass-sim3 bus 3 scbus12 target 0 lun 0
cd2: <IOMEGA CDDVD522416EC3-C 0P5B> Removable CD-ROM SCSI device
cd2: 40.000MB/s transfers
cd2: Attempt to query device size failed: NOT READY, Medium not present - tray closed
cd2: quirks=0x10<10_BYTE_ONLY>

And for the card reader, with each slot being mapped to its own device:

ugen0.5: <IOI MediaBay 7 in 4> at usbus0
umass2 on uhub0
umass2: <IOI MediaBay 7 in 4, class 0/0, rev 1.10/1.00, addr 5> on usbus0
umass2:  SCSI over Bulk-Only; quirks = 0xc000
umass2:11:2: Attached to scbus11
da2 at umass-sim2 bus 2 scbus11 target 0 lun 0
da2: <IOI MediaBay 7 in 4 1.00> Removable Direct Access SCSI device
da2: Serial Number 9202261
da2: 1.000MB/s transfers
da2: Attempt to query device size failed: NOT READY, Medium not present
da2: quirks=0x2<NO_6_BYTE>
da3 at umass-sim2 bus 2 scbus11 target 0 lun 1
da3: <IOI MediaBay 7 in 4 1.01> Removable Direct Access SCSI device
da3: Serial Number 9202261
da3: 1.000MB/s transfers
da3: Attempt to query device size failed: NOT READY, Medium not present
da3: quirks=0x2<NO_6_BYTE>
da4 at umass-sim2 bus 2 scbus11 target 0 lun 2
da4: <IOI MediaBay 7 in 4 1.02> Removable Direct Access SCSI device
da4: Serial Number 9202261
da4: 1.000MB/s transfers
da4: Attempt to query device size failed: NOT READY, Medium not present
da4: quirks=0x2<NO_6_BYTE>
da5 at umass-sim2 bus 2 scbus11 target 0 lun 3
da5: <IOI MediaBay 7 in 4 1.03> Removable Direct Access SCSI device
da5: Serial Number 9202261
da5: 1.000MB/s transfers
da5: Attempt to query device size failed: NOT READY, Medium not present
da5: quirks=0x2<NO_6_BYTE>

I don’t think the card reader will be compatible with any of the current SD cards I use, and even if it were, it’d be too slow to copy over all the raw images in a reasonable time. I’m also not sure if I’ll ever be burning CDs again. But that’s not the point :).

The joys, and not, of studio apartments

Clara and I have been living in studio apartments since we moved in together in the late 2010s. They offer several distinct advantages from regular apartments or houses if you can make your life work around them, though we’ve discovered a few issues that are now making us reevaluate too. Buckle in for what I’m sure aren’t all that many surprising observations!

The joys

The biggest, and most obvious advantage, is cost. Studio apartments are cheaper, and let you live in buildings and areas you either couldn’t easily afford otherwise, or where you’d have to sacrifice on other things. Clara and I lived in North Sydney, meaning we could walk to work across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We now live in Chatswood, a suburb a bit further north but no less convenient. I feel right at home here having grown up in Singapore; the shops, food, languages, and ethnic diversity are all wonderful and familiar.

We’ve used all that saved money to invest, build a nest egg, and finance way more international holidays—remember those?—than we otherwise could have, without putting anything on credit [that we’re not immediately paying back so we’re just using them to earn points]. Clara and I are cautious, and travel is our favourite thing in the world, so it made sense to prioritise these.

Another tangible way studios save you money is forcing you to downscale and being careful when buying new things. Where would you put it? There’s also something oddly fun about working within space constraints for certain hobbies, like finding a Laserdisc player that could also double as a CD, VCD, and DVD player; or figuring out a way to shoehorn and virtualise an entire homelab into a single FreeBSD server tower.

(Whether you would classify vintage Hi-Fi gear or easily-replaceable servers as junk you don’t need is another question! That’s the thing about hobbies).

