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Michael Franks, The Music in My Head

Album cover

Michael Franks released his eighteenth album in June, on his forty-fifth year as the greatest singer/songwriter! I’m downloading it now, and in the meantime I’ve created the Wikipedia page.

I blogged about his last album Time Together in 2011, and explained why I love his music:

Michael Franks has been my favourite singer/songwriter since before I could walk; my beautiful late mum passed on her enthusiasm of his offbeat, interesting and just a little cheeky lyrics and unmistakable smooth jazz sounds. This will be the first of his albums we won’t be sharing together, though I’d like to think she approves that I’m carrying on the family tradition :”).

This will be the second, but the sentiment is the same. ♡

I’ll save my review until I’ve had a chance to listen through, but in the meantime you should absolutely buy it:


Banning SF corporate cafeterias

Market Strret in San Francisco

Nellie Bowles wrote this for the New York Times:

Two San Francisco supervisors introduced an ordinance last week that would forbid employee cafeterias in new corporate construction. It is not clear whether the measure will pass, but it is a direct attack on one of the modern tech industry’s most entrenched traditions.

It’s an interesting thought experiment, and naturally garnered all the usual slippery-slope Slashdot sarcasm such as being forced to buy shoes from local cobblers next, that people love Big Government,™ that they’ll be dictating what we eat next, and it sounds like a liberal paradise. Try to guess which of those I concocted.

Back on Earth, my experience working in the Financial District of San Francisco for a couple of months mirrored working in the Sydney CBD. There just aren’t many affordable places to buy lunch around where people work.

I leave offices for fresh air and exercise at lunch, but it stands to reason that people with access to company cafeterias would use them; it just makes financial sense. Ditto these other perks:

The corporate campuses of the Bay Area’s technology companies have become independent fiefs with dry cleaning, gyms, doctors, shuttle buses and bountiful free meals, made by the best chefs poached from the region’s famous restaurants.

But therein lies the rub. Maybe if people were paid more in lieu of company perks, employees could buy food from local restaurants. Or would that drive up prices? Either way, that doesn’t sell employment or create cliché movies about tech startups being so hip you can’t see over your pelvis. Douglas Adams, we need your wisdom now more than ever.

“These tech companies have decided to leave their suburban campuses because their employees want to be in the city [..]

Agreed; a day wandering around San Jose and surrounds was enough to convince me I wouldn’t want to work there. Maybe Mountain View.

[..] and yet the irony is, they come to the city and are creating isolated, walled-off campuses,” said Aaron Peskin, a city supervisor who is co-sponsoring the bill with Ahsha Safaí. “This is not against these folks, it’s for them. It’s to integrate them into the community.”

This is a completely reasonable take. But maybe the ticket is to address pay; for everyone, not just techbros.

As for which of the Slashdot comments I made up, it was the one saying they’ll be dictating what we eat next. Though now someone has actually made that comment, so I stand corrected. Maybe I should have equated it to guns, or some other libertarian phallus.


Wildcard and DNS Let’s Encrypt certificates

I migrated as many services I maintain to Let’s Encrypt as soon as it was humanly possible. The entire toolchain and ease of use is enough for me to encourage its adoption; the fact they’re free is a happy bonus.

(I donate, so I suppose they’re technically not free for me. But the point stands!)

The only sites I hadn’t done yet were ones that needed wildcard certificates, though Let’s Encrypt implemented support in January this year. So I thought I’d try them out, and also they’re long-since implemented DNS verification:

# /opt/bin/certbot-auto                                 \
--server https://acme-v02.api.letsencrypt.org/directory \
--manual                                                \
--preferred-challenges dns                              \
-d *.example.com *.snrub-domain.example.com

Then waited and:

usage: 
certbot-auto [SUBCOMMAND] [options] [-d DOMAIN] [-d DOMAIN]    

Whoops, I always forget that each domain needs its own -d. Let’s try again.

Please deploy a DNS TXT record under the name
_acme-challenge.example.com with the following value:  
       
theBIRDisTHEwordBLAHblahBLAHgibberish123456  
      
Before continuing, verify the record is deployed.  
  
Press Enter to Continue

Done and done. Then hit Return:

Waiting for verification...
Cleaning up challenges  
      
IMPORTANT NOTES:
- Congratulations! Your certificate and chain have been saved at:
  /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/fullchain.pem
  Your key file has been saved at:
  /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/privkey.pem
  Your cert will expire on [DATE]. To obtain a new or tweaked
  version of this certificate in the future, simply run certbot-auto
  again. To non-interactively renew *all* of your certificates, run
  "certbot-auto renew"
- If you like Certbot, please consider supporting our work by:
  Donating to ISRG / Let's Encrypt:   https://letsencrypt.org/donate
  Donating to EFF:                    https://eff.org/donate-le

In the words of the person who first said it: too easy!


