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Updating Apple Support Communities

I saw this message in lieu of an Apple Support Communities page. It looks sharp on a Retina screen here because its scaled 50%; the original graphic was stretched like it was living in 2009. Also note the skeuomorphic paper, a term likely 90% of tech pundits didn’t know prior to iOS 7.

We'll be back. We are busy updating Apple Support Communities for you and will be back shortly.

Maybe this graphic is one of the things Apple is busy updating.

Option wishlist for shell software

This is my fantasy manpage for features every *nix shell program should support. I know steering open source software developers is akin to hearding cats, but I think these are reasonable.

RUBENBSD(1)    Rubenerd Commands Manual    RUBENBSD(1)
    cmd - a placeholder for any *nix shell software.  
    cmd [--cowsay] [--debug] [--help] [--verbose]  
    This is Ruben Schade's wishlist for options that 
    all shell software should implement. If an option 
    clashes with an existing invocation, these options
    must take precedence.   
        Pipe output to everyone's favourite acme 
        package since xeyes and fortune.
        Print what your program is doing, in detail.
        Print an option summary. 
        Print what your program is doing.
RUBENBSD(1)    Rubenerd Commands Manual    RUBENBSD(1)

Actually, that’s about it. I still like you if you don’t implement verbosity options, but you’re off the Christmas card list.

RHEL also deprecating btrfs

Speaking of the latest Red Hat Release Notes, here’s a decision that’s a relief rather than a point of sadness:

The Btrfs (B-Tree) file system is available as a Technology Preview in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.4 introduced the last planned update to this feature. Btrfs has been deprecated, which means Red Hat will not be moving Btrfs to a fully supported feature and it will be removed in a future major release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Canonical already sought legal advice to permit their use of CDDL-licenced ZFS in their Ubuntu distribution; I wonder if Red Hat will attempt something similar in the future?

Given many of the XFS maintainers now work at Red Hat, it seems likely they’ll keep using that instead; perhaps even extend it. The performance is fantastic, but for data integrity ZFS is still without peer. Including, sadly, Apple’s new APFS.

Red Hat deprecating KDE, with reminiscing

The IT world has been consumed with thoughts around this proposed IBM Red Hat buyout. But buried towards the end of the release notes for 7.6 of Red Hat Enterprise Linux was this bullet point:

KDE Plasma Workspaces (KDE), which has been provided as an alternative to the default GNOME desktop environment has been deprecated. A future major release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux will no longer support using KDE instead of the default GNOME desktop environment.

This feels like the end of an era as well. Red Hat was my first foray into Unix-like operating systems; I bought the carton from Challenger in the late Funan Centre in Singapore, brought it home, and installed it off its many CD-ROMs alongside Windows. I suspect plenty of you have a similar story.

What I haven’t ever really mentioned in my repeated reminiscing on this was my choice of desktop environment. Even in the late 1990s one could choose between the default Gnome environment and KDE. The first time I installed both to try, but quickly chose KDE. I didn’t know about the Qt/GTK split, or licencing backstory, I just thought KDE was more feature complete, attractive, and cohesive.

That carried through to my switch to desktop FreeBSD, until I jumped entirely to Xfce after using Cobind, a desktop that itself was based on Red Hat after the split to form Fedora and RHEL.

Screenshot showing the Bluecurve theme configuration on Red Hat Linux 8.

Ah Saber, you lent me strength through some troubling years! But I digress.

This discussion of desktop environments leads us to the Bluecurve controversy, pictured above. Red Hat in the early 2000s tried to unify desktop environments, window manager themes, and toolkits with a UI that almost matched. It was an enviable goal, but the execution left KDE fans like me with a feeling they were just trying make it look like Gnome. Later releases did a better job at integration, such that a layperson couldn’t immediately tell amaroK or Konqueror weren’t GTK+ applications. But those early days were rough, and foreshadowed Red Hat’s actions to come.

