Like Shitty_Watercolour, but with text. And shitty.


Tomorrow I start my new job as a Systems Engineer at NationBuilder!

NationBuilder is connecting leaders with their communities, and enabling anyone to be able to become a leader. Key features of the platform are a CMS, CRM, and messaging.

I’m really excited to get started as they have a lot of interesting technical infrastructure and plenty of challenges to overcome.

BTC Exchange Gets Raided

While talking on IRC earlier, this article came up in the channel.

Now, normally I avoid reading about bitcoin, simply because I am too late in the game to really do any mining and don’t feel like making an investment, but the fact that an exchange was seized was of interest to me.

From TFA:

The warrant claims Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles did not disclose he operated a financial transfer site when he opened a new bank account for the business. Money transmitting services, according to Gawker, are required to register with the Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen).

I find this interesting, mostly because of the implications here. If a USD->BTC and BTC->USD exchange is considered a money transmitting business, then BTC is now considered money by the DHS. As it stands with BTC not being recognized as currency, then the operation of this business is no different than an online gift-swapping marketplace and the DHS has no grounds to take action. For instance, if I buy a gift, give it to you, and you sell it, is that a money transfer? If not, then why would that be any different with BTC? Unless BTC were money. But does any government want to set that precedent right now?

Later on in the article is this gem:

“Literally, it allows buyers and users to sell illegal drugs online, including heroin, cocaine, and meth, and users do sell by hiding their identity through a program that makes them virtually untraceable,” Schumer said during a 2011 news conference. “It’s a certifiable one-stop shop for illegal drugs that represents the most brazen attempt to peddle drugs online that we have ever seen. It’s more brazen than anything else by light years.”

This is like saying bittorrent is for piracy and should be banned. Bittorrent is a general purpose file transfer protocol. Some people use it for piracy. Some people have also been known to use FTP, HTTP, SMTP and even DNS for piracy. What this quote is describing is most likely the online black market known as “Silk Road”. Silk road is to bitcoin as the pirate bay is to bittorrent. At best this statement is fear mongering and sensationalizing and propaganda. At worst, it’s downright libelous. Do they not think people buy drugs over the internet with USD? A PayPal account, a prepaid credit card, and someone to buy from are all you need to buy drugs online anonymously. Or what about buying some WoW gold and giving it to someone in game in exchange for some drugs? Is Blizzard registered as a money transfer service? Or would IGE be the one who’d have to be registered? I’d even wager to say that WoW gold is a more secure (in the “I’ll be able to keep it” sense, not the “it won’t fluctuate in value” sense) than BTC, and much easier to come by with many more users!

I get that governments are afraid of BTC. I can understand it, and even to a degree sympathize with them. I’m a hard working, tax paying, law abiding American. I may not enjoy paying my taxes, but I do so because I realize that government can’t operate without income, and I rely on the services the government provides for my daily life. But please don’t use silly arguments like this to try to discount a budding alternative currency.

I’m not a BTC user. I like a lot of the concepts surrounding BTC, but as much as it purports to be “secure”, “anonymous”, etc., I see too many flaws with the system to be willing to invest much money or time into it. I could write a whole post about my concerns, but at the very least I’m concerned with wallet theft, and that’s enough to stop me from using it in a serious fashion.

I am, however, very interested in the outcome of this action. The DHS has made a very bold move here, and whatever happens will set a precedent, so they have to be very careful moving forward.

Now where’s my popcorn popper?

Python Experimentation

I’ve been a perl user for about 10 years, but recently I decided I should start learning another language. Not that I don’t like perl or anything, but I wanted to branch out and learn something new. After doing some quick research and listening to my gut, I decided python would be my language of choice.

I’m an interactive learner. I can read a book on a language, tool, whatever, but if I’m not actually using it my knowledge retention is quite low. Fortunately, I’ve also been getting into logstash lately, and have some real needs which I can use python to fill.

So far I have 2 projects I’m working on: peabody which I’ve already written about, and now pipestash which I’m hoping to use for shipping apache log messages over to pipestash.

I’m not just venturing into unknown territory with python as the unknown territory, I’m trying to learn some more general programming strategies as well. Pipestash makes use of a queue and multiple processes (thanks to python’s multiprocessing module) and talks to a redis server. Peabody makes use of multiple file descriptors and polling and also a redis output. I might even throw some of my new multiprocessing knowledge into peabody, so instead of using select on multiple file descriptors, I might use 2 threads, one to read stdout and one to read stderr, which should simplify the code a bit and make it easier for my brain to work!

I’d like to get to the point where I’m as proficient with python as I am with perl, and actually where I’m much more proficient. It’s going to be a long, interesting journey!

SCaLE 11x

This weekend I’m attending SCaLE 11x. I’ve been to the conference a few times in the past and it’s always been a good time and excellent opportunity for networking and learning.

