The web is boiling

A cute little froggy sits inside a pot and doesn’t notice as the water boils it. This is the modern web. Owned by billionaires and conglomerates. They will take you in promising to stay ‘open’, ‘free’, and ‘democratic.’ Over time people’s trust in these entities increases and many come to rely on them… only for them to screw people the moment they step out of line.

What you do doesn’t matter. It could be an automated system that gets abused… or perhaps something more insidious like deciding certain political beliefs constitute ‘trolling.’ The provider gets to say what is ‘acceptable.’ And as long as a person shares the same values everything goes okay. But occasionally… Something happens. Then you realize that everything you ‘had’ was just an illusion.

You never had a choice. You never had control over your ‘account’, your ‘data’, or ‘services.’ You were being kept inside a pen. The funny thing is. If the platform ever does anything bad (like loosing all your data which happens all the time) they’ll get a fine and go on their merry way. But you have zero recourse for being screwed over yourself.

Welcome to the ‘free’ web in 2023. Destination: you.

I tried the future of food and it wasn’t soylent

Soylent is a powdered food that promises to keep its adherents alive and give them back all the time they wasted on cooking. It comes in many different flavors and over the years its formulation has evolved to mitigate some of the side effects of consuming such a calorie-rich liquid (namely bloating, gas, and digestive issues.) Among certain circles Soylent has a cult following. I myself have tried some of its early formulations and saw the potential early on. But to me there is no getting around the obvious drawback of Soylent: which is it takes away the joy of eating food.

No matter how many flavors it comes in. One eventually gets tired of drinking it. These meal replacement companies focus on powders, drinks, and bars because they’re easy to scale. But actually using them as a viable way to save time cooking is ah… a little deluded. Reducing life to a chemical composition is a robotic way to say ‘fuck you’ to your humanity. It turns out that living on a chemical sludge is no where near as fun as it sounds. But I think there’s a much better alternative to what Soylent is trying to do and it’s called ready-meals. Mind you, I’m not talking about the ready-meals you get in the freezer isle at the local super market, no. I’m talking about ready-meals that are made by hand with fresh ingredients and haven’t undergone processing for long-term storage (e.g. high sodium, vacuum heating, all that stuff that destroys flavor.)

There are now many companies that offer prepared meals that you can refrigerate for immediate consumption or freeze for long-term storage. And the meals are delicious. Chef-prepared, restaurant-quality dishes that are cheaper and healthier than take-away. It’s still more expensive than buying groceries and cooking. But in exchange you get professionally prepared meals that only need 3 minutes in the microwave to eat. No defrosting. No high sodium. No other bullshit. Fresh ingredients. Does that sound better than drinking a chemical sludge? I think so.

During COVID there were a few enterprising people who started businesses cooking meals in their kitchens and selling it. That’s another approach to the problem. There have been some companies that focus on ‘peer-to-peer’ marketplaces for home cooked meals (I definitely would be a customer.) Though I’m not aware of any popular ones. I’d say if anyone is interested in trying these fresh ready-meals: do some Google research as you will need to find the companies that ship to your state. The meals arrive in cooled boxes, delivered in a refrigerated truck. Again, these meals are specifically not frozen so unless you put them in the freezer they will keep for about a week in the fridge.

Free public blockchains

For the people interested in blockchains the proposal is something like this: a shared database recording transferable credits is maintained by the introduction of rewards tied to the computational cost of producing them. In so doing, the cost of degrading trust within the system is tied to the cost of ever increasing computational complexity.

So with each successive reward prior transaction activity becomes more and more certain. The design here addresses the problem of allocating or minting credits within the system by making them the outcome of securing ledger activity. Perhaps implicit in this assumption is that a reward is needed for network participants to provide services. It’s a fair assumption, too. Why would people provide resources for free? But since this assumption also dictates how people use the transaction ledger its worth examining.