Favourite Character Bingo, via @Dekopatchi

Happy Sunday, especially to @Dekopatchi for cluing me into the most fun Twitter meme in ages! Hers is also the closest I’ve come to winning, including Homuhomu and Rikka who didn’t make my cut here by the narrowest of margins (damn it!).

If anyone wins mine, let me know :). I shuffled each character programmatically to remove any pretence of favouritism. Except then I put Ami and Yuki back towards the top, and Chitanda had to be centred.

A grid of far too many waifus


When I got stuck in my own bathroom

There are certain life events that, despite differences in our backgrounds or world views, we can all come together and recognise as being truly horrifying. I had one such experience this afternoon while attemoting to extricate myself from the bathroom in our studio apartment.

Picture the scene: I had been working from home that morning, and needed to make use of the lavatorial facilities. Upon attempting to leave the room where this was located, I turned the handle and pushed on the only door leading out of the room, like a gentleman. I’d done this hundreds of times since moving here last year.

Nothing happened.

I turned it again, and gave the door a slightly firmer shove. Still nothing. Firmer still. Nothing.

I began fiddling with the door handle’s locking pin. You push it in to lock the door, and pull it out to unlock. Neither orientation resulted in an open door. Maybe I was doing it wrong. No, a few more pin position adjustments made no difference.

Video proof on Vimeo

My mind began to race. What if I couldn’t get the door open? What if I needed to call a locksmith? How would a locksmith even get to me, given even the front door has a deadbolt? Could Clara come back from work and try and open from the other side? What if the door couldn’t be opened from the other side either!?

There was a peverse irony in not only being stuck behind a door, but the only internal door in the entire studio apartment. Thanks to one dodgy handle barrel, 100% of the doors between rooms in this rental property were rendered entirely inoperable. I cackled between fits of nervousness.

I contemplated some dangerous courses of action. A tiny window to the outside world afforded me an escape route, but it was two floors up. There was a balcony a metre away to my right, but it would be a precarious feat of gymnastics to contort my 180cm self through the tiny opening and leap to that balcony. Images of my twisted body on the wet pavement below flashed before my eyes. In the immortal words of Australian English: yeah, nah.

So I resorted to a more brute force course of action: kicking the damned door down with my powerful, quivvering leg muscles. I may otherwise be a dweeby nerd, but I walk and jog and run, and damn it if I couldn’t kick someones arse literally if they came between me and a coffee, for example. Or, you, know, a recalcitrant bathroom door!

But fate was a cruel mistress. The studio apartment bathroom did not afford me sufficient clearance between the sink and the door to even stretch my legs out far enough to get a decent kick going. It was almost as though the door knew this; standing there all proud and smug with its paint and handle. Unhinged arsehole.

Seemingly without any further options, I began fiddling with the door handle. Part of me kept screaming to stop, at the risk of breaking it further. But maybe I could break it so badly, it falls apart and opens… right?

The handle was only designed to move 45 degrees south; don’t ask me what that is in fahrenheit. 300 furlongs? But I managed to gradually work it down to 90 degrees, pointing right down to the tiled floor, then back up again. I was a time traveller, going from 03:00 to 06:00 and back like an absolute madman, mua ha ha HA HAAARRRRGGHHHH!!!!

With each tortured grind I could hear metal scraping, like that infamous Sydney Trains bend between Waverton and Woolstonecraft. They should get in touch with my dad, he made special greases for freight trains that reduced that noise and wear.

Until finally, twenty minutes in my ordeal, I heard a ping! The handle lost all interest in my advances and became flacid. I could have phrased that better. Still, the door didn’t budge.

So I twiddled with that locking pin again. I turned it counter-clockwise, until it started coming out of the handle mechanism. It seemed much looser than before. Eventually I pulled it out, and noted the threaded portion was bent. The edges were also sharp and shiny, indicating something had snapped.

I laughed at my prediciment; if it was somewhat broken before, it surely was busted beyond repair now! I’d better start preparing my will, which I’d have to write with shampoo on toilet paper and slide under that door.

I turned the handle. And… and… and… I sneezed. So I turned the handle again.

The door swung open.


Lots of typos, even for me

Hey, how are you? I’m doing pretty well, getting ready to die my hair. That’s not true, but this dye exposes a limitation of spell checkers.

This blog has had a ridiculous number of spelling, grammatical, and content errors lately, even by my standards. Take the last line on my Pentax K-1 post:

While the world eagerly chases the new Sony full frame mirrorless cameras, I reckon a full frame Pentax with a small prime or pancake would .

