sifr's cyphers

A collection of thoughts, feelings, and other such things

Computers

May 07, 2021 — sifr

This post brought to you by hours of dark cyberpunk.

Vision

I've been into computers for a long time. As a young kid I had an Amstrad CPC 464 green screen. I don't know how popular those were outside of England, but I was so pleased with it as a child. It had a basic interface, and by basic I mean BASIC. The source of software was a tape drive attached to the keyboard. It was nice. If you wanted to play a game, you put a tape in, pressed play, and then typed run. Or something along those lines, it has been a LONG while. The best part of using an Amstrad was the time you had free! You could start a game loading, go outside, climb a tree or something, then come home to find it was still loading. Go climb another tree I guess? I remember as a kid that thing was amazing, and when the internet finally waddled into rural England I wanted in. We went to every tech store I could think of trying to find a modem for the amstrad, but by the time we were looking the Amstrad was so out of date the very idea was laughable. Eventually, I bought a cheap windows 95 computer. I think it was my first use of credit. It had a modem, and I quickly racked up thousands of dollars in debt using dial up. Another enjoyable way to spend ones time. Click connect, and go make a sandwich whilst it loads in! I was well prepared for this one coming off of the back of the Amstrad though, so it was less frustrating.

Things have progressed, clearly. Now I can spend hours waiting for my software to compile instead! But once it has done so it tends to run really fast and pleasant. I'm not sure where we're headed with tech. I feel like things get faster and faster, but at the same time less and less efficient in their use of resources. Is that a bad thing? I don't know. I mean. I have all this memory and power, I suppose we might as well use it?

In some ways, despite having used PC's and their like since the late 80's, I missed a whole chunk of early PC fun. The village I lived in wasn't much for modern tech. Not that it's a requirement I suppose, but I know a lot of people living their are still resistant to things like dishwashers and central heating, since they have hot water and a fire. I got in on the ground floor with the Amstrad and the Spectrum ZX80, but then didn't get any further until at least windows 95, meaning the whole DOS era, the windows 3.1 era, the early days of linux and the BSD's, they all passed me by. I really wish I had been available for them, but I guess it's good I didn't. I spent a lot of time outside avoiding trouble of the sort that can lead to some pretty terrible trauma. Although I did once fall into a mass of stinging nettles...

This was a long rambling waffle for no purpose, but sometimes it's important to just throw things at the wall.

Tags: amstrad, CPC464, ZX80, spectrum, PC, waffle, tape-drives

Mental Illness

March 15, 2021 — sifr

This post brought to you by hours of Dark Techno.

silenced - Aim To Head

Todays theme is Silenced.

We live in a much nicer society than the one I grew up in I think. When I was a child, oh so long ago, life was simple. You put in hours of work, regardless of your personal health or happiness. In return you were rewarded with someone else getting rich and you dying old and alone because the money you had saved didn't cover the heating bills.

That was then, now things seem to be moving in a smarter direction. I grew up in the 80's in England. Now obviously I am but one idiot among many, and it's likely that I am merely alerting the world to my own experiences and prejudices, but growing up we had no real help. You couldn't go to a doctor and say, hey. I have trouble concentrating. They'd laugh at you and tell you to suck it up and get on with your work. Nowadays they diagnose you with whatever, there are drugs. There are therapy's. You can get help. I think that is great!

However, oddly, I have noticed some weirdness to this. People coming out with all kinds of mental illnesses that basically excuse them from behaving in what I would call a reasonable manner. I was watching videos yesterday talking about ADHD and how it prevents you from cleaning your house, doing any form of task reliably, learning anything useful, eating healthy, talking to people, or any other number of things that on their own would just be a quirk but combined strongly suggest interaction with you would be highly unpleasant and difficult.

How did we get along before this "You are free to act as needed, and we will adjust for you" mentality came into play? A LOT of people seem to have ADHD, or some variant of it. That makes me wonder. It's clearly not a new thing. We've had people who suffered from all these issues for centuries. Was life just absolutely miserable before now, when you couldn't be aknowledged as having an issue? You were just told to quit acting like an ass, and get on with it. Did people figure out their own ways to at least appear the same as the less afflicted, or was every moment torture.

I remember in school focusing on whatever was being taught at the time was generally nightmarish. It was a slog. Completing the tasks set by the teacher seemed like the WORST thing that could ever happen. I would put off homework until the class before it was meant to be turned in, and I think that in itself says something about how silly that was. In that I could clearly finish the work I was being set in the class I was in, AND then do the work for the next class all in the same time frame I was meant to be working on the one thing, and yet I would not set aside twenty minutes in the evening to do the homework in a sensible manner. I imagine that's what it is like to suffer from these things. To feel that way ALL the time. Knowing that the task you are dreading, the one that keeps you up at night panicked, the one that has you wound so tight you feel like you're stretched to breaking, could be done in five minutes if you would just do it. Somehow though, you won't. You can't. You don't. All the time.