Studio apartments are also easier to keep clean, and you’re more motivated to do so. You can make light work of vacuuming without navigating the around doors and walls and tripping on the cable. You can’t let dishes accumulate in the kitchen because you’ll be sleeping in the same room. There’s no out of sight, out of mind in a studio; it’s either messy or clean.

They also feel larger without those subdividing walls, which I wasn’t expecting. Most one bedroom apartments I’ve visited feel cramped and less airy compared to our single larger room, even if they have a greater overall floor area. It means you have a bigger loungeroom during the day, and a bedroom at night.

The nots

The biggest, and most obvious, is space. We’re in a larger studio now than we were in North Sydney, but I do miss having my own little space for computer stuff. Forget about them if you have housemates, a larger family, or a partner you’re not thrilled to be spending your life with. Also forget them if you have expansive hobbies like anime figure collecting; we had to be much pickier about which characters we bring in now!

The other quibbles could be classified under sound and light. Clara and I often work overtime or are on-call in the evenings; the light from our displays and the furious sound of typing makes it nigh impossible for the other person to sleep. I love getting up early and Clara likes staying up late, so I have to tiptoe around the kitchen like a mouse each morning while boiling water and making coffee.

I get cabin fever at the best of times, but being stuck in a single room for months during Covid times was the ultimate test. I was extraordinarily lucky that we bought some balcony furniture and largely had nice weather, so I could set up a laptop workstation and take meetings without disturbing Clara while she worked inside. Still, there were times I’d be sitting out there, feeling claustrophobic and anxious, wondering why we’d subjected ourselves to this living arrangement!

I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve had people over, but this can also be difficult. We have one couch, and a tiny coffee table which doubles as our dining table. We’d get bean bags or extra cushions, but where would we put those?! It’s not the best arrangement for entertaining; though if you’re introverted like us it works as a convenient excuse (cough).

And finally, storage; or lack thereof. Our entire walk in laundry is full of plastic tubs from our last move, and we have the box for the TV sitting against the wall because there’s nowhere else big enough to put it. We’ll jettison this stuff when we eventually buy a place, but renters need to be able to pack everything at the drop of a landlord’s hat.


Clara and I still think the pros outweigh the cons, though this year has definitely skewed it more towards the latter for the first time. But then we think about going back to Japan at some point again in the future, and we think it’s worth it.

YMMV, as they say.

Merry Xmas, 2020

Not Merry Xmas to the year, it can hurry up and get in /var/tmp where our life cronjob will promptly clear it away. But Merry Xmas and Happy Holidays to you, your family, friends, and everyone else.

I can say that your emails and tweets have been among the highlights of this year, and relegated that 2020 ennui to the aforementioned temporary folder. For those of you also isolated from family, or doing it tough this year, I hope that my silly, long-winded ramblings here were helpful in some small way too.

Our little tree this year.

It’s hard to see in this shaky, high ISO camera-phone image I took last night on a while, but this is Clara’s and my little tree. A studio apartment doesn’t give one much space for sprawling decorations, but we’ve been carrying this one since we moved in together. The heart in a circle and the blue bauble with the star and moon came from my late mum’s collection; the white snowball I bought with pocket money when I was 8; and that green bird came with my dad when he emigrated from post-war Germany with his family to Australia in the 1950s. The summertime Xmas koala was a recent Clara addition!

Tribblix m24 available

Xmas came early this year! My favourite illumos distribution Tribblix hit milestone m24 last Saturday, and the images are available for download.

From the about page:

Tribblix is an operating system distribution derived from OpenSolaris, OpenIndiana, and illumos, with a retro style and modern components. The base kernel and commands are from illumos, with a few components currently repackaged from OpenIndiana (mostly X11, some other oddments); pretty much everything else has been rebuilt from scratch.

SunOS was my first commercial UNIX, and part of the reason I love using FreeBSD now is owing to its tooling and design that have been influenced from the Solaris world. I have yet to use Tribblix in production anywhere, but I keep it around in a VM for tinkering. It’s excellent.

Thanks to Michael Dexter for recommending it at AsiaBSDCon 2018 :).

