Party Like It's 1999

Party Like It's 1999

Friday, Feb 19, 2021

Listening To: Hacked Podcast - The Year Double Zero
Photo: “BOO”. Another one of my old medical fosters. I’ll write about her on day. And cry doing it.

Just listened to the Hacked podcast linked above. It’s about the Y2K bug. The issues with computers had when hitting the year “Double Zero” and the chaos it caused society.

Somewhere in the late 90’s I had cause to rent some office space, and found it in a place chock full of what could only be described as “grey beards”. Lovely bunch. They were a group of COBOL programmers who came out of retirement to fix some of the problems computer code had with… time. And make stupid amounts of money doing so. Sometime about 1997 governments and corporations around the world woke up and started throwing serious cash at the problem. The rent was cheap and the company good. Learned a lot from those folks.

Millennium New Year’s Eve itself was spent in Germany. The media had not been so “doom and gloom” about the issue and, frankly, I’m not sure your average German would care. I remember standing on a elevated railway crossing, beer in hand (no such prudish rules there) and watching a 360 degree panorama of fireworks being set off across the city. It was awesome.

Early the next day we headed out for a walk and found a dance band still playing in a city square at 8:00am. A few slow dancing couples still at it. I sat there nursing a hangover and watched bulldozers get to work as the number of bottles strewn about had made the roads impassible.

A very good start to the millennium.

2 minutes read
Nix Is Everywhere

Nix Is Everywhere

Tuesday, Feb 16, 2021

Listening To: No Means No - Wrong
Photo: Having a coffee while the Main St. Fire is doused.

I got a comment the other day that using our Linux-based video streaming system was “non-standard”. All they had to do was enter their username and password then click on a icon to run an application. The exact same application that runs on all the major desktop platforms. Yes, I rolled my eyes.

The ironic thing is that most people use Unix or Linux on a daily basis. It’s behind many of the devices we interact with. Apple uses it for all their products and even Windows now includes the ability to run not only command-line Linux but full desktops. Desktops that resemble other operating systems and some that are quite unique. There is a lot of choice (Plasma is my go to).

I’m going to use “Unix” and “Linux” interchangeably here and while a purist may want me to note the various distinctions between the two it really doesn’t matter to those using them with any sort of graphical interface.

Here’s a short random list of things that use one of the two underneath:

  • Android/ChromeOS (1)
  • IOS (1)
  • macOS (1)
  • Amazon Kindle (1)
  • Sony Playstation (1)
  • The Internet (1)
  • The Top 500 supercomputers (1)
  • Roku (1) and Tivo (1)
  • NASA (1)
  • “Smart Things”: Your Fridge, TV and Light Bulbs (1)
  • Teslas (1) and many other cars (2)
  • Intel Processors (1)

Look at that last one. Arguably the most popular operating in the world is something called MINIX. And it’s used by much of Intel’s processor line as a management engine.

So, “Normal”.

2 minutes read
Updating A Rolling Release

Updating A Rolling Release

Tuesday, Feb 9, 2021

Listening To: Klaus Nomi - Total Eclipse (Video) - Another from Urgh! He once backed up Bowie on SNL performing “The Man Who Sold The World
Photo: Every night I go to bed with this inches from my face. Drooling.

The main boxes around here almost all run a Linux distribution called Manjaro. It’s based on Arch linux, one of a few base types about (Debian and Red Hat being the other two major options).

Manjaro is very much bleeding cutting edge, updating often with the latest (and presumably, greatest) packages. Which, while not leaving it unstable, leaves it sometimes prone to some niggles after any major release. Bugs happen and occasionally slip through when your OS is changing so quickly. Here’s how I update for safety’s sake:

  • Get notification of update. Do not initiate. Check the release notes (here for Manjaro).
  • Wait a day or two. Check the release notes again for any major stumbling blocks and solutions in the “New issues:” section (I had a run of them with an outdated Nvidia card at one point).
  • Make sure the system is backed up. We mainly rely on a snapshot tool called Timeshift but any way of restoring the system will work. I’ll often take this as a sign it’s time to image the drive off-site too.
  • perform the update. I prefer to watch things scroll across the screen, so use the command line (“sudo pacman -Syyu”). Parse the log for any major errors.
  • since the kernel is usually updated, it’s usually time for a reboot.
  • When the system comes back up, you’re usually back in business. If you do run into a major issue, you can either restore the entire system or fix the issue (often listed in the forum linked above). If it’s a single package you find misbehaving, simple downgrading that to a previous version often works for me (though this is rare)

This may all seem like a bit of a hassle, but in practice it’s usually a smooth ride. Just double checking your snapshot is current (which is usually automatic) is the only real step in the process. If that’s fine, you’re golden.

