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The Changelog



Comments on family, technology, and society



Last Build Date: Thu, 07 Sep 2017 02:43:49 +0000

 



Switching to xmonad + Gnome – and ditching a Mac

Thu, 07 Sep 2017 02:43:12 +0000

I have been using XFCE with xmonad for years now. I’m not sure exactly how many, but at least 6 years, if not closer to 10. Today I threw in the towel and switched to Gnome. More recently, at a new job, I was given a Macbook Pro. I wasn’t entirely sure what to think … Continue reading Switching to xmonad + Gnome – and ditching a Mac



The Joy of Exploring: Old Phone Systems, Pizza, and Discovery

Mon, 28 Aug 2017 01:54:34 +0000

This story involves boys pretending to be pizza deliverymen using a working automated Strowger telephone exchange demonstrator on display in a museum, which is very old and is, to my knowledge, the only such working exhibit in the world. (Yes, I have video.) But first, a thought on exploration. There are those that would say … Continue reading The Joy of Exploring: Old Phone Systems, Pizza, and Discovery



The Eclipse

Tue, 22 Aug 2017 15:17:28 +0000

Highway US-81 in northern Kansas and southern Nebraska is normally a pleasant, sleepy sort of drive. It was upgraded to a 4-lane road not too long ago, but as far as 4-lane roads go, its traffic is typically light. For drives from Kansas to South Dakota, it makes a pleasant route. Yesterday was eclipse day. … Continue reading The Eclipse



A new baby and deep smiles

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 00:25:52 +0000

A month ago, we were waiting for our new baby; time seemed to stand still. Now she is here! Martha Goerzen was born recently, and she is doing well and growing! Laura and I have enjoyed moments of cuddling her, watching her stare at our faces, hearing her (hopefully) soft sounds as she falls asleep … Continue reading A new baby and deep smiles



Time, Frozen

Tue, 04 Jul 2017 03:00:30 +0000

We’re expecting a baby any time now. The last few days have had an odd quality of expectation: any time, our family will grow. It makes time seem to freeze, to stand still. We have Jacob, about to start fifth grade and middle school. But here he is, still a sweet and affectionate kid as … Continue reading Time, Frozen



First Experiences with Stretch

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 13:19:37 +0000

I’ve done my first upgrades to Debian stretch at this point. The results have been overall good. On the laptop my kids use, I helped my 10-year-old do it, and it worked flawlessly. On my workstation, I got a kernel panic on boot. Hmm. Unfortunately, my system has to use the nv drivers, which leaves … Continue reading First Experiences with Stretch



Fixing the Problems with Docker Images

Fri, 09 Jun 2017 17:58:46 +0000

I recently wrote about the challenges in securing Docker container contents, and in particular with keeping up-to-date with security patches from all over the Internet. Today I want to fix that. Besides security, there is a second problem: the common way of running things in Docker pretends to provide a traditional POSIX API and environment, … Continue reading Fixing the Problems with Docker Images



Family Spring: A Story in Photos

Tue, 06 Jun 2017 02:32:45 +0000

This has been a spring with times to relax, times to be busy, times of anticipation of a new baby, and times of enjoying our family. Rather than write a lot of words about it, I’m telling the story in photos. To view, click here, then click Show Info in the upper right to see … Continue reading Family Spring: A Story in Photos



Flying with my brothers

Mon, 05 Jun 2017 01:36:45 +0000

Picture one Sunday morning. Three guys are seemingly-randomly walking into a Mennonite church in rural Nebraska. One with long hair and well-maintained clothes from the 70s. Another dressed well enough to be preaching. And the third simply dressed to be comfortable, with short hair showing evidence of having worn a headset for a couple of … Continue reading Flying with my brothers



Is there any way to truly secure Docker container contents?

Sat, 29 Apr 2017 18:41:30 +0000

There is much to like about Docker. Much has been written about it, and about how secure the containerization is. This post isn’t about that. This is about keeping what’s inside each container secure. I believe we have a fundamental problem here. Earlier this month, a study on security vulnerabilities on Docker Hub came out, … Continue reading Is there any way to truly secure Docker container contents?



Parsing the GOP’s Health Insurance Statistics

Tue, 14 Mar 2017 15:35:05 +0000

There has been a lot of noise lately about the GOP health care plan (AHCA) and the differences to the current plan (ACA or Obamacare). A lot of statistics are being misinterpreted. The New York Times has an excellent analysis of some of this. But to pick it apart, I want to highlight a few … Continue reading Parsing the GOP’s Health Insurance Statistics



Silent Data Corruption Is Real

Sat, 11 Mar 2017 21:34:24 +0000

Here’s something you never want to see: ZFS has detected a checksum error: eid: 138 class: checksum host: alexandria time: 2017-01-29 18:08:10-0600 vtype: disk This means there was a data error on the drive. But it’s worse than a typical data error — this is an error that was not detected by the hardware. Unlike … Continue reading Silent Data Corruption Is Real



What is happening to America?