Anyway my point is Red Hat has a long history with KDE, and it was an important pairing in my own *nix journey. Despite feeling as though it didn’t get the prime billing or attention lavished on Gnome, the Red Hat developers still did a great job providing KDE; even if SuSE offered a better KDE-first distro.

I can understand why they’ve done this, but I’m still a bit sad.

Rubenerd Vacancy Pile Index

Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s two largets cities, have ridiculous housing prices. There’s an irony to a country as vast and underpopulated as Australia having two cities that are among the least affordable in the world.

It manifests in a few ways. Fewer people under the age of thirty own their own house than at any point before World War II. Dwellings that were routingly three to four times the annual wage are now ten to fifteen. The sociological fallout from this will be felt for decades.

And then you have what I consider the biggest visual tell beyond the number of cranes that dot Australian city skylines. No, not that Cities Skylines, though I need to get around to playing that again. I’m going to call it the Rubenerd Housing Pile Index, or the number of illegally-dumped refuse piles outside newly vacant houses.

With rent being as high as it is, people are constantly moving to save money or under threat of increases. Such a transient population does not nuture a sense of community; why take pride in your neighbourhood or get to know people if you won’t be there in a year?

North Sydney currently has a three on the Rubenerd Housing Pile Index. The council is pretty efficient at clearing it all out quickly, rendering that number that much more impressive. Mascot easily had double digits when I lived there in 2015.

The world’s worst minivan

Play Here's Why the Mercedes Metris is the Worst Minivan Ever Made

I have no use for, desire to buy, or interest, in minivans. Or at least, I thought so until my binge-watching of Doug DeMuro’s channel lead me to this video of the Mercedes-Benz Metris, sold in Australia and Singapore as the Vino, or Vito, or something. I should probably check.

It’s the perfect case study into a company not listening to the market, especially in light of vastly better alternatives. It’s comically awful, and yet, I couldn’t stop watching. Compare and contrast to Doug’s review of the Honda Odyssey Minivan, with adjustable and fold down seats that are an engineering work of art.

Rubenerd Show 385: The Jeffersonian Keynsham episode

Rubenerd Show 385

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

31:36 – An homage to The Overnightscape episode Mother’s New Mineral Dream. Talking about white walls everywhere in new buildings, 1970s era shopping malls, struggles with junk, Staten Island, and personally generated media. Because you can’t take it with you. Cover art of the Metropolitan Museum of Art taken from Clara's and my trip to NYC in 2016.

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

Released December 2018 on The Overnightscape Underground, an Internet talk radio channel focusing on a freeform monologue style, with diverse and fascinating hosts.

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

If you want encryption, you support…

Last week I commented on the Australian government’s proposed draconian encryption backdoors. The agencies tasked with soliciting industry feedback should return a single comment: break encryption, and you’ll break the economy, to say nothing of civil liberties.

Faced with irritating things like mathematical certainty, facts, and a reluctant opposition party, what is a politician to do? It’s so laughably predictable I feel it’s an insult to your intelligence even quoting it. As Siobhan Kenna reported:

[Finance minster Mathias] Cormann told Sky News on Sunday that Labor is deliberately playing games with the proposed laws, which aim to give Australian security and police agencies the power to access encrypted communications on services like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Viber.

Oh, but it gets much better.

“To think that Labor would want terrorists to able to communicate with each other… I think that Labor are using excuses.”

This is gutter politics emblematic of desperation. When you’re terminal in the polls, whip up unjustified fear and anger.

Apple T2 webcam security

Apple’s T2 Security Chip Security Overview notes on their T2 security chip had this pragmatic gem that made me smile:

All Mac portables with the Apple T2 Security Chip feature a hardware disconnect that ensures that the microphone is disabled whenever the lid is closed. This disconnect is implemented in hardware alone, and therefore prevents any software, even with root or kernel privileges in macOS, and even the software on the T2 chip, from engaging the microphone when the lid is closed. (The camera is not disconnected in hardware because its field of view is completely obstructed with the lid closed.)