My colleague’s MT3 profile board

One of my American colleagues and keyboard afficinados has just built a new keyboard, which I threatened to post here in a fit of jealously. They’re based on MT3 profile keys which look unreasonably comfortable, especially when compared to the piece of junk Apple keyboards we all use on the go.

Note the modern vintage typeography, and Filco handrest. This gentleman means business.


Dropbox isn’t case-sensitive

I’m slowly weaning myself off Dropbox dependencies in favour of self-hosting and going back to basics, but in the interim I learned something. As far as I can tell, Dropbox isn’t case-sensitive. You probably all knew that already, but it’s news to me.

I store work-in-progress copies of blog assets in a Dropbox folder. Everything else sits in encrypted sparsebundles, but this stuff is going to be public anyway, so I don’t bother. Here it is on my home desktop:

$ ls -1
==> Anime
==> Hardware
==> Internet
==> Media
==> Show
==> Software
==> Thoughts

They may seem familiar to those used to my hopelessly inadequate category system! On my other laptop, I have this:

$ ls -1
==> anime
==> hardware
==> internet
==> media
==> show
==> software
==> thoughts

I’ve resynced them a few times, but they still come up as entirely lowercase. I’m not concerned as much as I am intrigued by how this came about.


NetBSD devpubd as a FreeBSD devd equivalent

I was looking for a NetBSD equivilent to devd on FreeBSD to react to disk changes. At work we inject configuration into virtual machines using a separate disk, which can be live ejected and attached.

This mailing list post by Martin Husemann entry from 2012 suggests I should check out devpubd. From the man(8) page:

devpubd - device publish daemon for automatic device node creation … devpubd listens on drvctl(4) for new devices and creates their device nodes using MAKEDEV(8)

Unless anyone can think of something else I should try, I’ll check this out. Also, that desktop background took me back.


Roderick on the Line: Turtles

A quote from one of their recent episodes, Covered in Science:

John: You never see a turtle frown.

Merlin: He doesn’t over-react, he doesn’t under-react. He just turtles.

Media

Music Monday: Uptown Funk

It’s Music Monday time! Each and every Monday, except when I don’t, I post about music. Except in this case it’s clearly not Monday, though fortunately we’re only a day out. Wait, two days out. It’s not so much a Music Monday as it is…

Bruno Mars singing on Uptown Funk:

Say my name, you know who I am;
I’m too hot (hot damn)

G’day Too Hot! HAH! Ah man, that was so good. I feel like if you have to tell people your joke’s good, it’s…

Play Old Movie Stars Dance to Uptown Funk

To save this post from being completely useless, I encourage you to check out this brilliant Nerd Fest UK’s music video of classic movie stars dancing to the song. The last time I danced that well, I…

From the description, they encourage us to donate to the The British Film Institute, The George Eastman Museum and The Film Foundation if we liked it. I did, so I will! I remember when I did a donation drive for Rubenerd and…

Media

Good planning

Keith Sibley discussed the immersed tube construction of the Boston Big Dig for a documentary I was watching. This quote stood out:

It went very predictably. The result of a job looking easy and going well is good planning.

The rest of the project went somewhat less well. But I love the quote; I want to put it on my desk at work.


Little things with Outlook, Apple Mail

Screenshot of my Mac with Outlook reporting 5795 [sic] messages, and Apple Mail showing 3,586.

Outlook 2019 for Mac still doesn’t break up large numbers. Apple Mail does. It’s that attention to detail that makes me wish my work mail and calendars worked on the latter.


Technical reasons may often be insufficient

I’ve been wrestling with this idea in my head for a few months, waiting for a time when I could sufficiently articulate it rather than just stringing a few use cases together. That time has not come to pass, so have the aforementioned anecdotes!

A couple of weeks ago we were working on an authentication system at work, of sorts. The technical solution worked flawlessly, but I half-joked that it’d be far easier for humans if two tokens could be merged into one. This generated a less than enthusiastic response, and a deep discussion on protocols.

Shambles Constant mentioned this on the latest Radio Free Shambles episode on the Overnightscape Underground:

The fact I would probably just have one screen [with this work laptop] unless I were able to hook it up with my home laptop … but I wouldn’t know how that works.

In Japan I accidentally left my Sydney Opal card in my wallet with my ICOCA contactless transit card, but the readers in the Tokyo Metro weren’t confused by it at all and let me through. I joked that my Osaka transit card could be used in Tokyo, but why not my Australian one? And why do the readers in Sydney get confused if my ICOCA and Opal cards are in the same wallet, when the Tokyo Metro can figure it out?

In all these examples, there were completely understandable technical reasons why what this human wanted to do couldn’t be done. But I’m increasingly unsatisfied with that as the lone excuse. My hunch isn’t that the technology can’t do it, it’s often that we haven’t deployed it to do it, or haven’t prioritised it to do it. Those are very different things.

In my early twenties I used to lampoon people for what I deemed were silly things; read the archives here, I’m sure you’ll find examples. But if someone is attempting to do something, or wants to, doesn’t that illustrate a need?

Our computer systems are at least several orders of magnitude more powerful than they were a few short decades ago. It has brought forward tremendous social and societal change, some of which is even positive. But there are some problems that don’t need more tech thrown at them, they need empathy and imagination. Perhaps even laws.

A decade ago I wrote about Om Malik’s comments on Google, but it could just as easily apply to tech decisions at many, if not most, companies.


1993 Computer Chronicles on Spectre

The Computer Chronicles YouTube account has been cross-posting material from the Internet Archive. I’m not sure how kosher that is, but if it exposes more people to this wonderful 1980s-90s programme, I’ll all for it.

Play The Computer Chronicles - Pentium PCs (1993)

I was watching this 1993 episode on Pentiums, with Curt Nichols from Intel. It sent a shiver down my spine.

This parallel processing is combined with a branch prediction unit. That branch prediction unit allows the chip to guess ahead of time what the software is going to do. And it turns out the chip is so smart it guesses correctly about eighty percent of the time, so we get about a twenty-five percent performance speed-up right there.

This may have been one of the first pieces of PR for a feature we learned more than two decades later as being a serious security flaw. I also want his tie.


Opening a Kensington Orbit Trackball

I had reason last week to pour an entire cup of coffee onto my Kensington Orbit Trackball mouse. The Kensington Orbit Trackball mouse is not only the best mouse, with its precise motion and superior ergonomics over touchpads and traditional mouses, its also the only trackball I know of that has a scroll wheel. If you know of another one, you’re too late, I bought this one.

Photo of the mouse with the top shell removed.

I was concerned with the electrical integrity of the aforementioned precision pointing device, so I felt it necessary to open up and clean it. These were the steps:

  1. Unplug the mouse, then take the trackball out, and rotate it onto its back.

  2. Use a smallish torx screwdriver to open the four exposed screws. Then peel back the bottom pad and unscrew the hidden one there.

  3. Rotate the mouse back to its regular position, and lift the top shell off. You’ll have a mouse in a state pictured at the top of this post.

  4. Unscrew the three torx screws from where you removed the trackball, then the two smaller screws from the clear plastic optical housing.

  5. Carefully remove the ribbon cable from the PCB attached to the base of the mouse.

  6. Remove the four screws holding down the PCB to the base plate. You can keep the USB cable attached, and remove it as one piece.

Now you can give your mouse a wash. I used rubbing alcohol, and left it for a few days. Good as new!

NOTE: This would almost certainly void your warranty. Also, be careful. By reading this, you acknowledge that you accept full responsibility for what happens to your mouse.