So I ask a very simple question: Are there any consensus-like systems out there that specifically don’t require fees to use? As it happens – the answer is yes. The closet system I’ve found so far is a project called OpenNIC. OpenNIC are an alternative authoritative registrar for domain names. So why is this important? Well, OpenNIC is doing something very similar to a blockchain system but they’re specifically NOT tying it to money, fees, or rewards. In OpenNIC there are different domain name servers to manage TLDs but lets simplify this and say that there’s still a level of consensus over the state of records in the system. OpenNIC are providing this service because:

(1) It’s literally a critically important service to the Internet
(2) Running an alternative that’s user-managed allows for more creativity
(3) It’s more open than the current system and costs nothing for users

This is provided for free by volunteers because they believe in the idea. Because they see value in it. Because it does provide value. So my question is: wouldn’t it also be possible to make a blockchain system that supports smart contracts that’s 100% free to use (no transaction fees required) using a similar model to OpenNIC. It would be much more useful for many apps because as stated already — even just DNS is a critical need for the Internet. A smart contract system that is free to use would be a better fit for the Internet than what exists.

Get Dell XPS 17 9730 setup with linux (and fix broken audio ‘dummy output’ and touchpad freezes)

I just bought the new Dell XPS 17 9730 laptop (and I really love it) but I had trouble (1) getting Linux installed on it (2) getting the audio working and (3) stopping the touchpad from freezing.

If you have these issues:

  1. Ensure ‘secure boot’ is disabled in the BIOS. For your own sanity you’ll probably also want to turn off ‘fast boot’ and set the delay to 5 seconds. Pressing F12 is how you get to the BIOS.
  2. Download OpenSUSE. On Windows you can use Rufus to make a bootable USB or Etcher for other OS’. The XPS only has USB C ports and if you try to boot from a smart card it will hang. You may need a dongle that gives you regular USB.
  3. Why OpenSUSE? Well, the simple reason is after wasting hours of my life OpenSUSE was the only OS where I got the audio working. So yeah, that’s what you get. Dell XPS 17 (the most recent version) has very new hardware and this has issues in current Linux distros.

Here’s the magic command on OpenSUSE to get your audio working:

sudo zypper install sof-firmware

After that’s installed reboot your system and your audio devices will show up. The last step is to click the speaker icon in the bottom right and select the output ‘Speaker (sof-soundwire Speaker)’ to use the speakers on your laptop. I haven’t checked bluetooth audio or the headphone port but I was able to get my airpods working on Ubuntu earlier so I don’t think it would be a big deal to use on OpenSUSE.

Overall this is a good laptop. The screen brightness matches a Mac Book Pro. The keyboard feels nice to type on and the hardware is very up to date. It is expensive but you always have to pay for quality.

Touchpad freezes or ‘sticking’

On OpenSUSE I’ve found that using the touchpad will cause the cursor to periodically get stuck. If you disable ‘hardware acceleration’ in your web browser the touchpad will function properly.

Edit: here’s how to get Airpods pro 2 working on OpenSUSE:

sudo zypper install blueman nano

sudo zypper install bluez-auto-enable-devices

sudo nano /etc/bluetooth/main.conf

DiscoverableTimeout = 0
ControllerMode = bredr
Experimental = true


sudo nano /etc/pulse/
find the line that says:

load-module module-card-restore

and change it to:

load-module module-card-restore load-module module-card-restore

To enable your Airpod pros microphone:

open blueman, right click airpods, and change the audio profile to hands free

When you restart your audio and mic may be disabled again.
Running this script will fix that.

sudo su -
pkill blueman-manage || 1
systemctl restart bluetooth || 1


Curls security announcement

Recently the curl project posted an announcement on Github that there was a severe vulnerability in curl and they would have a fix out in a week. Many people seemed to think that this notice was appreciated and gave people enough time to learn about the issue and know they would have to update in the future. But I’d argue the whole approach curl has taken is ultimately undesirable and put users at risk for no reason.

What is curl?

Curl is both a command-line tool and a library. It’s used widely for working with web requests – though I understand it supports other protocols. Curl is incredibly useful. It’s available on virtually every operating system. Many important projects use its library for working with common Internet protocols. Curl is a ubiquitous tool for today’s technologists.

Why was the notice bad?

When a security issue is found in software it’s common practice to keep knowledge about it internal until it’s fixed. This is done for several reasons:

  1. It avoids giving attackers knowledge of a vulnerability which they may use to exploit systems before a fix is available.
  2. It avoids creating unnecessary panic before a fix is out.
  3. It affords time to get patches out before a release is made.

What curl did was say there was a critical vulnerability while giving stakeholders nothing to protect themselves from it. While they didn’t publish details for a working exploit: for all we know they’ve motivated hoards of attackers to find an exploit and use it. There may also have been parties that already knew about the exploit for years and now they’re motivated to use it.

