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The Changelog



Comments on family, technology, and society



Last Build Date: Fri, 09 Dec 2016 19:09:59 +0000

 



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?



“Has Linux lost its way?” comments prompt a Debian developer to revisit FreeBSD after 20 years

Tue, 17 Feb 2015 16:11:38 +0000

I’ll admit it. I have a soft spot for FreeBSD. FreeBSD was the first Unix I ran, and it was somewhere around 20 years ago that I did so, before I switched to Debian. Even then, I still used some of the FreeBSD Handbook to learn Linux, because Debian didn’t have the great Reference that … Continue reading “Has Linux lost its way?” comments prompt a Debian developer to revisit FreeBSD after 20 years



Willis Goerzen – a good reason to live in Kansas

Sat, 14 Feb 2015 22:55:25 +0000

From time to time, people ask me, with a bit of a disbelieving look on their face, “Tell me again why you chose to move to Kansas?” I can explain something about how people really care about their neighbors out here, how connections through time to a place are strong, how the people are hard-working, … Continue reading Willis Goerzen – a good reason to live in Kansas



Reactions to “Has modern Linux lost its way?” and the value of simplicity

Wed, 11 Feb 2015 23:39:55 +0000

Apparently I touched a nerve with my recent post about the growing complexity of issues. There were quite a few good comments, which I’ll mention here. It’s provided me some clarity on the problem, in fact. I’ll try to distill a few more thoughts here. The value of simplicity and predictability The best software, whether … Continue reading Reactions to “Has modern Linux lost its way?” and the value of simplicity



Has modern Linux lost its way? (Some thoughts on jessie)

Tue, 10 Feb 2015 03:47:45 +0000

For years, I used to run Debian sid (unstable) on all my personal machines. Laptops, workstations, sometimes even my personal servers years ago ran sid. Sid was, as its name implies, unstable. Sometimes things broke. But it wasn’t a big deal, because I could always get in there and fix it fairly quickly, whatever it … Continue reading Has modern Linux lost its way? (Some thoughts on jessie)



Home Automation, part 2: Z-Wave and ISY programming

Sat, 31 Jan 2015 20:32:54 +0000

In my part 1 post yesterday, I wrote about the start of the home automation project. I mentioned that I was using Insteon switches, and they mostly were working well (I forgot to mention an annoyance: you can dim, but not totally shut off, their LED status light.) Anyhow, the Insteon battery-operated sensors seem to … Continue reading Home Automation, part 2: Z-Wave and ISY programming



First Steps with Home Automation and LED Lighting

Sat, 31 Jan 2015 03:46:26 +0000

I’ve been thinking about home automation — automating lights, switches, thermostats, etc. — for years. Literally decades, in fact. When I was a child, my parents had a RadioShack X10 control module and one or two target devices. I think I had fun giving people a “light show” turning on or off one switch and … Continue reading First Steps with Home Automation and LED Lighting



Sound players: Adventures with Ampache, mpd, pulseaudio, Raspberry Pi, and Logitech Media Server

Fri, 02 Jan 2015 02:54:28 +0000

I finally decided it was about time to get my whole-house sound project off the ground. As an added bonus, I’d like to be able to stream music from my house to my Android phone. Some Background It was about 2.5 years ago that I last revisited the music-listening picture on Linux. I used Spotify … Continue reading Sound players: Adventures with Ampache, mpd, pulseaudio, Raspberry Pi, and Logitech Media Server



Aerial Photos: Our Little House on the Prairie

Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:37:18 +0000

This was my first attempt to send up the quadcopter in winter. It’s challenging to take good photos of a snowy landscape anyway. Add to that the fact that the camera is flying, and it’s cold, which is hard on batteries and motors. I was rather amazed at how well it did!



My boys love 1986 computing

Mon, 24 Nov 2014 03:27:45 +0000

Yesterday, Jacob (age 8) asked to help me put together a 30-year-old computer from parts in my basement. Meanwhile, Oliver (age 5) asked Laura to help him learn cursive. Somehow, this doesn’t seem odd for a Saturday at our place. Let me tell you how this came about. I’ve had a project going on for … Continue reading My boys love 1986 computing



Contemplative Weather

Sun, 16 Nov 2014 22:30:39 +0000

Sometimes I look out the window and can’t help but feel “this weather is deep.” Deep with meaning, with import. Almost as if the weather is confident of itself, and is challenging me to find some meaning within it. This weekend brought the first blast of winter to the plains of Kansas. Saturday was chilly … Continue reading Contemplative Weather



Computer Without a Case

Wed, 12 Nov 2014 23:37:32 +0000

My desk today looks like this: Yep, that’s a computer. Motherboard to the right, floppy drives and CD drive stacked on top of the power supply, hard drive to the left. And it’s an OLD computer. (I had forgotten just how loud these old power supplies are; wow.) The point of this exercise is to … Continue reading Computer Without a Case



I’m hiring a senior Linux sysadmin/architect

Tue, 11 Nov 2014 04:29:46 +0000

I’m never sure whether to post such things here, but I hope that it’s of interest to people: I’m trying to hire a top-notch Linux person for a 100% telecommute position. I’m particularly interested in people with experience managing 500 or more OS instances. It’s a shop with a lot of Debian, by the way. … Continue reading I’m hiring a senior Linux sysadmin/architect



Debian – A plea to worry about what matters, and not take ourselves too seriously

Mon, 10 Nov 2014 01:11:10 +0000

I posted this on debian-devel today. I am also posting it here, because I believe it is important to more than just Debian developers. Good afternoon, This message comes on the heels of Sam Hartman’s wonderful plea for compassion [1] and the sad news of Joey Hess’s resignation from Debian [2]. I no longer frequently … Continue reading Debian – A plea to worry about what matters, and not take ourselves too seriously



Being Different

Sun, 09 Nov 2014 03:37:15 +0000

This evening, after the boys were in bed, Laura and I sat down to an episode of MASH (a TV series from the 70s) and leftover homemade pumpkin bars. She commented, “Sometimes I wonder what generation we’re in. This doesn’t seem to be something people our age are usually doing.” Probably true. I suppose people … Continue reading Being Different