Monthly Archives: June 2022

Firefox kills another tracking cookie workaround

Source: The Register

Article note: Oh neat, those are a noticeable annoyance just doing things like passing amazon links around, and should be pretty straightforward to filter.

URL query parameters won't work in version 102 of Mozilla's browser

Firefox has been fighting the war on browser cookies for years, but its latest privacy feature goes well beyond mere cookie tracking to stop URL query parameters.…

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Latitude 7390

Dell Latitude 7390, my several-generation-old next generation of carryin’ around computer.

The Latitude E7250 I’ve been carrying around since 2017 is one of my favorite machines I’ve ever had; it’s small, robust, has perfect hardware support under Linux… and is starting to get a little too feeble for some tasks I’d like to use it for, experienced a few spurious shutdowns, and has a screen crack causing delamination.

I continue to be a fan of having a small, relatively inexpensive machine for carrying around, and a believer in “The only Dell laptops with acceptable build quality start with a 7”, so in the tradition of the $400 for a refurb and RAM upgrade I spent on the E7250, I ordered one of its more-or-less direct successors, a refurbished Latitude 7390 on a half-off sale a few weeks ago for about $470.

After a few weeks, it looks to be an excellent successor. Nitpicky details and comparisons below the fold.

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Odd Inputs and Peculiar Peripherals: Chorded Keyset Recreates Engelbart’s Vision

Source: Hack a Day

Article note: The SRI chordset has always struck me as _extremely_ awkward (makes the vague frequency mapping of the BAT or sloppy mnemonics of the microwriter look easy), but this is the first reproducable/modern faithful replica I've seen.
A 3D-printed five-key chorded keyboard

Douglas Engelbart’s 1968 “Mother of all Demos” introduced the world to a whole range of technologies we take for granted today, the most prominent being his great invention, the computer mouse. However, the MOAD also showcased things like cut-and-paste text editing, a point-and-click interface, video conferencing, and even online collaboration à la Google Docs. One of the innovations shown that for some reason didn’t stand the test of time was the chorded keyboard: an input device with five keys that can be pressed simultaneously in different combinations, the same way you would play chords on a piano.

A 3D-printed five-key chorded keyboard
The Engelbart Keyset comes with both USB host and USB client ports

While a handful of attempts have been made over the years to bring new life to the “chorder”, it failed to achieve mainstream appeal and remains a curiosity to this day. That makes it a natural fit for the Odd Inputs and Peculiar Peripherals contest, as we can see in [Russ Nelson]’s submission called the Engelbart Keyset, which aims to create a modern 3D printed chorder that works exactly as Engelbart intended it.

It’s important to note that the chorded keyboard was not meant to be just an additional set of five keys. Instead, Engelbart showed the clever interplay between the chorder and the mouse: the five keys under his left hand and the three mouse buttons under his right could be combined to create a full 8-bit input device. [Russ]’s device therefore includes a USB host interface to connect a USB mouse as well as a USB client interface that presents itself as a combination mouse/keyboard device to the PC.

The brains of the device are formed by a Teensy 4.1, which reads out the codes sent by the mouse as well as the five keys on top. If one or more of those keys are pressed together with a mouse button, then a keyboard code is generated corresponding to Engelbart’s original keycode mapping. We’re wondering how practical this whole setup would be in real life; it looks like something you’d have to try hands-on to find out. Fortunately, all the schematics, code and STL files are available on the project page, so with just a bit of work you can have your own MOAD setup on your desk today.

We’ve featured a couple of chorded keyboards on these pages; the Pico Chord, the Chordie and the BAT spring to mind. If you’re looking for a recap of Engelbart’s stunning presentation, check out our piece on the Mother of all Demos, 50 years on.

Odd Inputs and Peculiar Peripherals Contest

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The supply chain crisis: a paradigm shift #makerbusiness

Source: adafruit industries blog

Article note: I read the post this references a month or so ago when it came out, it's a lot to digest. A lot of very scary things about the unraveling of our technological society. A few interesting/hopeful things about going back to a maintain-and-repair-oriented practices, distributed manufacturing, and backing away from shortsighted centralized JIT manufacturing and disposable designs. Years into the situation I'm still not sure what to make of it.

Brian Crabtree of Monome recently posted about some of the supply chain issues he’s seeing.

To lead with an actual case: we have not been able to get the STM32 microcontroller used in the Crow (and Grid) for well over two years now, and all estimates are “unknown” (the words from various sales reps I’ve spoken to, ie those at Mouser). Since we’ve sold out and also exhausted our backup-repair-stock, if someone contacts us with a hardware-related break– for example, somehow the STM32 is fried– there’s basically nothing we can do (that was previously standard procedure).

In his words the new normal is, well, not normal. While things may get easier over time, there are ways to reduce some of the pain for now.

…I’d like to instill this message, as strongly as possible: your machines are not easily repairable. They may be incredibly difficult (interpret: expensive) or impossible to repair. Please let this inform your treatment and expectations of the machines in your life.

It’s also potentially a good time to learn some repair skills. Soldering a DIY kit is a good start, but doing careful repair and salvaging is a fine craft.

Equipped with a soldering iron we move forward.

It’s hard to see a return. More likely I’m expecting a sort of paradigm shift.

Read the whole post here.


