Openrsync: A BSD-licenced rsync

Kristaps Dzonsons has developed a clean-room implementation of rsync, based on The rsync Algorithm by Andrew Tridgell and Paul Mackerras. It’s licensed under BSD/ISC, and leverages OpenBSD’s native pledge and unveil security systems.

I predominantly use FreeBSD, so I was encouraged by the portability section of the README:

This is possible (I think?) with FreeBSD’s Capsicum, but Linux’s security facilities are a mess, and will take an expert hand to properly secure.

I’m looking forward to someone smarter than me figuring out how this would work on FreeBSD; one fewer GPL package is always a good thing. rsync isn’t just a nice thing to have, it makes my work and personal projects possible.

This is the cvs tree, and here’s its page on GitHub.

Do parliaments need a separate executive?

Don’t ever read the comments. But if you do, this one by Lazarus on a recent news article made me think:

Under our system, the executive is formed by a party representing ‘control’ of the lower house. That ‘control’ is only achieved through the system of whips and party patronage. The executive is not only formed by these group[s], but formed from this group, hence putting their constituent representative obligations, potentially at odds with their executive solidarity obligations.

Perhaps a separation of legislative and executive branches may be seen as a more important focus in the design of a future (and inevitable) Republic of Australia….rather than the relatively simple issue of replacing the Queen with a home grown Head of State.

They raise an interesting point. Prime Ministers in Westminster-style systems like Australia, Canada, and the UK are selected from elected members of the lower house by convention, or the unicameral house in the case of Singapore. Mmm, unicaramel. 🍫

I long thought this was a great idea; you can’t vote for a leader out of the blue with no political experience. But it does present potential conflict of interest; what might be good for the state, like a nuclear power station, may be seen as negative if built in their seat.

I’m not sure to what extent that has informed past decisions by PMs, but it’s an intriguing possibility. And it’s the first time I’ve been convinced a separate executive branch makes sense, as France and the United States have.

For my American readers, Nancy Pelosi would be the equivalent to a Prime Minister, as she was selected by the Democrats who have control of your lower house. It works for us because our actual executive is a Queen who, by convention, doesn’t interfere in politics. Well, almost.

Posting regularity

Probably the worst kept secret of this blog is I often write posts in bulk, then post them over the following week. I love writing, but I prefer to post once or twice a day instead of twenty times on a given Saturday. My current job also absorbs my mental capacity and time during the week.

This approach does come at a cost to timeliness, but people aren’t reading this site hoping to get scoops or minute-by-minute analysis. Unless you’re a turtle, in which case can I say your shell looks rather fabulous today. 🐢

Long-term bloggers, what’s your trick to keeping posts regular? Or is this an artificial problem, and I should just blurt out stuff in bulk when I feel like it? What’s your electronic fibre? I could have thought of a less awful metaphor there.

Lazy Sunday, anime figs, missing email

This coffee shop just started playing a Rachael Yamagata song. There’s a name and tune I haven’t heard in a while; her stuff is great.

Happy Sunday! Clara and I were involved in a house move, while we were both sick. I had a compromised immune system, picked up something, so naturally she got it too. I feel as though we need a solid week just to recover, but I’ll take a lazy Sunday :).

We’ve got the furniture where we need, today’s pressing task is unpacking anime figs. We both sold more than half of our collections to save space, including some that perhaps had less clothing on than would be permitted in polite company. Ah anime. But it’s still too many. Anyone in Chatswood want a Yoko Bunny fig?

Yoko from Gurren Lagann in her new bunny attire

I’ve also just realised that my new spam filter has been far more zealous than I thought, and caught dozens of legitimate comments and messages over the last month or so. I’ll hopefully get around to replying to everyone in the coming days.

Stack Overflow survey 2019

Stack Overflow are doing their developer survey again. I only wrote down some of my responses, and not which section they appeared in (whoops). I’ve arranged them into what I think makes sense.

Multiple choice: development

  • Which of the following options best describes you today? I am not primarily a developer, but I write code sometimes as part of my work.

  • Do you code as a hobby? Yes.

  • How often do you contribute to open source? Less than once a month but more than once per year.

  • How do you feel about the quality of open source software (OSS)? The quality of OSS and closed source software is about the same.

  • What is your favorite music artist or genre that helps you focus? Michael Franks, and the former Whole Wheat Radio catalogue.

  • What is the worst new dev technology everyone currently uses? Electron They didn’t ask this, but they should have. –ed

Multiple choice: work

  • What was your main or most important field of study? Information systems, information technology, or system administration

  • What are your greatest challenges to productivity as a developer?: Not enough people for the workload, and Non-work commitments. Though describing life outside of work as a challenge to productivity seems to bely a misunderstanding of life-work balance. –ed

  • Where would you prefer to work? Other place, such as a coworking space or cafe

  • Think back to the last time you updated your resumé, CV, or an online profile on a job site. What is the PRIMARY reason that you did so? I had a negative experience or interaction at work.

Multiple choice: platforms

  • What is the primary operating system in which you work? BSD.

  • How do you use containers (Docker, Open Container Initiative (OCI), etc.)? Testing, and Outside of work, for personal projects. I wish I could have said FreeBSD Jails; 2018 was a turning point for my use of them. –ed

  • How is your organization thinking about or implementing blockchain technology? Not at all.

