transparently migrate data from local file storage to key-value-stores like RIAK KV

About 2 years ago I sat down and wrote a filesystem. Well not from scratch but using the great FUSE (Filesystem in Userspace) framework. I’ve released it as open-source later on Github:

This script acts as glue between a local file storage mount point and RIAK. It is targeted at specific use cases when local mount-points need to be migrated to RIAK without changing the applications accessing those mount point. Think of it as a transparent RIAK filesystem layer with multiple options to control it’s behavior regarding local files.

riakfuse

I had a very specific purpose in mind when I wrote this: There was a local filesystem that got filled up and because of technical restrictions we were not able to resize it or even completely copy it without interrupting the service using the data stored there.

Since we were already using the RIAK Key-Value Database for certain binary loads the idea came up to also utilize this key-value concept for a filesystem.

The idea now is: You have a local filesystem that holds a lot of folders and files already and you want to gradually want to move it to new grounds.

This migration needed to happen with minimal service interruptions assuming that there is constant reading and writing happening.

In this riak-fuse project I’ve written an overlay filesystem that steps between the application and the underlying “old”-filesystem. It looks and behaves identical to the application reading and writing.

But, depending on the mode you have chosen while mounting, every file read will at first be read from the “old”-filesystem and after successfull read stored into the key-value store.

On the next read it will be read from the key-value store directly.

The same applies for writing. Riak-fuse will write either to both, local storage and key-value store or just to the key-value store.

So in a nutshell: Data is slowly but surely on each access transferred over to the key-value store and load + storage space is slowly moving over from the local storage to the key-value store.

To facilitate this there are a lot of options for this script:

This all comes with ready-to-use docker and docker-compose files for you to try out.

Also it might interest you as an extremely simplified example of how to write an actual file system module for FUSE in Python.

Disclaimer: This effectively is my first python script as well as fuse module. Don’t be too hard on your judgement.

Michelin Guide Restaurants in Tokyo

You are likely aware of the existence of the “Michelin Guide“.

Michelin Guides are a series of guide books published by the French tyre company Michelin for more than a century. The term normally refers to the annually published Michelin Red Guide, the oldest European hotel and restaurant reference guide, which awards up to three Michelin stars for excellence to a select few establishments.

Wikipedia

You might also be aware that Tokyo is the city with the highest density of Michelin star rated restaurants. Nice, eh?

A purchase of this guide is recommended in any case but these days people also need something they can intuitively use and which integrates into already existing workflows.

These people, like myself, need a map and maybe more details in a machine readable, filterable spreadsheet.

And as time goes on it might be quite useful to have all the sources that lead to these great tables and maps. Sources that allow you to crawl and grab these information.

A script that crawls Tokyo-based michelin guide establishments and saves it into a JSON file. I personally did this project so I can plan my tokyo trip based on the cheapest and most-renowned restaurants,

Michelin Guide Crawler on GitHub

Celebrate Universal Ordination Day

Commemorating the Ordination of the Universe by passing out as many Authorized and Authentic All-Purpose Discordian Society Ordination Certificates as possible.

Upon completing 52 years and 11 days of studying the universe, Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst (under his alias of Kerry Wendell Thornley) became an ordained Minister of the Universal Life Church — on Sweetmorn 43 Discord, 3156 (April 26th 1990).

A subtle Buddhist teaching that nobody without the Buddha Mind understands is that when the Buddha was enlightened, the whole universe — with all its sentient beings, inanimate objects and blunt instruments — attained Satori with him.

On April 26th of 1990 the entire cosmos — people, stars, space rubbish and all — became an ordained minister and so anyone or anything is now legally qualified in most states to get drunk at weddings and giggle at funerals, spit holy water, christen puppies and preach salvation by fire and brimstone.

Only an ordained minister, however, can see how this is possible.

So, on Universal Ordination Day we commemorate the Ordination of the Universe by passing out as many Authorized and Authentic All-Purpose Discordian Society Ordination Certificates as possible.

Whoever distributes the most of these becomes Pastor Present of the Permanent Universal Tax Strike Universal Life Church of the Permanent Universal Rent Strike and may fly anywhere in the world, for a whole year, free — if they can figure out how to fly and providing they always first say “Up, up and away!”

“Every Man, Woman and Child is a Pope!”