Would what? Cause an electrical short? Don’t leave me hanging like this!

Here’s another, from my Queen Mary Long Beach post:

Her conversion into a hotel and convention centre had meant her steam boiler rooms and some of her other amenities were sadly scrapped, but if ensured her long term viability as a floating attraction and museum, I could with that.

There are three primary reasons for this.

  1. Jetlang. That was a typo for jetlag, but it sounds like an awesome flash-in-the-pan hipster programming language, so I’m keeping it.

  2. The Ruben Factor™ which ensures typos regardless of spell checking and proof reading.

  3. Sync issues arising from my creaky rsync/sshfs setup that sits under my version controlled repo for the site, resulting in typos and missing content clobbering fixes I’d already made. I should always commit everything and pull on different machines, rather than getting lazy.

Here at Rubenerd we strive for professsionalismn.


Cancelling your Australian My Health Record

My Health Record icon

There are many articles about people opting-out of the onerous, soon to be enabled by default My Health Record system, but few talking about the process of cancelling.

I must have registered in the past in a bout of poor judgement. If you’re in the same boat, you can cancel by logging into My Health Record via MyGov, choosing the Profile and Settings tab, and clicking Profile.

At the bottom of the page, you get this:

How do I cancel my registration in the My Health Record system?

You can choose to cancel your My Health Record at any time. If you choose to do this, healthcare providers involved in your care will no longer be able to access and upload information to your My Health Record and your information will no longer be available in a medical emergency.

The System Operator is required to retain the information in your My Health Record and will only use or disclose this information if authorised by law. Documents in a cancelled My Health Record will continue to be held in the My Health Record system but will not be available for viewing by anyone. Documents passed on to Healthcare Provider Organisations will continue to be held by them in accordance with the organisation’s rules and practices.

You can choose to register again at any time.

I didn’t have any records in it, fortunately. When you click Cancel My Health Record you’ll get a popup:

Cancel registration with the My Health Record system RUBEN SCHADE

You are about to cancel your registration with the My Health Record system. Cancelling your registration will result in Healthcare Provider Organisations not being able to view or add information to your My Health Record.

Documents in a cancelled My Health Record will continue to be held in the My Health Record system but will not be available for viewing by anyone. Documents passed on to Healthcare Provider Organisations will continue to be held by them in accordance with the organisation’s rules and practices.

You will be able to restore your record by re-registering. Re-registration will allow you to access your My Health Record, including documents and information included in the record at the time of cancellation. When a record is re-registered, your Provider Access List and document access settings will be the same as at the time of cancellation. All other notification settings and access settings will return to default.

Select the checkbox to cancel your registration from the My Health Record system

When you submit, you’ll eventually get another popup:

What would you like to do?

Please select one of the following options:
Create a My Health Record for myself
Create or Access a child’s My Health Record
Enter a code to access someone else’s My Health Record
I don’t want to proceed. Take me back to myGov

I guess that means I’ve opted out?


The Android EU decision

Flag of the European Union

Alioth on Slashdot nailed it:

Google aren’t merely offering their services, they are attaching exactly the same strings that Microsoft used to attach. Microsoft used to say: if you want to ship Windows, you may only ship Windows on all of the PCs you sell. If you ship one with OS/2 or Linux on, then the deal is off.

Google are doing the same thing. If you want to ship phones with Android and Google Play (which is increasingly necessary for many apps to just work), then all your phones must ship with this, and none with a competitive operating system or environment.

This is the monopoly abuse they are being punished for. They are not being punished for making good apps, they are being punished for using their dominant position (which on the lower end is 100% dominance) to prevent competition from even getting going.

It makes me think if the 1990s Microsoft exited today, whether the US or EU would be going after them.


The Pentax K-1 Mark II, and their pancakes

Speaking of cameras, I completely missed that Pentax released a revision to their first full frame SLR, and it looks awesome.

Pentax surprised the world in 2016 with its first full frame digital SLR. It was a long time coming; Nikon and Canon had boat-anchors for years. I also felt for the engineers and staff working at Pentax; the company has been traded around so much, I can’t imagine the stress they were under. But here they are again, and what they have is compelling.

Reviewers praised it at the time for having similar specs to the equivalents by those other manufactures, but for much less. Given how much second-hand glass the K mount system has on eBay, this could be a fantastic way to get into full frame SLR photography.

The most interesting feature to me was replacing the popup flash with a GPS unit. Reviewers were dismissive to angry about about this, but given I never use the former, and wish my camera had the latter, it’d be perfect for me!

