a throw-away remote VNC linux desktop in a docker container

I am running most of my in-house infrastructure based on Docker these days…

Docker is a set of platform-as-a-service (PaaS) products that use operating-system-level virtualization to deliver software in packages called containers. Containers are isolated from one another and bundle their own software, libraries and configuration files; they can communicate with each other through well-defined channels.

All containers are run by a single operating-system kernel and are thus more lightweight than virtual machines.

Wikipedia: Docker

And given the above definition it’s fairly easy to create and run containers of things like command-line tools and background servers/services. But due to the nature of Docker being “terminal only” by default it’s quite hard to do anything UI related.

But there is a way. By using the VNC protocol to get access to the graphical user interface we can set-up a container running a fully-fledge Linux Desktop and we can connect directly to this container.

I am using something I call “throw-away linux desktop containers” all day every day for various needs and uses. Everytime I start such a container this container is brand-new and ready to be used.

Actually when I start it the process looks like this:

As you can see when the container starts-up it asks for a password to be set. This is the password needed to be entered when the VNC client connects to the container.

And when you are connected, this is what you get:

this is what you see after connecting to the desktop container by VNC

I am sharing my scripts and Dockerfile with you so you can use it yourself. If you put a bit more time into it you can even customize it to your specific needs. At this point it’s based on Ubuntu 18.04 and starts-up a ubuntu-mate desktop environment in it’s default configuration.

When you log into the container it will log you in as root – but effectively you won’t be able to really screw around with the host machine as the container is still isolating you from the host. Nevertheless be aware that the container has some quirks and is run in extended privileges mode.

Chromium will be pre-installed as a browser but you will find that it won’t start up. That’s because Chromium won’t start up if you attempt a start as root user.

The workaround:

“–no-sandbox” parameter for Chromium

Now get the scripts and container here and build it yourself!

housekeeping with NodeJS

When you are using or developing NodeJS applications and the Node Package manager (npm) over time a lot of old crusty libraries will accrue.

A lot means, a lot:

To have a chance to get on top of things and save space, try this:

npm i -g npkill 

By then using npkill you will get an overview (after a looong scan) of how much disk space there is to be saved.

Great tip!

Password Managers…

I am using 1Password for years now. It’s a great tool. So far.

As I am using it locally synced across my own infrastructure I feel like I am getting slowly but surely pushed out of their target-customer group. What does that mean?

The current pricing scheme, if you buy new, for 1Password looks like this:

So it’s always going to be a subscription if you want to start with it and if you want it in a straight line.

It used to be a one-time purchase per platform and you could set-up syncing across other cloud services as you saw fit. If you really start from scratch the 1Password apps still give you the option to create and sync locally but the direction is set and clear: they want you to sign up to a subscription.

I am not going to purchase a subscription. With some searching I found a software which is extremely similar to 1Password and fully featured. And is available as 1-time purchase per platform for all platforms I am using.

Also. This one is the first that could import my 1Password export files straight away without any issues. Even One-Time-Passwords (OTP) worked immediately.

The name is Enpass and it’s available for Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android and basically acts as a step in replacement for 1Password. It directly imports what 1Password is exporting. And its pricing is:

much more reasonable and without subscriptions.

Subscriptions for services as this are a no-go for me. It’s a commodity service which I am willing to pay for trailing updates and maintenance every year or so in a major update.

I am not willing to pay a substantial amount of money per user per month to just keep having access to my Passwords. And having them synced onto some companies infrastructure does not make this deal sweeter.

Enpass on the other hand comes with peace-of-mind that no data leaves your infrastructure and that you can get the data in and out any time.

It can import from these:

As mentioned I’ve migrated from 1Password in the mere of minutes and was able to plug-in-replace it immediately.

an OS in your browser

So I leave this right here:

OS.js is an open-source JavaScript Web Desktop implementation for your browser with a fully-fledged window manager, Application APIs, GUI toolkits and filesystem abstraction.

It really does implement a lot of what an operating system UI and portions of the backends are supposed to be. It looks quite funky and there are applications to this. Of course it’s open source

I want all electron Apps to start existing there so I can call all of them with just a browser from anywhere.

If you want to give it a spin, click here:

artifact, noise removal and inpainting toolbox

Deep convolutional networks have become a popular tool for image generation and restoration. Generally, their excellent performance is imputed to their ability to learn realistic image priors from a large number of example images. In this paper, we show that, on the contrary, the structure of a generator network is sufficient to capture a great deal of low-level image statistics prior to any learning. In order to do so, we show that a randomly-initialized neural network can be used as a handcrafted prior with excellent results in standard inverse problems such as denoising, super-resolution, and inpainting. Furthermore, the same prior can be used to invert deep neural representations to diagnose them, and to restore images based on flash-no flash input pairs.
Apart from its diverse applications, our approach highlights the inductive bias captured by standard generator network architectures. It also bridges the gap between two very popular families of image restoration methods: learning-based methods using deep convolutional networks and learning-free methods based on handcrafted image priors such as self-similarity.