B-but it gave me time to prepare

People have said that the curl notice was appreciated because it gave affected parties time to prepare for the fix. But I don’t buy that. The reason is the timeframe – 1 week is not long enough to do anything. By saying there’ll be a patch available in a week they’ve forced a mandate on everyone that says ‘everyone currently using curl needs to update within a week or potentially get fuqt (not that severe – guessing it still requires interaction.)’

Unfortunately, it’s going to take time to get the fix out to users. Every distro will have to update packages. Entire tools will need to be written to scan for vulnerable versions of curl. Popular image hosting websites will need to update scores of images (that’s A LOT of builds.) They haven’t given people time to prepare. In fact, by publishing their little notice they’ve robbed them of time since the moment a fix is published in curl it will be possible to reverse-engineer an exploit and most systems still won’t be patched.

So in essence: with this notice they’ve decided on a deadline for all other vendors. Lest they leave their users vulnerable… and the dead line may not be sufficient. I would certainly consider that approach quite amateurish and negligent. A good case-study on how not to handle a security issue.

So what should curl have done?

The correct approach is simple. You privately take as long as you need to and write the fix FIRST. You privately message trusted parties at various mailing lists that include curl in their distros to coordinate the availability of a patched package on a certain date. You could also work with version control companies and image hosts to let them update tools to scan for vulnerable versions of curl and you wouldn’t even have to share the exploit specifics in such a scenario. THEN you write the notice… WITH a patch available.

People have pointed out the above already. But apparently having a different opinion to curls circle-jerk of spastics is considered trolling to them. Ironically, their very own security program asks that researchers report security problems privately. What a fucking joke. I think it’s safe to say you can ignore that.

Overwatch: hidden aim jutsu

In the sport of archery there are physical techniques to ensure consistent and accurate aim. In first person shooter games we don’t often think of it as a physical process – but it is. You’re familiar with the process of sitting down to use a mouse – but there are other physical practices that can be used to unlock god-tier aim. Here are my key technique to having consistent aim in Overwatch and similar FPS games.

Keep your head level and straight.

Your inner ears are the centre of balance for the entire body. When you keep your head level and straight something interesting happens when you aim. Firstly, because the screen is no longer shaking relative to your vision – targets become much easier to see.

You may be familiar with the phenomenon of your eyes ‘glazing over’ as targets on the screen become more chaotic and you start tracking them only superficially (missing shots in the process.) This virtually doesn’t happen when you keep your head straight.

Secondly, because targets are easier to track, it ends up becoming a matter of mechanical skill whether you hit targets. You can start to develop consistent, reproducible aim, even when tired.

Relax your body when you shoot.

During matches there is a lot going on which produces stress. When you’re stressed you will miss more shots. To practice this technique you should focus on slightly relaxing the muscles in your body as you shoot. This technique will help manage stress in-game and it will also help prevent shaky aim.

Directly look at the target to shoot.

I know this seems obvious but it’s not always easy to do. When targets move erratically your eyes become taxed from having to constantly focus. Sooner or later you may start relying more on peripheral vision and overall prediction to hit shots than direct focus. That is when you’ll miss.

The challenge is finding a way to maintain precise focus on targets you shoot at all times. Will you need to blink more? Will you need to occasionally look away to recharge? You will need to track the target precisely with your eyes at all times otherwise hitting them is just luck.

Don’t move the mouse with your clicks.

Imagine you’ve done everything right. You’ve lined up the perfect shot: the cross-hair is on the target. So you go to shoot and still you miss. Why is that? Well, if you’re anything like me just the act of going to click is enough to move the mouse ever so slightly. So that by the time you end up clicking your cross-hair is no longer on the target.

What you need to do is shoot in such a way that clicking doesn’t move the mouse at all. The best hero to learn this technique with is Hanzo on a custom game because you’re not going to get headshots consistently if you can’t master clicking without your mouse moving around.

If you master this last technique it will take your aim to a level you never thought possible. You’ll be able to do feats that seem super natural.

To recap:

  1. Keep your head level and straight.
  2. Relax your body when you shoot.
  3. Ensure you precisely track targets with your eyes.
  4. Don’t move the mouse with your clicks.