Thu, 26 Jan 2017 04:17:54 +0000

I still remember vividly my first visit to Europe, back in 2010. I had just barely gotten off a plane in Hamburg and on to a bus to Lubeck, and struck up a conversation with a friendly, well-educated German classical musician next to me. We soon started to discuss politics and religion. Over the course … Continue reading What is happening to America?



Singing with Kids

Thu, 22 Dec 2016 01:35:43 +0000

For four years now, we’ve had a tradition: I go up to the attic one night, make a lot of noise, and pretend to be Santa. The boys don’t think Santa is real, but they get a huge kick out of this anyway. The other day, this wound up with me singing a duet with … Continue reading Singing with Kids



Giant Concrete Arrows, Old Maps, and Fascinated Kids

Fri, 09 Dec 2016 03:04:28 +0000

Let me set a scene for you. Two children, ages 7 and 10, are jostling for position. There’s a little pushing and shoving to get the best view. This is pretty typical for siblings this age. But what, you may wonder, are they trying to see? A TV? Video game? No. Jacob and Oliver were … Continue reading Giant Concrete Arrows, Old Maps, and Fascinated Kids



Morning in the Skies

Sat, 12 Nov 2016 19:35:11 +0000

This is morning. Time to fly. Two boys, happy to open the hangar door and get the plane ready. It’s been a year since I passed the FAA exam and became a pilot. Memories like these are my favorite reminders why I did. It is such fun to see people’s faces light up with the … Continue reading Morning in the Skies



Two Boys, An Airplane, Plus Hundreds of Old Computers

Tue, 13 Sep 2016 17:03:42 +0000

“Was there anything you didn’t like about our trip?” Jacob’s answer: “That we had to leave so soon!” That’s always a good sign. When I first heard about the Vintage Computer Festival Midwest, I almost immediately got the notion that I wanted to go. Besides the TRS-80 CoCo II up in my attic, I also … Continue reading Two Boys, An Airplane, Plus Hundreds of Old Computers



Easily Improving Linux Security with Two-Factor Authentication

Tue, 09 Aug 2016 22:23:35 +0000

2-Factor Authentication (2FA) is a simple way to help improve the security of your systems. It restricts the scope of damage if a machine is compromised. If, for instance, you have a security token or authenticator app on your phone that is required for ssh to a remote machine, then even if every laptop you … Continue reading Easily Improving Linux Security with Two-Factor Authentication



All Aboard

Wed, 03 Aug 2016 01:13:19 +0000

“Aaaaaall Aboard!” *chug* *chug* And so began a “trip” aboard our hotel train in Indianapolis, conducted by our very own Jacob and Oliver. Because, well, what could be more fun than spending a few days in the world’s only real Pullman sleeping car, on its original service track, inside a hotel? We were on a … Continue reading All Aboard



Building a home firewall: review of pfsense

Mon, 18 Jul 2016 21:34:02 +0000

For some time now, I’ve been running OpenWRT on an RT-N66U device. I initially set that because I had previously been using my Debian-based file/VM server as a firewall, and this had some downsides: every time I wanted to reboot that, Internet for the whole house was down; shorewall took a fair bit of care … Continue reading Building a home firewall: review of pfsense



A great day for a flight with the boys

Tue, 28 Jun 2016 03:57:39 +0000

I tend to save up my vacation time to use in summer for family activities, and today was one of those days. Yesterday, Jacob and Oliver enjoyed planning what they were going to do with me. They ruled out all sorts of things nearby, but they decided they would like to fly to Ponca City, … Continue reading A great day for a flight with the boys



I’m switching from git-annex to Syncthing

Mon, 27 Jun 2016 13:02:36 +0000

I wrote recently about using git-annex for encrypted sync, but due to a number of issues with it, I’ve opted to switch to Syncthing. I’d been using git-annex with real but noncritical data. Among the first issues I noticed was occasional but persistent high CPU usage spikes, which once started, would persist apparently forever. I … Continue reading I’m switching from git-annex to Syncthing



Mud, Airplanes, Arduino, and Fun

Thu, 16 Jun 2016 04:00:46 +0000

The last few weeks have been pretty hectic in their way, but I’ve also had the chance to take some time off work to spend with family, which has been nice. Memorial Day: breakfast and mud For Memorial Day, I decided it would be nice to have a cookout for breakfast rather than for dinner. … Continue reading Mud, Airplanes, Arduino, and Fun



Objects On Earth Are Closer Than They Appear

Tue, 06 Oct 2015 23:39:42 +0000

“We all live beneath the great Big Dipper.” So goes a line in a song I once heard the great Tony Brown sing. As I near the completion of my private pilot’s training, I’ve had more and more opportunities to literally see the wisdom in those words. Here’s a story of one of them. Night … Continue reading Objects On Earth Are Closer Than They Appear