Feedback on my blog-as-a-business post

I didn’t realise what a chord I’d struck with my post yesterday about blogging platforms advertising themselves as getting you more business from audience. Almost makes me wish I’d spent more than five minutes smashing it out in response to seeing a single line of text on a hero image cough.

@hikupro retweeted a few quotes which I appreciate! Lukas V also chimed in with one of the best emails I’ve had in a while:

The appeal of reading blogs for me comes from people’s passions being displayed on screen. I don’t care much for photography, but seeing a post in my RSS feeds puts a smile on my face. I always know I can find some interesting reading material from’s monthly bookmark posts. And, of course, seeing the appear in the reader sidebar is a clear sign of some fun topics to come! Sadly, the only way to reliably find these kinds of websites are from blogrolls, obscure communities like those around the Gopher protocol, and whitelisted search engines like

It’s true… except for the fun topics from that guy, he’s a bit dodgy. I’ve touched on one of the supposed golden rules of blogging that you were never supposed to deviate from a single topic, which even back in the blogosphere days I thought was bunk. Merlin Mann has said he loves reading and watching people passionate about things he doesn’t know about because its infectious; I like it too because I learn new things about fields I otherwise wouldn’t have explored or entertained.

I also quickly touched on the declining quality of so many blogs, which he identified with an especially pernicious example:

I saw your post about audiences, blogs, and businesses and it struck a chord with something I’ve noticed as I’ve been increasingly interested in personal blogging: spammy meta-blog blogs*. You know the ones I’ve talked about. The ones with headlines like:

  • “10 ways to increase your SEO”
  • “how to go from one visitor a week to over 5000”
  • “our hottest 6 tips for blogging about XYZ!!”

Glancing at Reddit’s “r/blogging” shows just how big of a problem this is. Every post is about visitor numbers and revenue. These kinds of topics make it near impossible to find new blogs written based on people’s interests instead of their wallets.

Rebecca Hales also chimed in:


It is so obvious when a blog is written because somebody is interested in something, and not just because they are paid to write it.

The former is definitely happening, but it’s taken the form of late-night walks where I can avoid people, not in the pool. Though it might be good as it gets warmer. The pool, not people churning out PR for a blog.

“Turn your audience into a business”

I’ve recommended people check out the Ghost blog platform for a couple of years now. I statically generate my site with Hugo, but I appreciate that not everyone wants to live in their text editor and Git. Frankly, there are times where I long for a simple to use, server-based blogging platform myself too! Ghost is easier to set up and run than WordPress, even though it runs on Node.

But I was disappointed, though not surprised, to see this hero image on their landing page this morning:

Turn your audience into a business.

I see why they pitch this. Ghost also comes in a paid, hosted version like, and they need to emphasise the fact it’s a potential revenue centre, not a sunk cost. It’s those paying customers that subsidise their free, open source version of the software that I host for people, and we should want them to be successful. Still, it makes me sad seeing it as their primary pitch.

Blogging shouldn’t only be about business, it should be about creativity. Or anything you want it to be. The web for the last decade has been so conditioned to think social media is the place for people to write ideas, and blogs have become another channel to crank out PR or poorly-written tutorials to wrap with hundreds of low-value ads. I don’t begrudge people needing to make money and, you know, eat. But the framing of blogging in the industry, and even blogging software itself, has shifted away from people who write their ideas and thoughts and into a business tool, and we’re all the poorer for it.

Which is my second issue: summarising your readers as an audience. This is subtler, and I’m willing to admit I’m bringing my own biases into what that means. Audience to me is only a step above saying people who read your blog are customers. The phrase blogosphere became a source of ridicule over the years, but it describes something we’ve lost: a community. Audiences are passive consumers. I’d like to think that with tools like RSS and blogging platforms, we’re more like federated writers. (I don’t like that phrase either, I’m trying to think of something better).

Back in 2005 I remember Doc Searls hosting a panel for BloggerCon entitled Making Money which has stuck with me ever since. His central argument was that we didn’t buy our phones to make money, we bought them as a tool to help us. The analogy doesn’t entirely hold in 2020 given how many people literally run their businesses and computing off their smartphones, but it’s still an interesting way to frame it. A good blog is a sales tool by virtue of it having great content.

