ACCC’s March quarter 2020 report

There are some interesting stats and graphs in this broadband report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission:

  • There are now 7.1 million National Broadband Network (NBN) connections, a 6.9% increase from last quarter. But only 4.6 million of these are above 50 Mb/s, which isn’t surprising given the legacy technologies being used, and pretty embarrassing by world standards.

  • It’s no contest for providers: Telstra has almost 50% market share, and 84% with TPG and Optus. It’s a stark reminder not to get comfortable in an echo chamber: Aussie Broadband and Superloop must only make a fraction of the remainder.

  • Considering the population difference, New South Wales has fewer connections per capita than Victoria and Queensland. I suspect that’s rural areas being left out as they always are, though my boss says even his family just outside Sydney has only just been connected.

  • The final graph shows that Australian NBN services overtook DSL around March 2018. A far cry from Malcolm Turnbull’s promised faster cheaper sooner rollout, but earlier than I expected.

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu performing Candy Candy live

Play Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - Candy Candy - Chan Chaka Chan Chan @Tokyo

I feel like we all need some more optimistic joy for this week’s Music Monday, my ongoing blog post series where I share music on Mondays.

My friends and I saw Kyary perform live in Sydney a few years ago now. I think it was the second concert Clara and I ever went to together. Her energy, backing dancers, sets, everything was incredible!

Colour ls on NetBSD

I realised using NetBSD in my homelab again just how much I’d come to rely upon colour as a visual cue. -F gets you useful hints like like / for directories and @ for symbolic links. But a week in, I do miss CLICOLOR=1 on FreeBSD.

NetBSD pkgsrc has colorls, which is easy enough to alias:

# pkgin install colorls
# echo alias ls="/usr/pkg/bin/colorls -FG" >> ~/.profile
# echo alias la="/usr/pkg/bin/colorls -aFG" >> ~/.profile

While I’m on the subject, colordiff does the same thing for diff, and colortail works wonders for immediately highlighting errors while tailing logs to troubleshoot.

Encrypted ZFS on NetBSD 9.0, for a FreeBSD guy

I had one of my other HP Microservers brought back from the office last week to help with this working-from-home world we’re in right now. I was going to wipe an old version of Debian Wheezy/Xen and install FreeBSD to mirror my other machines before thinking: why not NetBSD?

For people on Twitter asking why I’d want to, I discussed where I use NetBSD in a post back in December, along with the below wallpaper that’s become a running joke here! Some people were polite when asking, others… weren’t so much. That’s a heavier topic for another post.

But I digress: this in the NetBSD 9.0 release notes that had me most excited:

Updated ZFS. This is the first release with ZFS usable for daily use

This is huge! ZFS is the only file system I trust with data I care about, so to have that confidence along with a familiar and flexible toolchain on NetBSD is too cool. Of course I had to try it.

Setting up encryption

On FreeBSD I use GELI to provide encrypted devices to build my zpools on. I didn’t have experience with doing this on NetBSD, but some reading of their always excellent documentation showed I could use the cryptographic device driver cgd(4), and its cgdconfig(8) interface.

My Microserver had two 4.0 TB SATA drives, wd0 and wd1. So the first step was to create cgd configuration files for these and back them up:

# cgdconfig -g -o /etc/cgd/wd0 aes-xts 256
# cgdconfig -g -o /etc/cgd/wd1 aes-xts 256

Then I needed to set passphrases. You can use the re-enter verification option so you know you’ve typed the passwords correctly.

# cgdconfig -V re-enter cgd0 /dev/wd0
# cgdconfig -V re-enter cgd1 /dev/wd1

Unmounting and mounting them again with my password confirmed they’d been configured correctly:

# cgdconfig -u /dev/cgd0
# cgdconfig -u /dev/cgd1
# cgdconfig cgd0 /dev/wd0
# cgdconfig cgd1 /dev/wd1

Avoiding making puns about jumping into pools

Now I had cgd0 and cgd1, which would broadly correspond to ada0.eli and ada1.eli in FreeBSD with GELI, for example. Which means setting up a basic ZFS pool is as easy as this:

# zpool create tank mirror /dev/cgd0 /dev/cgd1

And sure enough, there it is: an encrypted ZFS pool on NetBSD! How friggen awesome is that!?

# zpool status
  pool: tank
 state: ONLINE
  scan: none requested
        NAME        STATE     READ WRITE CKSUM
        tankaino0   ONLINE       0     0     0
          mirror-0  ONLINE       0     0     0
            cgd0    ONLINE       0     0     0
            cgd1    ONLINE       0     0     0

The next steps will be to research if I can (or should!) do ZFS send/receive with my FreeBSD ZFS boxes, what the performance delta is between them, and what parts of NetBSD are well suited for snapshotting, like my pkgsrc tree.


In production you should create a partition layout with gpt(8) or fdisk(8), and a NetBSD cgd partition first before running the above. This would be equivalent to running gpart on FreeBSD rather just running GELI against a blank disk. It’s good for so many practical reasons to label disks, but also because NetBSD’s cgdconfig can be told to verify drive layouts like disklabels, gpt, etc.

Cryptography is critical to get right, or it’s not worth doing. Read and follow the official documentation, this post should only be treated as the fun proof of concept that it was.

Seinfeld has been to our apartment

Jerry: Yeah, the hot water takes a little while to come on.Jerry: So the best thing to do is to turn it on... do ALL your shopping...Elaine looking bemusedSeinfeld: ... come back and take a shower.