Discordian Wiki

Purple Tentacle

There are some things that influenced us over time. I’ve never played a lot of computer games. But I’ve played adventure games. Most notably those of LucasArts.

The “Day of the Tentacle” – being the sequel to “Maniac Mansion” – was one adventure game that I have a lot of great memories of. I have played it through a lot of times since it’s release.

At the beginning of the game the main villain (the purple tentacle) of the game is making a statement:

Bernard: Ok, you’re free to go.
Green Tentacle: Thanks Bernard!
Purple Tentacle: Yes, thank you, naive human! Now I can finish taking over the world! Ha ha ha!
Green Tentacle: Wait!
Bernard: Oh, yeah. Now I remember. He’s incredibly evil, isn’t he?
Green Tentacle: Uh… I’ll try to talk him out of it.

LucasArts (June 1993). Day of the TentacleDOS.

And because of his aspiration to take over the world the picture of the scene this is being said ended up as my phones unlock screen background (and if lots of other places) ever since.

With the help of the internet, you can have it on yours as well. And since screen resolutions improve over time, have it in timeless vectors:

vectorialized by Chalda Pnuzig

The vectorized purple tentacle above has been kindly provided by: Chalda Pnuzig

RSS is here. Use it!

RSS aka RDF Site Summary aka Rich Site Summary aka Really Simple Syndication is a standardized web format that works for you.

At least it would work for you if you would use a a tool which would allow you to “subscribe” to RSS feeds from all sorts of websites. These tools are called feed-reader.

The website you are reading this on offers such a link. By subscribing to its feed you will be able to see all content but without having to actually go to each of your subscriptions one by one. That is done by the feed reader. This process of aggregation is it why feed readers are also called aggregator.

Invented exactly 20 years ago this month on the back-end of a feverish dot-com boom, RSS (Real Simple Syndication) has persisted as a technology despite Google’s infamous abandonment with the death of Google Reader and Silicon Valley social media companies trying and succeeding to supplant it. In the six years since Google shut down Reader, there have been a million words written about the technology’s rise and apparent fall.
Here’s what’s important: RSS is very much still here. Better yet, RSS can be a healthy alternative…

RSS is Better Than Twitter

I am using Liferea as my feed reader on desktop and Reeder on all that is iOS/macOS.

I’ve found that by using RSS feeds and not following a pre-filtered timeline I would not “follow” 1000 sources of information but choose more carefully whom to follow.

Some do not offer any feeds – so my decision in these cases is wether or not I would invest the time to create a custom parser for their content to pull in.

After RSS being just another XML format you quickly realize that HTML is just another XML format as well. There are simple ways to convert between both on the fly. Like fetchrss.com or your command-line.

Of course RSS is not the only feed format: ATOM would be another one worth mentioning.

EFI boot app in C#

Zero-Sharp is using the CoreRT runtime to very impressively demonstrate how to get down to bare-metal application operation using C#. It compiles programs into native code…

Everything you wanted to know about making C# apps that run on bare metal, but were afraid to ask:

A complete EFI boot application in a single .cs file.

Michal Stehovsky on Twitter

This is seriously impressive and the screenshot says it all:

a very cool “Hello World“.

archive your slice of the web

Many use and love archive.org. A service that roams the public internet and archives whatever it finds. It even creates timelines of websites so you can dive right into history.

Have a piece of history right here:

You can have something similar hosted in your own environment. There are numerous open source projects dedicated to this archival purpose. One of them is ArchiveBox.

ArchiveBox takes a list of website URLs you want to archive, and creates a local, static, browsable HTML clone of the content from those websites (it saves HTML, JS, media files, PDFs, images and more).

I’ve done my set-up of ArchiveBox with the provided Dockerfile. Every once in a while it will start the docker container and check my Pocket feed for any new bookmarks. If found it will then archive those bookmarks.

As the HTML as well as PDF and Screenshot is saved this is extremely useful for later look-ups and even full-text search indexing.

Only in Japan

When you are searching the internet for more information and things to learn about Japan you will inevitably also find John Daub and his “Only in Japan” productions. And that is a good thing!

ONLY in JAPAN is a series produced in Tokyo by one-man band John Daub.  

Only in Japan Patreon page

Back in 2018 we even where around when John announced that he is going to live-stream.