There’s still a chance to save WiFi

Thu, 03 Sep 2015 19:12:48 +0000

You may not know it, but wifi is under assault in the USA due to proposed FCC regulations about modifications to devices with modular radios. In short, it would make it illegal for vendors to sell devices with firmware that users can replace. This is of concern to everyone, because Wifi routers are notoriously buggy … Continue reading There’s still a chance to save WiFi



First steps: Debian on an Asus t100, and some negative experience with Gnome

Sun, 16 Aug 2015 21:25:13 +0000

The Asus t100 tablet is this amazing and odd little thing: it sells for under $200, yet has a full-featured Atom 64-bit CPU, 2GB RAM, 32 or 64GB SSD, etc. By default, it ships with Windows 8.1. It has a detachable keyboard, so it can be used as a tablet or a very small 10″ … Continue reading First steps: Debian on an Asus t100, and some negative experience with Gnome



Detailed Smart Card Cryptographic Token Security Guide

Fri, 07 Aug 2015 02:24:46 +0000

After my first post about smartcards under Linux, I thought I would share some information I’ve been gathering. This post is already huge, so I am not going to dive into — much — specific commands, but I am linking to many sources with detailed instructions. I’ve reviewed several types of cards. For this review, … Continue reading Detailed Smart Card Cryptographic Token Security Guide



The Time Machine of Durango

Sun, 02 Aug 2015 20:15:39 +0000

“The airplane may be the closest thing we have to a time machine.” – Brian J. Terwilliger There is something about that moment. Hiking in the mountains near Durango, Colorado, with Laura and the boys, we found a beautiful spot with a view of the valley. We paused to admire, and then – The sound … Continue reading The Time Machine of Durango



True Things About Learning to Fly

Sat, 18 Jul 2015 02:40:47 +0000

I’ve been pretty quiet for the last few months because I’m learning to fly. I want to start with a few quotes about aviation. I have heard things like these from many people and can vouch for their accuracy: Anyone can learn to fly. Learning to fly is one of the hardest things you’ll ever … Continue reading True Things About Learning to Fly



First steps with smartcards under Linux and Android — hard, but it works

Fri, 17 Jul 2015 03:04:23 +0000

Well this has been an interesting project. It all started with a need to get better password storage at work. We wound up looking heavily at a GPG-based solution. This prompted the question: how can we make it even more secure? Well, perhaps, smartcards. The theory is this: a smartcard holds your private keys in … Continue reading First steps with smartcards under Linux and Android — hard, but it works



Roundup of remote encrypted deduplicated backups in Linux

Thu, 11 Jun 2015 17:09:51 +0000

Since I wrote last about Linux backup tools, back in a 2008 article about BackupPC and similar toools and a 2011 article about dedpulicating filesystems, I’ve revisited my personal backup strategy a bit. I still use ZFS, with my tool “simplesnap” that I wrote about in 2014 to perform local backups to USB drives, which … Continue reading Roundup of remote encrypted deduplicated backups in Linux



First impressions and review of OwnCloud

Sat, 09 May 2015 01:57:54 +0000

In my recent post (I give up on Google), a lot of people suggested using OwnCloud as a replacement for several Google services. I’ve been playing around with it for a few days, and it is something of a mix of awesome and disappointing, in my opinion. Files OwnCloud started as a file-sync tool, somewhat … Continue reading First impressions and review of OwnCloud



I Give Up on Google: Free is Too Expensive

Wed, 06 May 2015 18:26:20 +0000

I am really tired of things Google has done lately. The most recent example being retiring Classic Maps. That’s a problem, because the current Maps mysteriously doesn’t show most of my saved (“starred”) places. Google has known about this since at least 2013. There are posts all over their forums about it going back to … Continue reading I Give Up on Google: Free is Too Expensive



Today I FLEW A PLANE

Wed, 22 Apr 2015 02:53:05 +0000

“For once you have tasted flight, You will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward; For there you have been, And there you long to return.” – Leonardo da Vinci There is something of a magic to flight, to piloting. I remember the first flight I ever took, after years of dreaming of flying … Continue reading Today I FLEW A PLANE



ssh suddenly stops communicating with some hosts

Mon, 30 Mar 2015 22:13:21 +0000

Here’s a puzzle I’m having trouble figuring out. This afternoon, ssh from my workstation or laptop stopped working to any of my servers (at OVH). The servers are all running wheezy, the local machines jessie. This happens on both my DSL and when tethered to my mobile phone. They had not applied any updates since … Continue reading ssh suddenly stops communicating with some hosts



Suggestions for visiting the UK?

Fri, 13 Mar 2015 01:14:32 +0000

My wife and I have been thinking of visiting the UK for awhile, and we’re finally starting to make some plans. I would be grateful to anyone reading this that might have some time to make suggestions on places to go, things to do, etc. Here’s a bit of background, if it helps. We have … Continue reading Suggestions for visiting the UK?