There’s also something nostalgic about its styling, the sharper angles above the pentaprism, and the shape of its grip harken back to film cameras a bit. I’d put it far ahead of Canon’s derpy-shaped full frames, and even a hair ahead of Nikon’s more restrained design.

I belabour all this because I seriously entertained the idea of replacing my Nikon SLR with a Pentax, before going down the Olympus mirrorless route. Pentax always had excellent smaller primes and pancakes, and I wanted a camera that would be flat enough to carry in a laptop backpack without jabbing me in the back.

You can use any K-Mount glass with the Pentax K-1, but ideally you’d want to use FA or D-FA lenses to avoid aberrations or having to use crop modes. Like the delightfully svelte SMC FA 43mm f/1.9 Limited:

SMC FA 43mm f/1.9 Limited

While the world eagerly chases the new Sony full frame mirrorless cameras, I reckon a full frame Pentax with a small prime or pancake would be compelling.


Visiting the RMS Queen Mary

This post was largely written from Los Angeles, but was posted once back in Sydney where I could download the accompanying photographic photos. As opposed to a non-photographic photo, whatever that would be.

There are three main forms of passenger conveyance I’ve wanted to see since pouring over design and engineering books as a kid: Concorde, the RMS Queen Mary, and the Boeing Dash 80. Clara and I saw Concorde in New York in 2016, and on our trip to Los Angeles we finally got to see the Queen Mary in Long Beach!

View of the Queen Mary's superstructure, looking forward

My first time seeing this legendary liner was in Stephen Biesty’s Incredible Cross-Sections book in my primary school library. I was amazed at how engineers armed with sliderules and paper could design, build, and maintain such a vast and complex ship.

Shortly after I got stuck into art deco and ocean liner design in my teens, and collected a mass of black and white photographs of the Queen Mary alongside her running mate the Queen Elizabeth, and her arch-rival Normandie. Around this time Leonardo DiCaprio was saving Kate Winslet with a piece of frigidly-cold wood, so I took an interest in the Titanic, then the Lusitania and Mauretania… I could go on.

Shopping arcade and reception area

But I had a soft spot for the Queen Mary where that obsession began. She was laid down in the early 1930s, during the height of the Great Depression. She was the first ship built for the combined Cunard White Star line, the former of which operated such legendary ships as the Lusitania, and the latter most famously the Titanic. Her design and propulsion systems represented a clear evolution of those earlier ships.

I was so dismayed as a kid to learn almost every ocean liner from that time period had either been scuttled, scrapped, or sunk. The alliteration of their fates did little to assuage my disappointment. Whereas I could still hope to see the Chrysler Building when I grew up, it seemed my only chance to experience these ships was though images and interviews with their former passengers and crew.

View down her boat deck, aft

But then I remembered back to that first picture book that the Queen Mary had been preserved in Long Beach, California! Her conversion into a hotel and convention centre had meant her steam boiler rooms and some of her other amenities were sadly scrapped, but if it ensured her long term viability as a floating attraction and museum, I could live with that. ♡

Her concert hall was stunning

Anyway, I preface this post with that meandering, self-absorbed introduction to hopefully give you a sense of the excitement and joy I had when Clara and I finally took the Metro from Union Station in Los Angeles down to Long Beach to see her! Clara was in town for her Anime Expo, and I was working in San Francisco, so the timing worked out great.

All those years of staring at photos and technical schematics still hadn’t prepared me for the Queen Mary’s sheer size. She towered up from the dock like a skyscraper, and in both directions as far as the eye could see. We caught her in a mid-repainting, but her completed third funnel and hull sections looked fantastic.

I always adored this clock

Inside, we booked a Glory Days tour and was shown around by a delightfully knowledgeable chap through her first class dining halls, stateroom corridors, second class staircase, reception area, bar, and more. We got to see that legendary wall picture with the moving ships to indicate where the Mary and Elizabeth were in the Atlantic, and imagined what it would have been like watching Bing Crosby on that glamorous stage all those years ago.

Me on the bridge

After the tour we checked out her boat decks and wireless room. When we got to the bridge I choked up a bit; in part because I’d always wanted to see this ship since I was a kid, but also at this odd, heavy feeling in the air, like I was right back there in World War II where people’s lives depended on my decisions. It was an overwhelming experience; also hence my awkward expression.

Control area of her engine room

From the top we went right down to her surviving engine room, the part of the ship my engineering side was most excited to see. The dials, pipes, valves, turbines, pumps… they were all absolutely awe inspiring. Photos don’t do them justice.

Then it was off to grab some dinner at one of her restaurants, leading us to stay back late enough to get a shot of her at night. Goodnight Queen Mary, next time we’ll be staying in your hotel!

Goodnight, Queen Mary