If you’re going to be there and want to meet up for a beer or something, drop me an email and we’ll meet up!

I’ll also be at the PGP key signing party Saturday night, let’s meet up and swap signatures!

The End of an Era

You may have noticed some downtime on the site this last week. Sorry about that.

The site used to be hosted on my old machine I had from when I was working for DreamHost. Sadly, it had to be moved from one datacenter to the other and it didn’t survive. And, considering I don’t work there anymore, replacement hardware was not readily available.

Fortunately, the hard drives were fine, so I was able to recover them. I still need to extract the data from them and get the rest of my sites online, but getting my blog back up was my top priority.

I’ve currently got the site up and running at Linode. I chose them because they have a great reputation, static IPs, IPv6 adresses, and aren’t overly expensive (this 512MB vps is $20/mo). I’d like to get back to a dedicated / colocated machine at some point, but for now this should suffice. I don’t need a lot of space, I don’t need a lot of cpu power, so why not just go with something easy?

Also, let this be a lesson for you: my dns remained functional because about a year ago I bought a BitFolk VPS to run my offsite dns for me. BitFolk has been really great, their mailing list is active and knowledgeable, their staff friendly, prompt and also knowledgeable and I can VPN through it to watch BBC.

Anywho, sorry for the outage. I hope to have everything back up and running in another day or so. For now, I’m off to bed!

Just a Quick Update

Just a quick update here. I really should get some pictures for this post, but I’m lazy, and if I put the post off pending pictures, I’ll never make the post. Not like anyone is going to read this, anyways ;-)

I got my new lab box the other day. It’s a quad core AMD something or other with 16GB of ram. The ram, of course, is the only really important bit. I’m working on moving my home services (Jenkins, nagios, gitolite, vpn, etc) over to it but I’m not in any huge hurry, so it’s taking a while.

The main reason I bought it is so I can have a machine to run some VM guests on. I’ve been wanting to try out Vagrant for a while, figure out what it’s capable of, how best to put it to use, etc. I’m liking it so far, but it’s not quite what I was hoping it would be. It is going to prove itself incredibly useful, though, so that works for me.

My folks bought me some fireplace stuff for Christmas. I now have a screen and a set of fireplace tools, so I’ve been going nuts lighting fires in my living room! A coworker of mine gave me a bunch of Pine Mountain logs, so I’ve been using those. I like them, but somehow I suspect I’ll like actual firewood that much better, so I’ll be getting some at some point.

I finally updated to iOS6 on my iPhone 4S now that Google finally came out with their maps app. Both the maps app and iOS6 are pretty slick and I’m happy I was finally able to upgrade.

On the ham radio front, I haven’t done too much, sadly. The local repeaters all seem pretty quiet, except of course for 435, but even that was quiet for a couple of weeks while it was moved. And of course now that it’s back up it’s back to jamming and general douchebaggery. Hopefully it’ll get better and I’ll be able to enjoy it more.

Tomorrow and Monday I’ll be doing a whole lot of cleaning. My house is a complete disaster and it’s starting to drive me nuts. Also, my dad always told me it’s nicer to come home to a clean house, so that’s my goal. Hopefully the cats don’t undo everything while I’m gone.

Speaking of being gone, I’ll be heading home to Mount Pleasant, IA next week. My brother is getting married on New Year’s Eve, so I figure that’s a reasonable excuse to go home. I’m flying through Denver, so hopefully I won’t have any weather troubles. I’m pretty sure DIA DEN knows how to handle a bit of snow by this point!

On the cats front, Bean and Jimmy are still getting along great. Bean is about the same size as Jimmy nowadays, and I think he still has a bit more growing to do. They’ve been really enjoying all of the boxes I’ve gotten recently from Amazon and elsewhere. They fight all the time, which is good, Jimmy really needs the interaction, he’s a bit on the husky side methinks.

Hopefully I’ll be able to find a nice cozy corner of some coffee shop or somewhere to escape to next week so I can get some work done on my side projects. Pipestash is up on GitHub, but I need to test it with Apache and make sure that’s going to work. Peabody needs some attention, and I hope to get its logstash output working by the time I get home. I’ve really been looking forward to using peabody or something like it at work for some time, and now I feel like it’s within reach. I know, I know. It’s vacation, I should be vacationing. It’s also December in Iowa at my folks’ house. I’m going to need an escape!

I’m really looking forward to getting some Pagliai’s pizza, hitting up John’s Grocery for some beer, and chowing down on some chicken from Mt. Hamill Tap (warning: auto-playing music). I’ll also be heading over to Fairfield on Friday to meet up with someone I found on biglumber to exchange PGP signatures.

When I get back to LA, I need to do some more of my urban anomalies series. It’ll get me out of the house and get me doing more stuff on the blog, both of which are good things!

Anywho, that’s all for now. Have a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year!

