Category Archives: Announcements

Self-Hosting News Sharing and Discussion

Back in 2013 when google killed Reader I mused about self-hosting my communal news shit-talking.  With the imminent death of G+, which I moved to despite knowing better, I’m looking into it again.  This process might (will) cause some spurious content to appear in the main feed while I try things. I’m still on (and pretty committed to) tt-rss on the news-consumption side, I’m poking around ways of rigging the published feed from that into a comment-able format.  Hopefully with a minimum of work and maintenance overhead on my part, and without hooking myself to yet another platform that won’t monetize well and will thus die.

Success!: The news tab in the nav-bar now takes you to a page that shows the things I publish from my Tiny Tiny RSS instance, complete with a place to yell at me for my hot takes, or share your own thoughts. It’s rigged up with FeedWordPress and a little bit of theme hacking, and can itself be subscribed as an RSS feed. There is a little bit of jank with nested feeds, but at least it’s in house.
A less lazy me would probably do this with a static site generator, a comment system (like isso or something) and some scripts, but I all sorts of don’t have time for that.

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Apparently a WordPress update caused some subtle breakage here a while back. The site has been spewing, among other things, a bunch of “&raquo” escapes in places that end up encoded as XML (thus breaking, among other things, RSS feeds). I’m hoping just swapping in “&#187” in a couple files that I’m not entirely sure if are configs or source because PHP and WP are both terrible will be a fairly permanent fix. It looks like it might be related to the javascript-reliant emoji support that appeared in 4.2?

Also, if you have an RSS thing pointed at a non-https or www-prefix URL here, you’re generating an awful lot of redirects and might want to adjust your subscription.

Every time I look into WordPress’ ugly accreted heart I wish for an alternative that does what I want from a CMS with less awful – if I didn’t want self-hosted comments this whole thing would have been replaced with static HTML years ago. More generally, every time I look at how the web actually works, it makes me consider primitivism as a legitimate and appealing lifestyle choice.

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New Data Integrity Tools

I’ve recently added a couple tools to my standard set, and have at least a 4x improvement in the safety of my data by doing so.

The process was complicated a bit because I’ve become very sensitive about only depending on FOSS tools (ex:As much as I like SublimeText2, I stopped using it because it once demanded to be updated before it would run.), but frankly I think that constraint produced better results than I would have reached without it. Because it was something of a hunt, I’d like to recommend the particular tools I settled on, in particular are KeepassX, Attic, and Seafile, described individually below.
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Spring 2014 Impressions

I’ve been terrible about writing things up lately, but want to at least put my semester impressions on the head of the chain of such posts.

One of my overall experiences is that teaching (and also, taking classes outside my typical discipline) has made me much more talky in class.

CS541: Compiler Design/Finkel
It’s a core class in the CS program, but I’m taking it this semester because Dr. Finkel is teaching it, and his classes are always excellent. I believe this leaves only one compilers/programming languages class offered at UK I haven’t taken, and that one is in the math department and entirely not my thing. I’m just shy of qualified to teach this material, so there’s a slightly odd dynamic in which I wait before delivering answers, and Raphi is frequently imposing a cooldown on my responding in class anyway.

We’re building a compiler for a cleaned up, stripped down C-Like language in Java, basically following Crafting A Compiler. I’ve used an old version of Fischer LeBlanc as reference for compiler material and like it better than the others I’ve used, so I figure this should work out well. Thus far, I’m having more trouble getting myself back into the Java mindset (So OOP. Much Type System. Wow.) than with the Compilers material. High expectations based on experience.

CS621: Parallel and Distributed Computing/Zhang
It’s basically a class in MPI. I’m hopeful that having some nice assigned MPI projects to work on will be good for me. There are two problems though: first, I’m afraid it’s going to turn into a linear algebra class that just happens to take place on parallel supercomputers. Worse, the lectures are terrible. The organization is bad. The slide decks are bad. The Englishrish is bad. The quality of response to questions is bad. It may actually be worse than the terrible Differential Equations with Jar Jar Xin class I took as a freshman. However, it is of the form “CS6xx,” and the content is at least in principle something I want, so as long as the projects and grades turn out, I’m happy. Kind of pissed that the crap lecture overlaps the Friday CS BoF and associated conversation.

GS630: Instructional Technology/Rice
I’m having so much fun in here. It basically consists of a bunch of jaded grad students discussing instructional technology for college teaching, largely from experience, lead by a specialist in the area from CELT. Some of the discussions basically go like this. I’m afraid I’m becoming “that guy” in here because I talk disproportionately and occasionally convivially argue with or reference outside material to the instructor, but again, I’m having a ton of fun, and it counts toward my PFF certificate.

GS610: College Teaching Seminar/Worley
I typically don’t post up my beginning of semester impressions post until all my classes have met, but this one doesn’t start until well into February. At some level, I’m pleased that it’s a general college teaching course instead of a department-specific one, I have trouble imagining a full semester in-discipline teaching class that didn’t turn into a myopia reinforcement program. It should be fun, all the GS classes thus far have been.

