Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Free beer is not OK

Coding, Operating Systems, Security, Technology []

The phrase “free, as in beer” is often used in connection with Open Source software, to indicate that the software is being given to users without any expectation of payment. This distinguishes it from “free, as in speech” which might erroneously suggest that the software could do whatever it liked.

Actually, were it not for Andres Freund’s recent discovery, a certain piece of software called xz utils might have actually become free to do whatever it liked (or more correctly, whatever its evil master desired). NIST gives it a criticality of 10/10. Freund announced his discovery a month after the tainted xz had been released, though thankfully before it had worked its way into production systems.

The xz utilities provide [click title to read more…]

AI, AI captain

Legal and Political, Security, Technology []

Artificial Intelligence is appearing everywhere and it is increasingly difficult to stop it seeping into our lives. It learns and grows by observing everything we do, in our work, in our play, in our conversations, in everything we express to our communities and everything that community says to us. We are being watched. Many think it is just a natural progression from what we already created. To me, it is anything but natural.

Spellchecking: an AI precursor

Half a century ago, automatic spell-checking was introduced to word processing systems. Simple pattern matching built into the software enabled it to detect unknown words and suggest similar alternatives. By adding statistical information it could rearrange the alternatives so that the most likely [click title to read more…]

Amazon Linux 2023 on VirtualBox

Operating Systems, Technology

About seven months ago I threw my hat into a GitHub thread that had opened over a year before (March 2022!) asking Amazon to make good on its promise to release off-prem images of its AL 2023 operating system. My jab at Amazon was picked up in an article on The Register and a few weeks later there was finally some movement by Amazon, raising the profile of the issue and eventually leading to a release of KVM and VMware images mid-November. There was no image for VirtualBox and I mentioned this omission in a follow-up on GitHub. The current January 2024 release still only supports KVM and VMWare. The online instructions also omit VirtualBox. This is unusual because they [click title to read more…]


Operating Systems, Technology

Windows Update is both essential and painful. Regularly interrupting the normal flow of work, sometimes sapping all the energy out of the computers, taking control for long periods of time (on older machines this could be hours!) and occasionally “whoops…” Like the past few days where all except one of my PCs has choked on KB5034441. There are suggestions that the problem is due to the relatively new requirement that the Windows recovery partition have at least 250Mb of available space. All of mine have more than double that, so the update failure is likely more complex. The remedy (partition resizing) proposed by Microsoft is far more convoluted than anything the average user would be familiar with, and infeasible for [click title to read more…]

Power trip

Hardware, Technology

Over the past several weeks we have had multiple power outages (long, short, brown, buzzing…). Partly due to recent storms, but mostly due to major work being done on local distribution lines. Some of my systems are in the clouds where industrial-grade power management is in place. (I hope.) My personal servers and dev/test systems are on-site and are subject to the vagaries of suburban power services. While “backup, backup, backup” is the mantra that ensures I won’t lose much, recovering from system corruption can be time-consuming.

Thankfully I also have an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) parked below the server shelving. Over the past month (and several outages) I have been pushed to refine and improve how the environment deals [click title to read more…]