  • Blockchain / cryptocurrency technology is primarily: An irresponsible use of resources.

Multiple choice: grab bag

  • Do you think people born today will have a better life than their parents? Yes. But what a loaded question! This could easily fill dozens of blog posts. –ed

  • What individual person do you think will have the most influence in tech in the coming year? Giovanni Buttarelli. The EU Privacy Commissioner. –ed

  • Are you the “IT support person” for your family? Also Yes. You’re doing yourself a great disservice if you haven’t seen Archer. –ed

  • Have you tried turning it off and on again? Yes.

  • What social media site do you use the most? LINE.

  • Do you prefer online chat or IRL conversations? In real life (in person). Though I prefer neither when I need introvert time. –ed

  • What do you call it? Username

Tech we use

These questions asked what we used last year, and what we want to use next year; the latter for me was a superset of the former so I de-duped. Items in blue had to be manually specified.


Worked in: Bash/Shell, HTML/CSS, Perl, Ruby, SQL
Want to: Rust


Worked in: HBase, MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite
Want to: Percona.


Worked in: AWS, Docker, FreeBSD, Linux, NetBSD, OrionVM, Raspberry Pi.

Web frameworks

Worked in: Ruby on Rails
Want to: Catalyst.

Development environments

Worked in: Vim, nvi.


Worked in: Ansible, Puppet.

StackOverflow feedback

These were text fields.

  • Why haven’t you ever contributed a Q&A to Stack Overflow? Corrosive community and “why?” answers, though I’ve posted on other Stack Exchange sites.

  • If you could change anything about Stack Overflow, what would it be? Friendlier, less dimissive admins and users, fewer automatically-closed questions.

  • Thank you for taking the survey. Do you have any feedback or thoughts you’d like to share? Have Perl for languages, and FreeBSD Jails as a container option.

Firefox disabling auto-playing video

Chris Pearce reported the news in Mozilla Hacks:

Starting with the release of Firefox 66 for desktop and Firefox for Android, Firefox will block audible audio and video by default. We only allow a site to play audio or video aloud via the HTMLMediaElement API once a web page has had user interaction to initiate the audio, such as the user clicking on a “play” button.

This is great news, and a victory for web sanity!

NoScript has had this feature since the beginning, and was the first extension to allow blocking HTML5’s video and audio elements. If this is too blunt an instrument, you can also set media.autoplay.default=1 in about:config in the meantime.

A Twitterati asking me about this lead me to realise what’s obvious or frustrating to me may not be to everyone. Some of us find autoplaying videos frustrating because they’re unexpected, not user-initiated, and compete with other media we’re playing. Until recently they were also notoriously difficult to track down if you had dozens of tabs open; at least now Firefox shows which tabs have playing audio. It’s about returning user control.

Fixed podcast descriptions in iTunes

If you view my podcast episodes in iTunes now, you see this:

26:45 – Light through leaves at night, life-work balance, …

Rather than:

Podcast: Play in new window | Download 26:45 – Light through …

I added an extra auto-generated episode field in Hugo for the RSS summaries, rather than stripping the HTML. Overcast pulls information from the iTunes namespace fields as well, so this should work better.

Thanks for listening :).


qemu HAXM on NetBSD

Kamil Rytarowski has posted his success getting Intel’s HAXM running on NetBSD, with an impressive list of guest OSs. I have to post this screenshot for his impressive Paint fu:

NetBSD HAXM running Windows 7

Anyone who rocks the KornShell is awesome in my book, too.

Goodbye, AT&T data centres

A white Range Rover Evoque

I saw this fly by my inbox this morning:

AT&T no longer operates the colocation services. Evoque is now responsible for the operations at the data center. Evoque will deliver the services listed below to the transferred colocation customers:

  • Raised floor, space, cages, racks, and similar components.
  • HVAC and other environmental controls
  • Power
  • Remote Hands
  • Cross-Connects
  • Data Center access control and physical security

Pictured above is a Range Rover Evoque by M 93 on Wikimedia Commons, that presumably isn’t what AT&T sold to, hence its inclusion here is entirely pointless.

Churning to Superloop

Our Australian home internet finally churned from SkyMesh to Bevan Slattery’s Superloop that bought the former last year. I got this message:

Hi Ruben, your service transition to Superloop is now complete. You may experience 10-20 minutes of downtime. If you experience any ongoing downtime, please power cycle your router and then contact our support team on $REDACTED. Thank you.

Our connection was down for hours, though that was certainly the fault of NBNco. As promised, our existing PPPoE creds still worked.

With this complete, we have a week before we move. We’ve been tentatively told our new apartment has FTTB that should be compatible with their service; hopefully it’s true. Australian internet is such a crapshoot.

We were extraordinarily lucky that FTTN worked well for us here; the antiquated, high-voltage Malcolm Turnbull box was right outside our complex, and evening speeds were never too much of an issue. That said, Superloop has already been noticeably faster.

Update, 12th February: We moved house, and have now been waiting six days for them to transfer to our new address. Multiple days between support tickets and updates. Not impressed.