I’m not teaching this semester, and hopefully will be getting to more research projects with the freed up time.

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Hosting Move

I’ve just completed a move of this site to a new host, it should be transparent to everyone else – modulo a few brief intervals during the move – so please let me know if anything appears broken. There is also an exciting new feature in that (almost) everything should now be accessible via SSL. Notes on vendors and selections below the fold.

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SC13

I will be at SC’13 November 16-21 with the aggregate.org/University of Kentucky research exhibit again this year in booth 629. Media and impressions should appear somewhere in my ‘net presence during and after the conference, it is always a good show.
Edit:Pushing photos from the show floor into this album.

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Fall 2013 Impressions

Following my habit of posting Before/After notes on my semesters, some impressions for Fall 2013 now that every class has met. I’m getting to the point where the bulk of coursework I can and would sign up for tends to be special topics courses, which is a very interesting, if sometimes strange, phenomenon.
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Replicating Reader Sharing with TTRSS and WordPress

I was shit-talking Google Plus’ utility as a replacement for Reader’s social features, and realized I think I actually can do at least as well with my existing infrastructure. I’m not immediately planning to switch, because Plus offers convenience and discovery for others, but I wanted to try it, so there will likely be some spurious posts appearing [and disappearing] shortly. I suspect most of my readership consumes their internet through a feed reader, so this post exists as documentation.

For the interested: TTRSS has a publish mechanism, which creates a custom RSS feed of any article you mark published, along with whatever note you have attached to it with the built in annotation system. It even allows for non-feed content to be shared. There are various WordPress plugins that can embed an RSS feed (HungryFeed,EmbedRSS) or import an RSS feed as a post type (FeedWordPress).
Embedding as custom posts gives both distinction and a comment system, and it is a universal interfaces (can read from web, subscribe via RSS ,etc.). There is even social discovery support built in should such a thing take off.

If this experiment works really well, I might even talk myself into using it before Google gives me another reason.

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Google is Getting Awfully Evil

TLDR; I no longer consider google trustworthy, Tiny Tiny RSS is a suitable, self hosted, replacement for Reader.

Until this week, Google had managed to convince me their services were trustworthy – more trustworthy than self-hosting – which is quite a feat , since I don’t tend to do well with faith in any context. Killing reader after it drained the rest of the RSS aggregator market took care of that illusion. Kicking the ad blockers out of the play store (on the same day) after Android had become the dominant species, and it no longer mattered that ad blockers are required to make the mobile web experience tolerable, and intentionally breaking Jabber federation later in the week just underscore the point.
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Spring 2013 Impressions

Since I’m in the habit of posting about classes I take at the beginning and end of the semester, and often find something interesting when I look at them later, some quick impressions for courses I’m involved in for the Spring 2013 semester.

Teaching: CS275: Discrete Mathematics
I did this last semester, but under a different primary instructor. I again have pretty much free reign over the recitation period for an hour a week, but this time I do get to do a little bit of new material instead of just examples, and the suggestions on this I should cover are shorter and less specific. I’m more comfortable with the material having done it recently, and my classes seem a little more lively, so it should be a little more fun this time around. That said, doing the same lesson twice back-to-back is slightly more demanding than with a gap, and it is very easy to forget what you did with each group. I’m balancing being a little less organized in the first section with tending to run out of time in the 2nd, so I think they’re getting similar coverage, although the second section is probably having more fun.

Taking: GS650: Preparing Future Faculty
This is a two credit hour, once a week evening course for graduate students who think they might end up in academia. I’m building up a pile of technology-related degrees, have a deep well of contempt for the tech industry, and like teaching, so that sounds right. It actually seems like it will be more useful to me than I expected, in addition to being mostly composed of reading the appropriate news streams, listening to experts talk, and reflecting on both, which is basically what I do with myself anyway.

Taking: LIN511: Introduction to Computational Linguistics
I can talk about how I’m taking this because I thought it would be good for me to look at the other kind of language tools, and how my interest in the cognitive science aspects of computer systems covers it, but I’m really just taking it because it sounded interesting, no one told me I couldn’t (and in fact all the appropriate people encouraged it), and why else have I ever done anything, ever? There is one other CS student in there, and about 34 mixed graduate and undergraduate linguistics students, so my perspective is certainly the minority perspective, although the instructor came to linguistics from computing (and is hilariously British). I came in expecting to need to self-teach a lot of linguistics material, but talking to my classmates, they seem to be having to work as much on the linguistics aspects as I am, and having trouble with the computer parts, so I guess I’m ahead? So far the bulk of the assigned material has been structured manipulation of character srings (Using DATR, which is basically a generic string class system implemented in an ancient dialect of Prolog…), which is for me mostly a good exercise in remembering the OO way that many CS folks view the world. It is interesting, and I’m not suffering, so we’ll call committing to this whim a good choice.

I’m also still not rid of my MS project. I’m deeply tired of it at this point. I’m working to arrange the thing I would like to be working on as a PhD while I continue to try to clear out the parts of the MS project that have never worked, hopefully it will be reasonably fast and graceful.

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