(There’s a wider discussion about how low-quality sites and bad actors are incentivised over honest people, but how that pertains to blogging specifically is a topic for another post!)

Neptunia fig re-releases, and Yuru Camp

I sure spend a disproportionately large amount of my time looking at dust collectors for someone claiming to abstain from their procurement in the interests of saving money and shelf space. It’s not that our shelves are sagging under the weight of these slabs of gold-pressed latinum cleverly disguised as anime characters, so much as their physical dimensions not being wide or deep enough to contain additional ones without stacking.

The first two off the shelf—hah!—are Alter’s re-releases of Purple and Black Heart from the inexplicably fabulous Hyperdimension Neptunia series. Alter are Clara’s and my favourite fig company by far; and Neptunia’s premise is so wonderfully absurd. I wonder if the likes of Netgear realise they are anthropomorphic versions of their hardware set in a surreal universe with Random Access Memory and all their friends. Look at me go with all these adverbs we’re not supposed to be using anymore!

Purple Heart (left) and Black Heart (right)

Regardless of whether you know or are interested in the series, I can’t get over the obsessive detail in figs like this. The level of material science manufactures would have had to go through to produce these, and have them literally stand the test of time is something else, especially with all those top-heavy parts. The west doesn’t do anything close.

(Funny story, I was at a SMASH! or similar convention one year—remember conventions?—and I was waiting in line for something with someone cosplaying as Purple Heart. I was in one of my Gundam uniforms. I remember looking at each other and laughing; she worked at an auditing firm, and I was in IT. “Is this what grown-ups do on their days off?")

But the one I’m most excited for is Inuyama Aoi from Yuru Camp. That series should have been released this year to help us all cope; it was chill, fun, and the characters and sets were all wonderful. It’s easily one of our favourite anime series of all time. And she has Japanese curry and a removable hat!

With and without hat!

Anyone have some spare shelves?

Ann Reardon on viral fake, food videos

I spent so long on the title for this before giving up and removing doubt with extra commas. Was it a viral video about fake food, or the fakeness was viral, or the viral fake food had a video? I suppose all of them apply.

Ann Reardon of How to Cook That is Clara’s and my favourite food scientist on YouTube, and she posts from Australia! She has made some spectacular things, including a chibi anime cake for Final Fantasy, and my current favourite 3D optical illusion. She’s also known for her well-researched, thorough, and fair debunking videos where she takes some of the most atrocious “five minute hacks” and the like that we’ve all seen recommended to us at some point, and schools us on why they’re either vague, misleading, or outright lies.

One of the most important antidotes we have to bad information is good information, and I appreciate all the effort people like Ann put into this. Someone with her skills could easily make more money doing, as we would say here, dodgy shit. Which gets us to the core issue: readers here would know I’m always interested in understanding and deconstructing the motivation to behave like this. Ann breaks it down towards the end of this Blossom debunking video:

This sort of stuff is getting promoted by [YouTube’s] algorithm. I think unless the algorithm itself changes; unless the platforms Facebook and YouTube take responsibility for what they’re promoting, there’s just going to be more of this… because it works. It would have made them so much money because they’ve got so many views. So that tells other companies *we should try and deceive and do fake stuff because that’s going to get us views.

Ann doesn’t have a computer science or information system background, and yet she still easily observed the trend. We’ve reached the point where these platforms can’t feign ignorance anymore; people will continue to upload lies as long as recommendation engines make it financially lucrative to do so. We all know it.

Ann Reardon discussing fake food video outlets on How to Cook That

As to whether these fake food videos are harmful, Ann also had a point I didn’t consider. In my younger and more cynical years—some of which coincide with the first few years of this blog, gulp!—I would have scoffed at the idea because it assumes people aren’t applying critical thinking. I still think this is true to an extent; we need to educate people about how to think. But here’s another angle to consider:

I had so many comments in that previous video of kids who’d spent their pocket money buying ingredients to cook one of the “So Yummy” recipes and then failing again and again, and they thought that they couldn’t cook and they’d stopped baking.