And so we met up with him and eventually even said “Hi”.

this is John in full gear

Of course it wasn’t just us who got a good picture. We were part of the live stream as well – involuntarily as we had tried very hard to not be in frame.

Video Game History

Have you ever asked yourself what those generations coming after us will know about what was part of our culture when we grew up? As much as computers are a part of my story a bit of gaming also is.

From games on tape to games on floppy disks to CDs to no-media game streaming it has been quite a couple of decades. And with the demise of physical media access to the actual games will become harder for those games never delivered outside of online platforms. Those platforms will die. None of them will remain forever.

Hardware platforms follow the same logic: Today it’s the new hype. Tomorrow the software from yesterday won’t be supported by hardware and/or operating systems. Everything is in constant flux.

Emulation is a great tool for many use-cases. But it probably won’t solve all challenges. Preserving access to software and the knowledge around the required dependencies is the mission of the Video Game History Foundation.

Video game preservation matters because video games matter. Games are deeply ingrained in our culture, and they’re here to stay. They generated an unprecedented $91 billion dollars in revenue in 2016. They’re being collected by the Smithsonian, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Library of Congress. They’ve inspired dozens of feature films and even more books. They’re used as a medium of personal expression, as the means for raising money for charity, as educational tools, and in therapy.
And yet, despite all this, video game history is disappearing. The majority of games that have been created throughout history are no longer easily accessible to study and play. And even when we can play games, that playable code is only a part of the story.

Video Game History Foundation

How to design a Transit Map

We’ve all used them. And if they are made well they really make life easier: Transit Maps.

Apart from using transit map art style to visualize a train line transit maps can be applied to a lot of data visualization needs.

Take time to consider everything about your diagram. How thick do you want the route lines to be? Are they touching, or is there a slight gap between them? Are you going to use curves or straight edges where a line changes direction? Consider your station markers – will they be ticks, dots or something else? Think about how you would like to differentiate interchange stations or transit centres as well. Consider the typeface you’re going to use for station names – it should be legible and simple. When you’ve considered all these points, you’ve given yourself a set of rules that you will use to construct the diagram. Every design decision you make should be evaluated against these rules: sometimes, you can break them if needed, but it definitely helps to have them in your head as you work.

Tutorial: How to design a Transit Map

digital signage with the RaspberryPI

We all know this situation: We have huge screens around and want them to become digital signs that display all sorts of information automatically – maybe even video.

Back in 2012 I already had the need and just recently in an entirely different context the same requirement crossed my way.

the panic status board

To achieve this kind of digital-signage you can go the easy way and utilize a service called info-beamer. You can either take dedicated hardware you purchase just for the cause. Or…

Or you can take a RaspberryPi and Display you already got and repurpose them.

With the ready-made SD card image for the Pi you simply boot up the Pi, make Internet available to it and use the info-beamer dashboard to onboard the Pi there with the PIN shown by the Pi.

The next thing you know is that you can send content from the web dashboard on info-beamer to the Pi.

idea: in-flight convertible mini-quadcopter (add wings!)

About a year ago there were some very interesting reports about a german inventor and his invention: a highly futuristic, transforming smartphone airbag.

It would be attached to your phone and when you drop it, it would automatically deploy and dampen the impact.

Like so:

Impressive, right? There’s now a Kickstarter campaign behind this to deliver it as a product. All very nice and innovative.

I have no usue of a smartphone airbag of some sort. But hear me out on my train of thought:

I do partake in the hobby of quadcopter flying. I’ve built some myself in the past.

Now these quadcopters are very powerful and have very short flight times due to their power-dynamics. 4-5 Minutes and you’ve emptied a LiPo pack.

Model airplanes, essentially everything with wings, flys much much longer.

My thought now: Why not have a convertible drone.

When the pilot wants a switch could be flipped and it would convert a low-profile quadcopter to a low-profile quadcopter with wings. Similar to how the above mentioned smartphone “airbag”.

I don’t know anything about mechanics. I have no clue whatsoever. So go figure. But what I do know: the current path of the mini-quad industry is to create more powerful and bigger “mini”-quadcopters. And this is a good direction for some. It’s not for me. Having a 10kg 150km/h 50cm projectile in the air that also delivers a 1kg Lithium-Polymer, highly flammable and explosion-ready battery pack does frighten me.

