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May 2009


posted to writings on may 11th, 2009 with tags meta and openbsd

since i've gotten a few e-mails on it and google is still sending traffic to me, my openbsd on laptops pages are no longer here (and are now redirecting to this post). i removed them from the site in 2008 because all of the information was outdated, save for my current laptop. most of the laptop models i wrote about are outdated anyway, but even if you did find and purchase them now, i'd rather you try the latest openbsd release or a -current snapshot and see what works and doesn't, rather than rely on something i said about the state of openbsd a year ago.

my /laptops/ urls were temporarily redirecting to the i386-laptop.html page on the openbsd website, but that page was itself removed in february 2009. a few openbsd developers agreed that laptops aren't special hardware anymore and should just work without a list of hacks or special Xorg configs. if things don't work, file bugs and work to get them fixed.

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April 2009

on the dell mini 9

posted to writings on apr 23rd, 2009 with tags dell, laptops, mini, openbsd, and thinkpad

i bought the oqo 2 years ago hoping to have a truly portable computer that i could carry around and still access my familiar working environment, but for the majority of the time when i was at my desk, it could dock to a full-sized screen and keyboard. that plan didn't really work out too well since the hardware wasn't very compatible with openbsd and it was too small to really use without the dock anyway.

years later, netbooks became popular (and cheap) so i tried the hp 2133 and msi wind, using the wind as my only machine for quite some time. eventually the 1024x600 resolution felt kind of cramped so i went back to a full-sized laptop with the thinkpad x200. it has a 1280x800 resolution that was a nice improvement over the thinkpad x40's 1024x768, but it feels like more of a desktop machine than a laptop. it's quite big, its fan is on all the time, and the battery life isn't that great without the heavy 6-cell battery.

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March 2009

trying to game (part 2)

posted to writings on mar 10th, 2009 with tag javascript, last updated on aug 12th, 2009

in the first part of this story, i had created a greasemonkey (javascript) script to watch auctions on and log bidding activity to my server. after observing a few auctions, i altered my script to automatically place bids on my behalf every time the auction's counter ran down to 1 second.

the only way i could possibly lose in this scenario would be if some sort of network disruption occurred that prevented my browser from seeing the counter reach 1, or prevented my bid from reaching the server and being placed. my script would keep bidding until my account ran out of money to bid with, continually running the auction time left back up to 10 seconds, until i was no longer outbid.

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trying to game

posted to writings on mar 6th, 2009 with tag javascript, last updated on aug 12th, 2009

i read about a while ago and my first reaction was that it was a very clever concept for the site owners, but awful from an end-user perspective. in short, you buy a pack of bids for say, $30. bidding on an auction will cost you 75 cents (from your $30) and will increase the time of the auction by 10 seconds. if you are the high bidder when the clock runs out, you win, just like a real life auction, and in contrast to ebay which has a fixed time and you have to win by "sniping" and putting in a last-second bid.

on a typical auction for a new macbook (also in contrast to ebay, all products are sold new from the site, not sold used from other members of the site) valued at $1,299, the final ending price is only $172.84. therefore, the high bidder at the end of the auction gets to buy it for $172.84. of course, by that time, 17,284 bids have been placed (each increasing the price by a penny), each costing users 75 cents. the site has earned $12,963 just in bids, plus another $172.84, totaling $13,135.84 for a $1,299 laptop. in this particular auction, the winning bidder made 1,435 of those bids and spent $1,076.25 to win, so he's not really saving much. but on another auction for the same product the next day, the winning bidder only had to spend $57 on bids to win the macbook for $9.58. quite the savings for that person.

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on twitter

posted to writings on mar 5th, 2009 with tag twitter

i keep reading these articles about twitter where some old-timey news person says they don't "get" twitter. their complaint is usually, "who cares what you're eating for breakfast? why would anyone want to read that?" and i completely agree. this is a stupid reason to use twitter. people read the "what are you doing?" question on the twitter home screen and feel compelled to answer it, even if what they're doing is unimportant to anyone. i say this as someone who has maintained a public weblog for 10 years and posted a lot of unimportant things.

i think twitter's strength is not at all what its creators had in mind. while you can use it to keep track of what your friends are doing, its public nature makes it uncomfortable to use that way. and unless you're shaquille o'neal, the hundreds of internet strangers following you don't need to know what bar you're headed to tonight unless you hope to have them all join you. private services like loopt that integrate with phones and location services are better suited for that.

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February 2009

static files with apache 2 + mod_proxy + mod_rewrite + mongrel + rails

posted to writings on feb 22nd, 2009 with tags apache, openbsd, rails, and ruby

corduroy does everything over ssl and because of that, it was noticeably slow on my openbsd laptop with firefox 3. using tamper data, i was able to observe that firefox was not caching any of the stylesheets or javascript files, so on every page load it would have to re-fetch these few files (one of them being prototype at a hefty 28kb post-gzip). that ultimately seemed to be a quirk in firefox on openbsd since the same setup with the same version of firefox on my mac was caching them fine and safari was as well.

with the help of rails' stylesheet_link_tag et al. appending urls with "?1214348293", i was able to use apache's ExpiresActive to force very long expiration times on these static assets:

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January 2009

syncing itunes music with the android g1

posted to writings on jan 26th, 2009 with tags android, g1, mac, and ruby

i finally got around to putting music on my g1 and wanted a simple way of synchronizing an itunes playlist with a directory on the g1's sd card while it was connected over usb, just like my iphone used to once it was docked.

i found synctunes which is free (though not available on the author's site anymore for some reason) but it didn't preserve any directory structure on the destination and just lumped all of the files into one big directory.