This is tragic. Extrapolate this out further, and how many other people are being lied into thinking they’re not capable of something? Paint this issue however you want, but motivation and a sense of agency are powerful forces, especially to impressionable children.

How we respond to crises

From Respectful Memes:

Bad things are going to happen. That's not negotiable. What is, is how you deal with it

The media's culpability in the NBN

Jeremy Ray pulled no punches in his retrospective on Australia’s National Broadband Network for The Shot earlier this month:

In 2013, Australia reached a fork in the road. One side, Kevin Rudd’s governing ALP, had a truly world-class proposal for the future of the country’s internet. The other, Tony Abbott’s LNP Coalition, did not. And our mainstream media fucked it up colossally. Not just Murdoch, all of it.

[..] Communications technology was a less sensational issue buried amongst all the borders and the boats. The NBN was a chance for politicians to do their businessman impersonations, using focus-grouped phrases like “Multi-Technology Mix” while hoping journalists wouldn’t ask why they were allergic to fibre – moral or otherwise. And the caper worked. The fourth estate slept on Australia’s future and we hurtled to our copper fate.

He also discussed the ABC’s dispicable treatment of Nick Ross, who had the audacity to write qualified articles and correct predictions about the Coalition’s more expensive, sub-par NBN alternative.

It seemed everyone in the industry was warning about how bad it was at the time, yet the general press ignored us. The Coalition’s lines went unchallenged, and the voting public took it as fact that Labor’s plan would have been worse. We’re now living with the consequences.

It reminds me of my dad talking about how grumpy he’d get reading about his industry in the media, and how many details they routinely got wrong. His lightbulb moment was realising that if they could get his industry wrong, do they ever get anything right? I don’t think it’s as bleak as that, though this NBN coverage—or lack thereof—has been illustrative in how the press handles technical issues their financial backers want buried. If I’ve seen it play out in my own niche, where else is it happening?

About all I took exception with in the original article was Jeremy’s chariterisation:

Rare is the meaningful difference between Australia’s two major political parties

They really are more meaningfully different than people think, though the same media that buried the NBN would have us believe they’re the same. As the case with the NBN, we can’t let them get away with that.

Friedrich Nietzsche on purpose

From Ecce Homo, 1888:

My time has not yet come either; some are born posthumously.

Trying OpenZFS 2 on FreeBSD 12.2-RELEASE

OpenZFS 2 is a huge achievement, and makes me bullish about the long term prospects for the world’s most trustworthy and nicest to use storage system. You can even use try it today on FreeBSD 12.2-RELEASE, though I recommend tracking -CURRENT for these sorts of features.

The rule of thumb for packages with drivers or kernel extensions is to see when they were built. IIRC at the time of writing the current openzfs and openzfs-kmod packages were built for 12.1-RELEASE, so you won’t be able to boot with them with 12.2. But they’re easy to install from ports.

First make sure you have base source for your release:

# svnlite checkout /usr/src 

Then download the latest ports tree, either with portsnap or subversion:

# svnlite checkout /usr/ports

You can build the ports with the usual make install clean, but I still use portmaster(8) after all these years:

# portmaster sysutils/openzfs
# portmaster sysutils/openzfs-kmod

Now enable, assuming this has been set to YES:

# sed -i '.backup' 's/zfs_enable/openzfs_enable/' '/boot/loader.conf'

Then update your path to use the new userland tools in /usr/local/sbin, and reboot. You may need to reimport your pools created with these tools each reboot, or use this rc.d script that PMc raised in the FreeBSD forums. That caught me out the first time.

The only other caveats are to be careful when trying new features if you intend to share pools with other -RELEASE machines. ZFS does a good job with backwards compatibility, but older versions won’t recognise an encrypted OpenZFS pool, for example. 12.2-R also doesn’t support encrypted zroot boot volumes. By reading this post you acknowledge this responsibility!

Refer to the OpenZFS website and FreeBSD Handbook for more information about the process, and for the canonical documentation.