73 435

So, I finally got a radio and got on the air! I picked up a Baofeng UV-5R+ from Amazon and got on the air!

Last night after some struggle, I got the radio cloned using both Baofeng’s software (which is pretty hilariously bad, I must say) and CHIRP to make a baseline backup of the device, per Raccoon’s recommendation (freenode/efnet) and got down to programming.

I feel like using CHIRP to program my radio is a bit “cheating” in a way, because I literally opened CHIRP, gave it my location, and it looked up my local repeaters online and programmed them into the radio for me.

I tuned into the closest repeater I could find, tossed out my call sign and waited. Nothing. I tried another. Nothing. I started getting discouraged, but then I remembered that my radio has a “scan” mode, so I fired that up. I ended up landing on 147.435, which is apparently an infamous repeater in the SoCal area. There was a long and seemingly heated conversation going on, so I didn’t break in, but I did listen for a while before heading to bed.

Well, tonight, after stuffing my face full of deep fried turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, quality adult beverages and fun, I got home and fired up the radio again. It was still tuned to 435, and there was some activity, so I stayed with it and kept listening. I found out there’s an IRC Channel and hopped on there to see what was happening. After a while I braved the airwaves and started talking. Then, something amazing happened. I got a response! Sadly, it was that I was very quiet, which I think is due in large part to the fact that I’m using the stock antenna which came with the radio, which I read in a lot of the reviews is not very good. Fortunately, the people seemed to be receptive and friendly to this new voice on the air, and I got some recommendations for improving and testing my setup, including hopping on the repeater’s teamspeak server for duplex so I can check how the repeater is hearing me.

One thing that is drawing me to the repeater is that they seem to have less concern about “obscene language”, and that’s appealing to me. Not because I have to have profanity in my life to survive, but because it means there are less “tabboo” topics, and I won’t have to watch my mouth quite so much!

Anywho, I’m just happy to finally be on the air, and I look forward to many more rag chews and contacts and Elmer sessions. “73” 435.

Special thanks to N6BHU and KC6USO (though this appears to be an outdated call?) for being patient with me and helping me out, both in the irc channel and on the air.

Mailing List Subscriptions

For a long time I’ve been a huge fan of email discussion lists. It’s how I’ve learned about a lot of the software I use. I hop on the list, try to read and absorb most every post, and get ideas about various uses. Mailing lists are incredibly valuable to me, and since I’ve been on so many in the past, I have my own way of handling them.

You Can’t Plan This

In an area where city planners built an impressive, masterfully executed grid system of streets, there exist anomalies. These anomalies fascinate me. Intersections which don’t fit the grid mold. Streets being encroached upon causing interesting artifacts in the layout. Passageways hidden in plain sight allowing easier transit between otherwise isolated areas. These are the subject of my new series of posts.

I honestly don’t know why these anomalies fascinate me so. Maybe it’s just because they break up the monotony of the Valley’s grid layout. Maybe it’s because I think about what it might be to live near one. Maybe it’s just because I’m weird. Who knows?

I don’t intend to limit these posts to anomalies in the San Fernando Valley. In fact, I very much want to do some more urban exploration and find even more. I’m starting with the Valley, though, and specifically ones in my neighborhood because they’re the ones I’ve discovered and visit often.

Another area I intend to explore are the secret staircases in LA. Yes, they’ve been fairly well covered, but I haven’t been to them, and I would very much like to.

Non-car freeway crossings are also of interest to me. There are quite a number of foot bridges and tunnels which cross LA’s freeways and each one is unique. Some have simple run-ups and just cross the freeway, others have spiral ramps marking a sharp rise in elevation in a small space.

If it goes against the grid, I’m probably interested in it. Even better if I can get there easily on my bike!

I already have a couple of posts up about this subject, and hope to get out and find some more, soon.

If you have a place in mind you think fits in this category, let me know and I’ll check it out!

Ranchito and Archwood

Another place I like to go on walks with my dog is an oddball intersection about a mile from my house.

Ranchito swings back to the west just a little bit here (back into alignment with the rest of its north-south path) which leaves this curious intersection.

This intersection has a lot going on:

First of all, it’s a residental street with a merging lane. This doesn’t seem like it would be a very common occurrence.

Secondly, when approaching the intersection from the west you actually seem to have 2 points where you have to stop.

On the left side of the above picture is where the stop sign for east bound traffic actually is. If you’re turning to the south, you can stop there and prepare to merge in with the other southbound traffic.

If you’re continuing eastward or turning north, you have to move up so you can see traffic coming from the north, which brings you into the intersection.

This merge lane is obviously here for safety, since from where the eastbound stop sign is you can’t see traffic coming from the north. The whole reason this extra-wide intersection exists is because of Ranchito’s swing to the east for a block between Vanowen and Archwood.

It makes me wonder what precipitated the need to reroute Ranchito for this short stretch.