Live video feeds of Tokyo trains

I used to put on videos of fish tanks in the background to keep my mind focused when I was studying all through high school, and later when I started working full time. There’s something about the gentle motion of colour with soft, bubbly sounds that put my mind at ease.

But now I can’t stop watching these live Japanese railway cameras! There are entire channels of them on YouTube; right now I’ve been watching Railway Live Camera from Tōkyō.

This shot was taken Wednesday morning:

Screenshot showing blue and green trains in a large rail yard in Tokyo.

I can’t remember what the train the background is, but the foreground one is for the Tōkyō Metro Tozai line. Clara and I stayed around Kudanshita Station when we went to Tokyo because it was down the road from the Tōkyō University of Technology where AsiaBSDCon was always held. But then we got to exploring, and it became one of our favourite little areas of Tokyo.

It’s funny, Clara and I like the Kansai region way more than Tōkyō, but now I’m feeling nostalgic for there too. I hope the world can shrink again soon, when we’re all ready.

Update: Clara just leaned over my shoulder and told me the green train is the JR Saikyō Line. I think she might be a bigger Japanese train nerd than me.

I’m relieved that...

I was in a bit of a weird mood this afternoon, so decided to make note of various things I’m relived of. Specifically, I’m relieved that:

  • … I don’t sneeze out my ears, or I’d have to apologise to people on both sides.

  • … I don’t have to drink battery acid under the justification that it’s healthy; it tastes and smells revolting.

  • … I’m not racist, then have to make excuses about how some of my best friends are of a certain ethnicity.

  • … a plunger, a bit of filter paper, and a specific kind of powdered bean are all that are necessary to make the world’s best beverage.

  • … spices are still considered healthy, given we can’t eat bread and rice now.

  • … people can be excited for things, even if they’d bore me.

  • … most doors have handles along their edge, to afford us maximum leverage.

  • … bagels only have one hole for filling to fall out of.

  • … I don’t care about matching socks.

  • … I’m not currently stuck in a tree, or underground in a bus covered in concrete or an impermiable slab of stale cheese.

  • … I can be.

Your local cafe is an expensive habit!

Back in February an Australian consumer advocacy site published an article reporting that buying takeaway coffee was an expensive habit, and that you should make it at home. It was the latest in a series of articles in the same vain as smashed avo economics: any discretionary spending that brings you joy is reckless and irresponsible if you can do it at home.

I wrote at the time:

It’s also a false equivalence. You go to (good) cafes for the atmosphere, to say hello, and fresh air from your desk.


Which Australian journalist said we’d be able to save for house deposits if we drank less coffee and ate fewer smashed avo toasts? Curiously, being robbed of both has made a negligible impact on those goals: and Clara and I would know, given how we track every single expense!

For those not on Twitter:

I’ve cut down on my coffee spend since making it at home during lockdown. And I’d gladly spend all of it now for fresh air, a change of scenery, and a chat with nice baristas. Turns out mental health is worth paying for.

COVID is the ultimate externality

I’m relieved the early to mid 2000s flirtation with Ron Paul-style economic libertarianism has withered off the vine, given how many people are now utterly dependent on government assistance to survive COVID. To me this situation is the perfect example of why government intervention is so necessary; people who would have lost their jobs did nothing to deserve their situation, and neither did their bosses who’d have to lay them off to keep their businesses afloat with a shrinking customer base.

(I’m wary of the phrases deserve and intention when discussing economics, as they’re often used to justify why poor people have no money. Systematic abuses, externalities, and lack of social mobility are easy to dismiss if you say poor people are lazy. In this context though, deserve fits).

I take this personally, because I flirted with the idea of libertarianism for a year or so after high school. Frank Nora interviewed Michael Badnarik in 2004, and he was articulate and reasonable. For social causes, centre-lefties like myself have much common ground and cause with libertarians. Their evidence-based approach to drug legalisation, harm minimisation, and women’s reproductive rights is another precious adult voice in the room. The No Agenda podcast’s coverage of full body scanners was the best in independent media. But the simplistic economics don’t add up for me.

The situation has laid bare another economic horseshoe. The idea of everyone only working for the common good in communism sounds as idealistic and impractical as the libertarian view that everyone fending for themselves will best serve society. What we need is equal opportunity, and assistance for people who are on hard times. I don’t think these ideas conflict.

Which leads us to COVID being the ultimate economic externality. It’s impossible to ignore, it affects everyone, and selfish economic interests can’t fix it. The societies that will come out of this the healthiest are those that acknowledge that governments and markets are allies, not foes.

Post-US world on display

Carl Bildt pulled no punches in the Washington Post:

This was the post-American world on display: China assertive and confident. Europe trying to save what can be saved of global cooperation. And the Trump administration mostly outside firing its heavy artillery in all directions, but with limited actual results.

In the end, the United States had to accept that the resolution drafted under E.U. leadership was adopted by consensus. Rarely has the United States been as marginalized at a major diplomatic gathering. A world used to American leadership — for good, according to many, for bad, according to some — had to move on with the urgent issues of fighting the virus.

As someone who considers Americans his friends, all I can do is watch with frustration that Mr Orange’s remaining supporters are making the case for our common foes. I wonder if they’re even aware that they’ve ceded leadership of the free world, or if they even care? I suppose some just want to see world burn.