Deep Image Prior Paper

As usual there’s source code available to try out yourself. It even comes with a pre-configured docker jupyter notebook.

stylizing video by example

AI and deep-learning is not always necessary or helpful. In this case impressive results have been achieved without the use of any of the hyped technologies.

In this case you give the algorithms two inputs. A video base that you want to stylize and a base picture that resembles the style you want to achieve.

We introduce a new example-based approach to video stylization, with a focus on preserving the visual quality of the style, user controllability and applicability to arbitrary video. Our method gets as input one or more keyframes that the artist chooses to stylize with standard painting tools. It then automatically propagates the stylization to the rest of the sequence. To facilitate this while preserving visual quality, we developed a new type of guidance for state-of-art patch-based synthesis, that can be applied to any type of video content and does not require any additional information besides the video itself and a user-specified mask of the region to be stylized. We further show a temporal blending approach for interpolating style between keyframes that preserves texture coherence, contrast and high frequency details. We evaluate our method on various scenes from real production setting and provide a thorough comparison with prior art.

Stylizing Video by Example Paper

Apparently there also is a Windows demo available in which you are supposedly be able to create your own stylized short clips. But as I wanted to try it out it threw a lot of funky messages regarding the application to be specifically untrustworthy / possibly malicious. So be aware and cautious.

Circuit Board Design in your browser

Once every while when you make things you actually need to make things. Things like PCBs – printed circuit boards to hold and wire your chips.

bold claim

Maybe you want to give EasyEDA a try as it’s in-browser experience is better than anything I had come across so far. Granted I am not doing PCBs regularly but nevertheless – whenever I tried with the programs I’ve got recommended it wasn’t as straight forward as it is with this tool.

color assimilation grid illusion

The image [..] is a visual/artistic experiment playing with simultanous contrast resulting from other experiments these days. An over-saturated colored grid overlayed on a  grayscale image causes the grayscale cells to be perceived as having color.
The processing needed to create the above image happened along with unrelated but significant code improvements In the last couple of weeks. I have been visiting mitch – a prolific GIMP contributors for collaboration – and lots of progress has been – and is still – being made on babl, GEGL and GIMP.

original article
See the effect in a video

You can now play with this effect and experiment for yourself. Get Gimp and enjoy!

host GIT repositories painlessly

As people around me discuss what to go for in regards to manage their growing number of private GIT repositories I joined their discussion.

A couple of years ago I assessed how I would want to store my collection of almost 100 GIT private repositories and all those cloned mirrors I want to keep for archival and sentimental reasons.

An option was to pay for GitHub. Another option, which most seemed to prefer, was going for a local Gitlab set-up.

All seemed not desirable. Like chaining my workflows to GitHub as a provider or adopting a new hobby to operate and maintain a private GitLab server. And as it might have become easier to operate a GitLab server with the introduction of container management systems. But I’ve always seemed to have to update to a new version when I actually wanted to use it.

So this was when I had to make the call for my own set-up about 4 years ago. We were using a rather well working GitLab set-up for work back then. But it all seemed overkill to me also back then.

So I found: gogs.io

It runs with one command, the only dependency is two file system directories with (a) the settings of gogs and (b) your repositories.

It’ll deploy as literally a SINGLE BINARY without any other things to consider. With the provided dockerfile you are up and running in seconds.

It has never let me down. It’s running and providing it’s service. And that’s the end of it.

I am using it, as said, for 95 private repositories and a lot of additionally mirrored GIT repositories. Gogs will support you by keeping those mirrors in sync for you in the background. It’s even multi-user multi-organization.

Walk through Tokyo

Let me introduce you to a wonderful concept. We are using these movies as backdrop when on the stepper or spinning, essentially when doing sports or as a screensaver that plays whenever nothing else is playing on the screens around the house.

What is it you ask?

The thing I am talking about is: Walking Videos! Especially from people who walk through Tokyo / Japan. And there are lots of them!

Think of it as a relaxing walk around a neighborhood you might not know. Take in the sounds and sights and enjoy. That’s the idea of it.

If you want the immediate experience, try this:

Of course there are a couple of different such YouTube channels waiting for your subscription. The most prominent ones I know are:

In addition to attract your interest there’s a map with recent such walks in Tokyo. So you can specifically pick a walk you want to see by a map!

don’t forget to zoom out – there is more than just the Tokyo area

Train Melody / 武蔵小杉駅

In hearing distance of the place I am usually staying when in Tokyo is a train station. So if the wind is right and the window is open I hear all these train station chimes and sounds.

If you don’t know what it is, let Wikipedia educate you:

train melody is a succession of musically expressive tones played when a train is arriving at or about to depart from a train station. As part of train passenger operations, a train melody includes a parade of single notes organized to follow each other rhythmically to form a lilting, singular musical thought.