I am glad people are getting help now. Honestly, I wonder sometimes if some of the issues I suffer from stem from some imbalance in me. I won't ask for help though, it's not the way I deal.

Tags: ADHD, Mental-health, eighties

Window Managers

March 04, 2021 — sifr

This post brought to you by hours of Old school britrock.

Skunk Anansie - Hedonism

Todays theme is Skunk Anansie.

My first experience with Linux was in the late 90's I think. Exact times and dates aren't really my thing, so you'll forgive me for my lack of precision. I DO know that I found a copy of linux at a car boot sale I think, a big box release for almost no money. My salary at the time was about 6 pounds a week, so you know, limited in my ability to purchase. I installed it happily on my brand new computer (which cost me a LOT of money, and months and months of saving, plus a little borrowing) and forgot to add myself to the audio group. Now, this is pre internet. (England got the internet on dial up I think around the same time as the US basically, but it was EXPENSIVE, and it was difficult to get, and that made it not really an option for teen me.) It's pre everything honestly. I had a tattered and used manual that I think was in part German, and nothing made sense. I also had no idea how to go back to Windows.

My first Linux experience was my heart dropping to my knees and me panicking my parents were going to kill me forever. As such, it's fun that even though all of that scarred me for life, the thing I remember the most about the experience itself is the cute little dragon who walked me through the install process. I don't know which version of KDE it was, I feel like maybe 2? The image of kandalf on the wiki page looks familiar. In a way this was the start of my quest to find my unicorn, the perfect desktop environment for me to live in. I've never really figured it out. I find I like parts of each of them, and I have no idea how to combine those things.

So, for example. I love tiling window managers. bspwm has been my recent love, prior to that it was herbstluftwm, and all through that I've thrown in alternatives. i3, dwm, even ratpoison. They each have their ups, and their downs. My main issue relates to multimonitor use, and also system tray use.

I like DWM's way of handling multimonitor. Both screens have whatever number of workspaces you assigned, and you swap between the two with a key combination. I don't like the fact that you have to recompile to change anything, and then logout and in to activate it.

I like that Herbstluftwm and bspwm can be changed on the fly, but herbstluftwm's multimonitor support is not for me. I hate that if I click the combo to go to workspace 2, which is on my second monitor, instead of moving me to it, it moves that screen to my first monitor. Then I have to spend a few minutes putting it all back where I had it before. bspwm's multimonitor is okay. You assign workspaces to monitors, and go tothem the normal way takes you to them. It's the best way I've found that lets me have my other needs pretty easily.

I require a systemtray. I realize it's frowned upon for some reason, but I LIKE the ease of just clicking on an icon and getting a nice menu I can do whatever I need to with. dwm has patches to enable a systemtray, so that's alright. bspwm lets me use whatever bar I want, if I want to. A fair few bars have an option for systemtrays. I never could get ANY bar to work with ratpoison, though I suspect that was more my fault than it's.

The other side of the equation is how buggy things get when you use a window manager instead of a DE. Some things just don't work, others work with massive work arounds. With that in mind, I've tried a few DE's as well.

KDE was my first, and honestly, I do love KDE. I miss aspects of the tiling WM's when I use it, but it works just fine. The issue I have with it is the clunkiness. It feels inconsistent. Some things are in some me nu's, others are buried deeper, some are just not available unless you edit config files. It feels messy. On top of that, I occasionally find it just breaking. I don't know why. Weird issues with compositing, free zes. I don't blame KDE for that, it's probably my setup, but this is a subjective discussion of my experience, so that's that.

Gnome was second. I liked gnome 2, it felt similar to things like windows, but different enough that it was a fun experience. Gnome 3 was horrible when it released, but became much better as time went on. They rem oved my system tray though, and then claimed it was totally fine to remove something as basic and standard as a systemtray, and if we still wanted it we could deal with it ourselves. Which honestly is sorta the gn ome standard. We're doing what we want. If you hate it, figure it out yourself or suck it up. I approve of the mentality, but I find myself on the wrong end of that stick sometimes, and it's not a fun stick to get in that end.

Enlightenment is fun, but it doesn't feel done yet. Cinnamon is honestly great, like gnome and KDE had a baby. Mate and XFCE are both good, just feel a little old.

I'd like to try more wayland stuff. I like the IDEA of wayland, but this desktop runs nvidia, and that makes the prospect a little out of reach until people get their stuff together. Which people and which stuff depends on whom you speak too. I tend to blame nvidia, but I won't be mad if you suggest people should support the most popular GPU.

I don't have a favorite, is basically what I'm saying. I'm using gnome right now, which feels weird, considering how much hate I've spewed at it over the years. I won't lie, it's pretty nice these days.