At least for this dork, it’s worth it to be able to access all the latest tools and resources. If that’s not for you, a LTS (long term support) version of a Linux distribution may indeed be a better option. And that’s what many will normally install for a non-technical user. There are so many, it’s not worth getting into here but I’d recommend something based on Ubuntu for most use cases. From Kubuntu to Elementary and Mint, there is something for anybody. All great.

If you do run into a problem you can’t solve, don’t panic. Most of “us” are super friendly and actually like helping. Reach out.

3 minutes read
Matrix My Way

Matrix My Way

Monday, Feb 1, 2021

Photo: Otto Von Bismark and Audrey Hepburn (aka “the buns of destruction”) - rescue rabbits from VRRA
Listening to: Joe Jackson - Awkward Age (it should come as no surprise that this one resonates with me):

“You look at me like I know what’s going on
I’m looking back and I wonder what went wrong
I really thought by now a few things might just clarify
I got a mind that goes out to lunch for days
And a body that sometimes disobeys
I get into the parties but I hate them ‘cause I’m shy
Oh my
I’m still at an awkward age”

One of the few disadvantages of using external services for communication is that on occasion, they don’t last, whether they be commercial or community supported. Alas, I just received a message telling me my Matrix server of choice is being taken off-line before the end of the month.

In an effort to turn adversity into advantage, an effort is underway to set up my own server (the software is called Synapse). That way this never has to happen again as the entire system is under my own control. I may even host it from home as texting takes next to no bandwidth.

Presently I’m experimenting in a non-destructive environment with a server on Linode. The advantage is that you can create snapshots, screw up, create and destroy servers at a whim. And it only costs about $0.007/hour. Seven cents. Ha.

Failure is part of the learning process (or so I keep telling myself).

2 minutes read
Projector Hush Box

Projector Hush Box

Saturday, Jan 30, 2021

Photo: “Hush Box Project” by Chaz
Listening to: Nina Hagen - Live at Rockplast 1978 and Herman Brood - Live at Rockplast 1978 . The movie they co-starred in, Cha Cha, was released the next year (it was a hot mess with an really awesome soundtrack album).

A hush box would neat to build. Especially since my studio space is full of sawdust and scrap wood anyway with some ongoing renos.

A hush box channels air around baffles in order to quiet a projector’s cooling fans (which can be annoying after awhile, especially in a small space). Having recently acquired a Bomaker Parrot to watch movies on, I need one.

Figure wood will be free, it will just need some hardware (hinges, corner braces), optic glass, fans and power supply. Then a thin coating of acoustic foam. We’ve previously used thin layers of acoustic bat insulation for such things but the proper foam will be easier to handle. If I use industrial velcro to attach the baffles, it can be reconfigured for a different unit down the road.

Ya, will be fun.

Probably take me a month to decide what colour to paint it thou…

Hush Box project at hackaday.io

1 minutes read
Pinephone Mobian Update

Pinephone Mobian Update

Monday, Jan 25, 2021

Listening to: Yuka Zolo - Bleed

Mobian is running well on my Braveheart Pinephone. I’m still going to order the updated motherboard when it comes available again, but stick with this for now. Besides the camera not yet working, the only other gotcha is that it’s easier to install new software and update via the command line. Not a problem for me, but I could see it turning off your non tech-savvy user. There is a GUI-based software hub but it doesn’t appear functional yet (or perhaps it’s my older hardware). Time to move over all my RSS feeds, podcast feeds, songs and contacts. Snagged a 128 gig SD card so I can fit all my music. The trials of a Bandcamp junkie with boxes full of albums and CD’s.

ps. If you’re upbeat and hopeful today, don’t read Pharmaceutical giants not ready for next pandemic, report warns

1 minutes read
DIY(ish) Video Streaming Setup

DIY(ish) Video Streaming Setup

Sunday, Jan 24, 2021

Listening to: Primetime - Going Places
Photo: “my” back yard. Lots of shade from the trees in the summer (and yes, the fence has been fixed now).

I said the video/streaming setup down at Red Gate would be documented. So that’s on today’s bill.

Turnkey systems can run into the tens of thousands of dollars and that obviously was not a go. So we had to DIY it. The quality and features suit us and match some far more expensive setups but it all takes a bit more in the way of tech skills to keep running. We also wanted to keep the setup flexible to accommodate various needs and future expansion.

Stream Box:

A refurbished Lenovo M93p SFF with an i5-4570, 16 gigs ram, 500 gig SSD and Geforce 1030 running a arch-based linux distro and OBS Studio. Everything was on used/free/on sale. If that’s ever not powerful enough any other computer could be used with very little tweaking. I’m presently building a second machine for that room so solo artists and interviews can be done there without all the setup required for the main area.