In Japan, departing train melodies are arranged to invoke a relief feeling in a train passenger after sitting down and moving with the departing train. In contrast, arriving train melodies are configured to cause alertness, such as to help travelers shake off sleepiness experienced by morning commuters.

発車メロディ

With this post I also want to have you hear what I mean. These sounds are having interesting pavlovian effects anyways.

before the train exits the station
played beforehand any announcement
doors are closing

Find more here and here and here.

code autocomplete with deep learning

When you are writing code the patterns seem to repeat every once in a while. Not only the patterns but also the occasion you are going to apply certain code styles and methods while developing.

To support a developer with this creative work the tedious and repetitious tasks of typing out what is thought can be supported by machine learning.

Chances are your favourite IDE already supports an somehow AI driven code autocomplete feature. And if it does not, read on as there are ways to integrate products like TabNine into any editor you can think of…

Visual Studio IntelliCode is a set of AI-assisted capabilities that improve developer productivity with features like contextual IntelliSense, argument completion, code formatting, and style rule inference.

IntelliCode augments existing developer workflows with machine-learning services that provide an understanding of code and its context. It’s applicable for C#, C++ (in preview), JavaScript/TypeScript (in preview), and XAML code today, and will be updated in the future to support more languages.

Visual Studio IntelliCode

Of course there are some new contenders to the scene, like TabNine:

TL;DR: TabNine is an autocompleter that helps you write code faster. We’re adding a deep learning model which significantly improves suggestion quality. You can see videos below and you can sign up for it here.

TabNine

Deep TabNine requires a lot of computing power: running the model on a laptop would not deliver the low latency that TabNine’s users have come to expect. So we are offering a service that will allow you to use TabNine’s servers for GPU-accelerated autocompletion. It’s called TabNine Cloud, …

TabNine

Hack-The-Planet Podcast: Episode 0

A friend of mine started something and I have the honor to be part of it. The world now has one additional podcast to listen to. It’s in german though. For now at least.

We are still working on the website, the feed and the audio mixing and recording quality. So bear with us.

And now: Episode 0 is upon us!

Discover Zaraday!

Prickle-Prickle 5 Bureaucracy: The Apostle Zarathud’s Holyday. A hard nosed Hermit of Medieval Europe and Chaosphe Bible Banger (after his enlightenment, that is). Dubbed “Offender of The Faith”. Discovered the Five Commandments (The Pentabarf).

Zaraday

˙sǝᴉʇᴉʌᴉʇɔɐ ǝʇɐᴉɹdoɹddɐuᴉ ǝpnlɔuᴉ sǝᴉʇᴉʌᴉʇɔɐ ǝʇɐᴉɹdoɹdd∀

fiddle with .NET in your browser

There are a lot of different “fiddles”. There’s JSFiddle, SQLFiddle, HTMLFiddle, RegExFiddle, PythonFiddle, R-Fiddle, GoFiddle. There is even a page that curates a list of fiddles.

For .NET there’s one too. It supports C#, F# and VB.NET. For trying something quickly or sharing it online this is a nice way to do it:

Hello World C#
MVC even

Emulation

Preserving old software is all about storing it and keeping it running.

With the most important part being the later one. The best way to keep things running is by emulating the old and obsolete hardware as accurate as possible.

In computing, an emulator is hardware or software that enables one computer system (called the host) to behave like another computer system (called the guest). An emulator typically enables the host system to run software or use peripheral devices designed for the guest system. Emulation refers to the ability of a computer program in an electronic device to emulate (or imitate) another program or device.

Wikipedia: Emulator

There are a lot of different types of emulators for all sorts of purposes.

There’s things like bochs which is effectively emulating the hardware of a PC on chip-level and can run virtually anywhere:

Bochs is a highly portable open source IA-32 (x86) PC emulator written in C++, that runs on most popular platforms. It includes emulation of the Intel x86 CPU, common I/O devices, and a custom BIOS. Bochs can be compiled to emulate many different x86 CPUs, from early 386 to the most recent x86-64 Intel and AMD processors which may even not reached the market yet. 

bochs: the Open Source IA-32 Emulation Project

Emulators of game consoles are alike that – they are emulating the whole system hardware and are able to run original and unchanged code by replicating the exact hardware. Sometimes more and sometimes less exactly.

Hardware emulation in itself an extremely interesting field of software engineering. There’s the hard way to emulate everything accurately (and slowly) by doing what the actual old hardware would have done but maybe in software (or even in replicated hardware).

And there is harder way to emulate the software and hardware by applying all sorts of optimization techniques like JIT (just in time) compilation and dynamic recompilation.

In regards of old game console hardware there are even now specialized distributions of lots of hardware/system emulators available for specific and readily available hardware like the RaspberryPi. Some of them recently have gotten some nice updates.

Retropi

supported systems

Recalbox