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December 2008

god god

posted to writings on dec 7th, 2008 with tags openbsd, rails, and ruby

i'm using god on openbsd (kqueue) to monitor a dozen mongrel processes for various rails sites on one of my servers. i started using it just to have a simple way of restarting each collection of processes when i need to load new code or just start them when the machine boots up. eventually, i added cpu and memory checks to kill processes that go stray for too long, which doesn't happen that often.

however, now the task that constantly uses too much memory and cpu is... the very task that is supposed to be watching for tasks using too much memory and cpu.

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November 2008

watching the web discover

posted to writings on nov 29th, 2008 with tag web

the buzz around and traffic to is slowing down now and i'm amazed how many people responded positively and thought it was actually useful.

while talking to dave about it yesterday, he remarked something along the lines of, "of all the awesome, useful shit you've ever made, the thing that finally became famous was this stupid little site."

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my thoughts on the nokia e71

posted to writings on nov 25th, 2008 with tags e71, iphone, and phone

i've been using my nokia e71 for a week and a half now and there are quite a few things that i like, and quite a few that i don't.

one of the first things i did when i got it (after buying an 8gb micro-sd card for it) was pair it with my imac over bluetooth, then run isync and push my calendars and contacts to it wirelessly. the ironic part, of course, is that isync is made by apple and comes with mac os x, but it doesn't work with apple's own iphone. it does, however, work with pretty much every other non-apple phone i've ever had.

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posted to writings on nov 13th, 2008 with tags c and openbsd

i wrote a perl script about a year ago called qconsole that used wmctrl to incrementally scroll an xterm down from the top of my screen, then back up when it was called again. i called it qconsole because i thought i remembered the game quake having a console like that. even though i have lots of xterms scattered around my screens all the time, having that one console around in whatever workspace i was in, accessible with a single keystroke, was really handy.

when i switched from fluxbox to xfce4/xfwm, it no longer worked because xfwm won't allow windows to be moved off-screen even a window's mapping geometry is specifically requesting it. that sucked, and i stopped using qconsole.

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on the blackberry bold

posted to writings on nov 4th, 2008 with tags blackberry, iphone, and phone

over a year ago, i switched from a blackberry curve to the apple iphone. the iphone has been a fairly good smartphone and i haven't had too many complaints, until a month or two ago when everything on it started to get really slow and laggy. opening an application like notes or sms would take a few seconds to show anything, then another 5 or so seconds to actually respond to a tap. by the time the camera application would actually show its video, whatever i wanted to take a picture of had usually changed or moved.

the lack of 3rd party apps quickly led me to jailbreak it so i could run things like mobileterminal with openssh and vnc. while neat at first, jailbreaking quickly became a pain in the ass, usually leaving me a version behind the current release for a while until a stable jailbreak had been released. i resisted upgrading to the 2.0 firmware for a long time partly because it hadn't been jailbroken, and the app store apps were pretty lame compared to what i already had installed.

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October 2008

the real cost of selling something on ebay

posted to writings on oct 8th, 2008 with tag ebay

i recently sold something on ebay and actually added up all the little costs and fees and days of waiting. it's ridiculous, and there has to be something better out there. craigslist does not inspire confidence in buyers or sellers, and goes so far as to shut down sites that let you search outside of your local area making it difficult to sell to anyone outside your own city.

so i listed the item on ebay with a buy it now price of $1,285. i did this at like 1 in the morning and since that means the auction ends at 1 in the morning, i used ebay's "list in the future" thing to start it the following day at 2 in the afternoon. once the auction started, of course it got a bid right away since it had no reserve or high start price, which immediately removes the buy it now option. why does ebay do this? according to their site, it's because buyers would get confused by someone using buy it now after they placed a bid. but of course, in certain categories, they still retain the buy it now option after bidding, and those certain categories change randomly. i think that is more confusing.

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September 2008

making mutt useful offline

posted to writings on sep 29th, 2008 with tag mutt

i've been using mutt as my mua for over 8 years now. long ago i would ssh to my server and run it on local maildirs, but as soon as i started using smartphones and multiple computers i had to switch to an imap+ssl setup. mutt's header_cache option has long made accessing large mailboxes snappy, and the recent message_cachedir option available in 1.5 makes browsing through messages with attachments equally snappy over imap.

a useful side effect of message body caching is that it provides an offline copy of entire mailboxes which get synchronized automatically and can easily be read in mutt as a local mailbox... well, almost.

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posted to writings on sep 13th, 2008 with tags iphone, todo, and web, last updated on sep 13th, 2008

here are some ideas i've been thinking about but am too busy/lazy/stupid to implement:


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