Why not turn the wheel of innovation into the convertible-in-air-with-much-longer-flight-times direction and make the mini-quadcopters even more interesting?

hyper-realistic japanese train

There are some things that, when looked at closely, just amaze you. This picture was like that for me:

I stumbled on this picture on Twitter. At first it looks like your average japanese train. With the blue seat cushions. The adverts and hand rails. All normal, right?

If you read the text or start to zoom in you will find that this is not a picture taken with a camera. This is a drawing.

This visual art is called Hyperrealism and it takes a lot of dedication and skill when done free-hand.

The artist had posted this picture on his Twitter feed. He explains that he had drawn it whilst commuting on the train over the course of a month. He used an iPad Pro and MediBang Paint. Of course he also names the train-type: Tobu Series 5050 used by the Tobu line in the greater Tokyo area.

pushing your myfitnesspal data to MQTT

MyFitnessPal is a great online service we are using to track what we eat. It’s well integrated into our daily routine – it works!

Unfortunately MyFitnessPal is not well set-up to interface 3rd party applications with it. In fact it appears they are actively trying to make it harder for externals to utilize the data there.

To access your data there’s an open source project called “python-myfitnesspal” which allows you to interface with MyFitnessPal from the command line. This project uses web-scraping to extract the information from the website and will break everytime MyFitnessPal is changing the design/layout.

Since the output for this would be command line text output it is not of great use for a standardized system. What is needed is to have the data sent in a re-useable way into the automation system.

This is why I wrote the additional tool “myfitnesspal2mqtt“. It takes the output provided by python-myfitnesspal and sends it to an MQTT topic. The message then can be decoded, for example with NodeRed, and further processed.

As you can see in the image above I am taking the MQTT message coming from myfitnesspal2mqtt and decoding it with a bit of javascript and outputting it back to MQTT.

var complete = {};
var sodium = {};
var carbohydrates = {};
var calories = {};
var daydate = {};
var fat = {};
var sugar = {};
var protein = {};

var weight = {};
var bodyfat = {};


var goalsodium = {};
var goalcarbohydrates = {};
var goalcalories = {};
var goalfat = {};
var goalsugar = {};
var goalprotein = {};

var caloriesdiff = {};

var ttopic = msg.topic.toLowerCase();

var firstobject = Object.keys(msg.payload)[0];

complete.payload = msg.payload[firstobject].complete;
complete.topic = ttopic+'/complete';

sodium.payload = msg.payload[firstobject].totals.sodium;
sodium.topic = ttopic+'/total/sodium';
carbohydrates.payload = msg.payload[firstobject].totals.carbohydrates;
carbohydrates.topic = ttopic+'/total/carbohydrates';
calories.payload = msg.payload[firstobject].totals.calories;
calories.topic = ttopic+'/total/calories';
fat.payload = msg.payload[firstobject].totals.fat;
fat.topic = ttopic+'/total/fat';
sugar.payload = msg.payload[firstobject].totals.sugar;
sugar.topic = ttopic+'/total/sugar';
protein.payload = msg.payload[firstobject].totals.protein;
protein.topic = ttopic+'/total/protein';

weight.payload = msg.payload[firstobject].measurements.weight;
weight.topic = ttopic+'/measurement/weight';
bodyfat.payload = msg.payload[firstobject].measurements.bodyfat;
bodyfat.topic = ttopic+'/measurement/bodyfat';

goalsodium.payload = msg.payload[firstobject].goals.sodium;
goalsodium.topic = ttopic+'/goal/sodium';
goalcarbohydrates.payload = msg.payload[firstobject].goals.carbohydrates;
goalcarbohydrates.topic = ttopic+'/goal/carbohydrates';
goalcalories.payload = msg.payload[firstobject].goals.calories;
goalcalories.topic = ttopic+'/goal/calories';
goalfat.payload = msg.payload[firstobject].goals.fat;
goalfat.topic = ttopic+'/goal/fat';
goalsugar.payload = msg.payload[firstobject].goals.sugar;
goalsugar.topic = ttopic+'/goal/sugar';
goalprotein.payload = msg.payload[firstobject].goals.protein;
goalprotein.topic = ttopic+'/goal/protein';

caloriesdiff.payload = msg.payload[firstobject].goals.calories - msg.payload[firstobject].totals.calories;
caloriesdiff.topic = ttopic+'/caloriedeficit';

daydate.payload = firstobject;
daydate.topic = ttopic+"/date";

return [complete, sodium, carbohydrates, calories, fat, sugar, protein, weight, bodyfat, goalsodium, goalcarbohydrates, goalcalories, goalfat, goalsugar, goalprotein, daydate, caloriesdiff];

In the end it expands into a multitude of topics with one piece of information per MQTT topic.

