Tagged with tech

Quantified Bull


I admit, when I started running some eight-or-so years ago, my first smartphone with a GPS-tracker was a strong factor in keeping the motivation up. The feeling of "living the future" was fun, and measuring exactly how far and how fast I was going made progress easily visible.

In the meantime I've "logged" most of my exercise, be it runs, hikes, cycling, or skating on Swedish winter lakes. But I never got into wearing a heart-rate-monitor, or tracking my weight more than twice a year. Plus, I rarely checked the long-term statistics of my exercises - after all I had reached a level of fitness that I am satisfied with and lack the ambition to reach any lofty goals.

So instead of going along with the "quantified-self" movement, wearing a step-counter with unobtrusive heart-rate monitor, or tracking my diet, I recently found myself not even bothering to turn on the tracker-app when I bike 20km to work, and back. Running without a GPS-watch lets you pick up some mushrooms and look around for more, without the nagging feeling that your average speed statistic will be messed up by this. I generally prefer not being in a hurry and physical effort does not need to come with feeling rushed.

Then there is the whole data privacy aspect. Do I want everybody to exercise more and be healthier? Sure. Do I want insurance companies to punish people who are not willing to prove their exercise by sending them their "quantified self" data? I think not.

Whereever data accumulates, it creates desires from companies and governments to use it for originally unintended purposes.

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I added my twitter timeline to /twitter.

This obviously violates my principle to not embed external content, for speed and privacy reasons. But it only affects that one page and I don't want to code a more sophisticated integration right now.


Terminal blogging

Termux, Git and Pelican

I no longer carry my laptop home most days, just an Android tablet. To be able to blog with that setup, I installed Termux which provides a nice self-contained Linux environment with Apt to install more software goodies. The "Hacker Keyboard" makes vim and the command line more usable on a tablet and now I can quite comfortably edit blog entries in Markdown, commit and push to the server where Pelican re-builds the HTML site automatically.

For blogging pictures and URLs, they can be shared to Termux from other Adroid apps, I just had to drop a small script that writes the URL from the clipboard to a text file.

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Spy Headphones

I remember it blew my mind a little in high-school, that loudspeakers and microphones are the same thing, in principle. A membrane with a magnet and a coil that you either use to drive or to measure.

It should therefore maybe not come as a surprise that the headphones that you plug into your computer can be used to spy on you.

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Deploy on Push

I disabled some of my social media accounts and want to use this blog some more instead. To that end it was about time to stream-line my pusblishing process here, lowering the mental threshold. After writing a new entry, I would up to now build the site locally and then sync the output to the server. The commit to the git-repository was optional.

Now, I commit and push with git, directly to the server which updates the repo, rebuilds and syncs locally to the place where the webserver expects its files. There are many ways people do this, the following is what I found the simplest for now.

Have a git repository on the server that you push into. Let this be a standard repo, not a bare one. Set the option git config --local receive.denyCurrentBranch updateInstead inside of it. This will update the current branch working files instead of refusing to receive the push. Since we never edit files here, the tree will always be clean, so it can be updated.

Then add a script at .git/hooks/post-receive which is a hook that gets executed after the repository received the push. Mine looks like this:

cd ..
pelican -q -s publishconf.py && rsync -a output/* ../tmy.se

This builds the static html files with Pelican and then syncs them to the place where the webserver expects them.One could point the webserver directly to output/, in principle. But the built process takes half a minute for me during which the main index file is missing and the website would be offline.

Also note the cd .. in the script above, which is there because the working directory that the scripts gets run in seems to be the .git/ subdirectory. This is contrary to the git docs which claim that hooks get started in the root directory for non-bare repos.

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The future is near

I've recently been reading Nick Bostrom's book Superintelligence and must admit it stuck with me. It may well seem a tad abstract to us who are new to thinking about such matters, but highly stimulating and thought-provoking.

The main point is driven home thoroughly: We should be talking more about artificial intelligence! Because its arrival might be just around the corner and it has the potential to mark a crossroads for our future, the choices being really really bad or really really fantastically good.

If you havn't read them yet, these two blog posts by Wait But Why are probably the best introdution: Part 1, Part 2.

I am currently half-way through Olle Häggström's Here Be Dragons which covers related but broader toptics of near-future technologies.

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What new laptop?

It will soon be time to replace my current laptop, a three year old Thinkpad X230; it probably is my fifth X-series over the years. They deservedly had a good reputation for build quality, and to run Linux.

My old Thinkpad X230

However, I find it unlikey that my next machine will be another Thinkpad. Partly because of Lenovo's Superfish and BIOS Crapware debacles, partly because their latest machines are just not as good anymore. (For example I don't quite like the new-style keyboard of the X230 and onward, plus it broke down twice and needed the mainboard replaced).

Criteria for a new laptop would be the following:

  • fan-less
  • non-glossy screen, ~ 12-13"
  • digital video-out
  • good keyboard, Swedish
  • 16GB RAM
  • decent size SSD
  • track-point
  • runs Linux without too much hassle.

Things like CPU-power, battery-life, weight and screen resolution are less important. Nevertheless, I am not aware of a machine that fulfills the above. The Dell XPS 13 seems to come close, but it still has a fan and no track-point. A Macbook Air is out of the question.

If you have a suggestion, let me know!


Carpet Me

So this is what it looks like when I run my picture through Pikazo, an app that can re-create an image in the style of another. In this case, the "style" is our living room carpet from India and I especially like the red Terminator-eye.

Carpet Me

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New site

I just made a big overhaul of this site. Although there is a new theme in place as well, the biggest changes are under the hood: no more Wordpress, but static html-files generated with Pelican.

In addition, the webserver Caddy is no longer only responsible for SSL and HTTPS while proxying to Nginx, but now serves the site directly.

New URLs are without dates, but old ones should still work fine. If you happen to see anything broken, feel free to drop me an email.

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Good to see that Firehol, my choice of firewall tool for many years, is still actively developed. http://firehol.org/