Camera Setup:

Three Panasonic G85’s and a Panasonic G7. The stabilisation from the G85’s stock lens is rather terrific for handheld work and after the cameras were set up, it only takes five or ten minutes of training to get the operational basics down (on manual, fixed zoom with ability to snap focus when needed). One can hand them to any available staff or group that books. All cameras will shoot 4k video to the internal card (until full, no time limitations) and if filming at 1080p 30/fps, can also output raw HDMI to a NDI encoder for streaming. We also have a 40mm (panasonic) and 85mm (Voigtländer) primes available for special shoots. Neither is stabilised but both work with the in-body and electronic stabilisation and are much faster lenses.

Encoders:

These were the fancy bit. Three Birddog Studio NDI units. They attach to the camera rigs and send the HDMI video over ethernet to the stream box. Quality is great and they’ve proven dead reliable. They are bi-directional and also feature SDI so that we could accept a show which brings proper broadcast equipment. They work over POE so there are no additional power needs.

Network Equipment:

Two Ubiquiti UniFi Switch 8 60w POE switches, a Unifi Security Gateway and a lot of gigabit ethernet runs. We have two rooms wired now and will eventually do the front gallery as well. It means we can move a camera, plug it in and it just works, auto-configuring itself with the stream box. The administration is simple and GUI based so anybody should be able to pick up administration if I’m not available.

Lighting:

Mostly donated. The lights were updated with stronger bulbs and the lighting board apparently dates back to Expo ‘86 in Vancouver. We do have a 5600k Godox SL-60 with softbox and a few DIY work lights to fill in when needed along with a small ring light for interviews and the like.

Software:

OBS Studio with only two additions. libndi-bin and obs-ndi-bin. Things like Krita and Shotcut are also on the box for graphics and any trimming of videos. The box is not heavily GPU fortified so any major editing is done elsewhere.

The Best Bit:

Even during a global pandemic, I occasionally get to see a performance.

Totally worth the hundred or so hours of work :-).

3 minutes read
Firefox Addons

Firefox Addons

Thursday, Jan 21, 2021

Listening to: Dream Nails - Dream Nails
Photo: pic taken with my first digital camera, the Olympus D-360L (bought 1999 in New Orleans). Still works!

I use Firefox. One of only a small percentage of people who do these days. The market is dominated by Chrome and it’s derivatives. I could go on about how a mono-culture on web access is dangerous, or how that it would be headed by what is effectively an ad firm/data broker with little sense of ethics, but I’d be digressing.

This is about add-ons. Mostly so I don’t forget what I’m using. You’ll probably want to go back to doing something more relevant to your life at this point (videos of goats cavorting is my go-to).

uBlock Origin - blocks lots of ads* and crap. Makes the web faster to browse.

Privacy Possum - reduces and/or falsifies data gathered by tracking companies.

Privacy Badger - learns to block invisible trackers.

Firefox Multi-Account Containers - lets you run each website in isolation.

Facebook Container - wraps Facebook automatically and generally screws with their tracking elsewhere on the web.

Decentraleyes - Messes with CDN (Content Delivery Network) delivery. Third parties that host web content and may monetise your data.

ClearURL’s - Removes tracking elements built into links and URL’s themselves.

HTTPS Everywhere - Just removed this one as the feature is now built into Firefox. Warns you when you load insecure websites (any password would be transmitted as plain text).

*I have no problems with seeing ads. I ran a site for a decade that depended on them for revenue. But those were topical, self-hosted and did not contain any trackers. Alas, many modern ad services are kinda shitty about that stuff.

2 minutes read
Mobian

Mobian

Monday, Jan 18, 2021

Listening to: Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - Coma Girl (video)
Rule: every time I do something “brave”, I get a delicious treat. As a result, I don’t eat much pastry.

Well, that didn’t work out. Previously, I’d started “dog-fooding” Ubuntu Touch on the Pinephone. Not quite ready, had some issues with connectivity, both wi-fi and cellular. Almost there but receiving messages reliably is a must.

Just flashed Mobian. It’s not only reported to be the most mature of the options, but it’s also presently shipping as a special edition of the Pinephone (I’d say “get one, it’s only $150 USD”, but expect a bit of nerding over the next few months).

Round #2. Let’s see how it goes…

1 minutes read

About Me

A dorky artist living in Vancouver, BC.

email: flay@pm.me

Matrix: @flay@ubports.chat

Mastodon: https://fosstodon.org/@flay

text/Telegram/Signal:

2 x 3 =

6 x 0 =

2 x 2 =

2 x 3 + 1 =

1 x 2 =

1 + 2 =

2 + 2 + 1 =

1 + 1 + 1 =

5 - 2 =

12 - 8 =

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(Yes, I know. I have a problem.)