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Goodbye Zachtronics, Developers of Cool Video Games

Source: Hacker News

Article note: Huh. They've been making cool niche games without a lot a regard about their potential audience for quite a while, and departing on their own terms is perfectly consistent. I suspect they'll seed interesting people and ideas around as they disband.
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The Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade

Source: The Week: Most Recent Home Page Posts

Article note: Aw fuck. This is the one to freak out about. Not just because the immediate consequences are heinous, with pregnancy complications including most kinds of assisted reproductive technology turning into death sentences, forced pregnancies, and a wave of child neglect abetted by our non-functional social safety net. Not just because the secondary consequences are heinous, with Thomas going after Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell - contraception, same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriage - (and presumably not Loving (interracial marriage) because that's the one that would affect him) in his opinion. Not just because it shows all the recent appointees who agreed in their confirmation hearings that Roe was settled law will lie under oath to accomplish their ends. But because it fundamentally rejects the idea that individuals have any meaningful right to privacy or autonomy. I hope the response is nationally debilitating.

The Supreme Court has issued a bombshell ruling officially eliminating the constitutional right to abortion in the United States, undoing nearly 50 years of precedent. 

In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday abortion is not a constitutional right and that the 1973 ruling guaranteeing that right, Roe v. Wade, is overturned. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion, and he was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, and John Roberts. 

"Roe was egregiously wrong from the start," Alito wrote. "Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and [Planned Parenthood v. Casey] have enflamed debate and deepened division."

Alito added that "it is time to heed the constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people's elected representatives." Chief Justice John Roberts wrote a concurring opinion stating he would have only upheld Mississippi's law banning abortion after 15 weeks and that the majority's "dramatic and consequential ruling" was "unnecessary to decide the case before us." 

In May, an initial draft opinion leaked and revealed the Supreme Court was poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, and protesters gathered in Washington on Friday in anticipation of the final decision. 

The court's liberal justices, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, dissented, writing, "Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today's decision is certain: the curtailment of women's rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens."

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BREAKING: Supreme Court Strikes Down New York’s ‘May Issue’ Concealed Carry Law

Source: The Truth About Guns

Article note: And now we watch large swaths of the left decry a ruling that only says "you can't have local officials selectively and arbitrarily deny people rights" because "guns are bad, mmkay." The scenario this is preventing is all the variations on "Billy-Bob fills out a concealed carry application where the 'Reason:' field is one word; a plural racial slur. Sheriff Hogg knows Billy-bob from the clan meeting, and approves his permit application on the basis of his good character. The guy who applied with the police report from when they burnt a cross in his yard as a reason, not so much."
BREAKING: Supreme Court Strikes Down New York’s ‘May Issue’ Concealed Carry Law

The United States Supreme Court has struck down New York’s “proper cause” or “may issue” requirement for obtaining concealed carry permits in a 6 to 3 opinion handed down today in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. This is the case that was a second bite at the apple, challenging New York’s “may issue” concealed carry restrictions after the case that was argued in 2019 was declared moot when the New York changed its laws to avoid an adverse high court ruling.

Continue reading BREAKING: Supreme Court Strikes Down New York’s ‘May Issue’ Concealed Carry Law at The Truth About Guns.

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Sshfs Is Orphaned

Source: Hacker News

Article note: Well that's not good. sshfs is one of those tools that I find myself using all the time. It's useful and widely used enough that hopefully someone (obviously preferably several, preferably with some kind of monied backing) will step up.
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Writing One Sentence per Line

Source: Hacker News

Article note: Ignoring the writing style stuff, one sentence per line in a text editor means you can shove text into version control and have it work reasonably. Not to claim I'm good about using version control for my own stuff, but it's a nice workflow for academic writing, even more so if you have several authors (and can get them to cooperate). If you typeset with latex (or, god forbid, roff) you can do it wall the way through the process.
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Your Own IBM Mainframe (or Vax, or Cray…) the Easy Way

Source: Hack a Day

Article note: Cute, SimH/Hercules/other old large system emulators prebuilt and packed into alpine based docker containers with the relevant media already set up to take _some_ of the hassle out. Doesn't look like they have anything on current interest list ready; some of my recent reading makes me want to spend time with something in the BTS/TENEX/TOPS-20 family, and I still haven't got around to experiencing one of the Burroughs Large System/MCP environments that I've been curious about as a side effect of my MS work.

If you want the classic experience of working with an IBM mainframe or another classic computer like a DEC VAX, you have a few choices. You could spend a lot of money trying to find one, transport it, and refurbish it. But, of course, most of us will settle for an emulator. While there are great emulators out there, most of the time you aren’t interested in running just the bare machine — you want the operating systems, the compilers, and the other software that made these machines so interesting. Running your three lines of machine code isn’t as much fun as playing hunt the wumpus or compiling some Fortran IV code. Unfortunately, finding copies of all this old software can be daunting. But thanks to the efforts of [Rattydave], you can do it with no problems at all. The secret? Pre-built docker images that have everything you need in one place.

In addition to IBM’s MVS, VM370, and TSS,  you can also run Multics — the predecessor to Unix — on a collection of computers from DEC, HP, and DG, and even a Cray 1 supercomputer. There are good instructions, although some of the machines do take a little work. For example, the TSS image notes:

This is not a ready to run system. You need to IPL 250 and then you can control via the telnet connection. (If you dont know what IPL 280 means then this container is not for you.)

We aren’t sure if both of those are supposed to be 250, or both 280, or if that sentence even makes sense as-is. It has been a long time since we IPL’d an IBM computer. We think they both should be 250.

The collection has a lot of SIM-H machines including the Altair 8080 with and without a Z80 CPU, an IBM 1130 and many others that probably still need some attention to get working.

Of course, you still need to know how to work the computer in question, although the notes for each image will help you get at least a foothold. You probably ought to know a little about docker, too, although just to use it, it isn’t all that hard. Plus if you start using docker, you’ll find a lot of different uses for it.

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