Tags: Linux, window-managers, herbstluftwm, gnome, dwm, bspwm, i3, ratpoison, britrock, skunk-anansie, xorg, wayland

Docker

March 04, 2021 — sifr

This post brought to you by hours of lofi hiphop.

Dark Techno / Industrial Bass Mix

Todays theme is Dark Techno.

I want to talk about Docker.

I'm old school in a lot of ways. I spend most of my time on the command line, (heck, I consume my lofi mixes via mpv and youtubedl.) I've never gotten into flatpak, or snap, or appimages. They have their place, and I've used them if the need arose, but for the most part I stick to a full download and install approach. I don't really like things like pip, gem, npm, cargo, etc either because I quickly feel like I'm losing control over my system as it fills with many and varied alternative package managers. I don't know how reasonable that is, but it's how I feel.

It was a surprise to me then, taking in the past paragraph, how much I enjoyed getting to grips with docker. For those of you unaware docker is software that lets you run other software in containers. Meaning youdon't have to worry about dependencies, setup, conflicts in libraries. You pull an image, run it, and boom. A working install of whatever it was you required. There are MILLIONS of docker images you can interact with, in millions of different ways and they all work SO well!

I started my approach to docker using my traditional do it all by hand approach. It worked, it was nice, but I kept running into weird issues where THIS thing worked, but that one didn't. None of the online guides are consistent in HOW they do things, because why would they be? You have choices! This is a good thing, but I'm no expert, and although I sorta cobbled things together I felt like I could do BETTER.

The first thing I found was the self hosting handbook. It's amazing, a work of art. As a starting place I can't recommend it enough. Really got me thinking, and figuring stuff out nicely. The only issue was adding new things. Figuring out what needed what to work was not that hard, but I knew there had to be MORE.

The second thing I found was dockstarter. Which is so nice. The documentation is a little lacking, but in a way that made sense. They described how to use their software, if you want to use the various images they offer you have to go look at the work put in to the documentation they offered. It's a little frustrating to go hunt stuff down, and then adapt it to work with the workflow dockstarter has put in place, but once you have it, you have it. Everything works great with this setup, and I'm really quite happy with it. I even managed to add a few things extra without much complication, so here's where i'm settled for now.

However, there's more! For example, unraid. Which seems to be an entire OS basically MADE for docker. Although I've not looked into it much yet, I'm curious.

Also, yunohost which also looks fantastic, and is another thing I'd like a better look at at some point.

For now though, I'm pretty happy. I have nextcloud in a docker container, transmissionVPN, miniflux, and various things meant to help the infrastructure, all hosted on my laptop, all reachable via simple subdomains.

Docker is great. Why did I wait so long to look at it?

Tags: Docker, dockstarter, unraid, yunohost, self-hosting, dark-techno

Smallnet

March 04, 2021 — sifr

This post brought to you by hours of lofi hiphop.

☯ Japanese Lofi Hip Hop ☯ beat to relax to by Tenno

Todays theme is Japanese Lofi.

Last year was an adventure. Having not left the house since march, I feel like I've had plenty of time to dedicate to discovering weird things, and I feel like I should share some of those things. First up, I've been figuring out the "small internet" I started trying to get gopher going, and I found it to be fantastic, but not very engaging. The things people were posting on Gopher were interesting, but not particularly focus grabbing. However, looking into that led me to OTHER things, as such I found gemini.

Now gemini is fun. I made a site, I used gssg to generate it, I played with posting things at random, and I enjoyed the whole process.

What really grabbed me though, was the content available. So many cool people have blogs available for you to read, have made things for you to do, and have in all sorts of ways built, with what is seemingly a very simplistic protocol, some fun, advanced, but still small things.

I could link you some of my favorites, but luckily the wonders of gemini are such that others already have! I would start with the directory, which has just recently popped into existence here Now, I linked you to that via the portal at mozz.us, which is a perfectly valid way to explore gemini space, but also... Not much fun. Edit for 2021. the randomroad directory has been retired. A new directory has arisen at medusae.space

There are hundreds of clients by this point, and new ones coming in daily, for all sorts of systems. From Windows to Plan9. As an Emacs user my current choice is Elpher Which works for both gemini and gopher, in case there is stuff you like on both.

Edit for 2021. I quit using Emacs, not because of any good reason, I just found myself more often than not defaulting to vim and having to remind myself to figure out emacs. Since installing emacs just to not useit seemed a little wasteful, I swapped to amfora which is just perfect and fantastic.

It's clearly not the ONLY option, and tastes obviously vary. For a fairly good list of both clients, servers, and fun things to do you can check the awesome-gemini list over here.

If you find anything fun out there on the smallnet, let me know! I'm just scratching the surface and it has inspired all sorts of fun ideas in me!

Tags: gemini, gopher, emacs, amfora, smallnet, lofi