And with just that every time the script is run (which I do in a docker container and with a cronjob) the whole lot of pieces of information about nutrition and health stats are being pushed and stored in the home automation system.

This way they are of course also available to the home automation system to do things with it.

Like locking the fridge.

blocking ads and promotions on twitter

When a group of people with the same problem meets, they work together and sometimes do an experiment.

Nobody likes ads or “promotional content”.

At some point Twitter chose to push ads in the official Twitter client into every timeline and decided to make them look like normal timeline content.

It did not take long for a group of people that do not like that to meet and join forces: Since about a week now a very small group of people has taken their Twitter block lists and merged them using the Block Together service.

This experiment great since it’s completely effortless. You link your block lists once and from thereon you keep using Twitter like you always did. Whenever you see a paid promotion you “block it”. Everybody from thereon will not see promotions and timeline entries from this specific Twitter user (unless you would actively follow them).

17326 accounts blocked! Wow! I started with about 3500 before merging with others.

And the effect after about a week is just great! I cannot see a downside so far but the amount of promotion content on my timeline has shrunk to a degree where I do not see any at all.

This is a great way to get rid of content you’ve never wanted and focus on the information you want.

the interesting bit about googles game streaming

In 2012 I’ve experienced streamed game play for the first time. I was a beta-user of the OnLive service which created a bit of fuzz back then.

Last week Google had announced to step into the game streaming business as well. They’ve announce Google Stadia as the Google powered game streaming platform. It would come with it’s own controller.

3 color variants

And this controller is the most interesting bit. We have seen video live streaming. We have seen and played streamed games. But every time we needed some piece of software or hardware that brought screen, controller and player together.

The Google Stadia controllers now do not connect to the screen in front of you. The screen, by all it knows, just shows a low-latency video/audio stream.

The controller connects to your wifi and directly to the game session. Everything you input with the controller will be directly sent to the Google Stadia session in a Google datacenter. No dedicated console hardware in between. And this will make a huge difference. Because all of a sudden the screen only is a screen. And the controller will connect to the “cloud-console” far-far away. As if it was sitting right below the screen. This will make a huge difference!

css font-feature “tnum”

Oh this is so useful for my head-up-display prototype implementation:

This feature replaces numeral glyphs set on glyph-specific (proportional) widths with corresponding glyphs set on uniform (tabular) widths. Note that some fonts may contain tabular figures by default, in which case enabling this feature may not appear to affect the width of glyphs.

tabular figures: tnum

intuitive shell command explanations

You want or you have to use shells – command line interfaces. And it’s something that always leads to stackoverflow / google sessions. Or you’re studying man-pages for hours.

But there’s a better way to view and understand these man-pages. There’s explainshell.com. Here is an example of what it can do:

As you can see it not only takes one command and shows you the meaning/function of a parameter. But it takes complex structured commands and unfolds it for you nicely onto a web page. Even the harder examples:

proper links when printing out the internet

Cascading Style Sheets or CSS in short are a very powerful tool to control how content is being displayed.

CSS is designed to enable the separation of presentation and content, including layout, colors, and fonts. This separation can improve content accessibility, provide more flexibility and control in the specification of presentation characteristics, enable multiple web pages to share formatting by specifying the relevant CSS in a separate .css file, and reduce complexity and repetition in the structural content.
Separation of formatting and content also makes it feasible to present the same markup page in different styles for different rendering methods, such as on-screen, in print, by voice (via speech-based browser or screen reader), and on Braille-based tactile devices. CSS also has rules for alternate formatting if the content is accessed on a mobile device.

Wikipedia

So with CSS you can differentiate between target audiences. It gives you control over the output being rendered for specific render targets.

I frequently come across content I want to read. And almost as frequently I do not have time for a longer read when I come across interesting content.

My workflow for this is: keeping some to-be-read backlog of PDF files I have printed from websites. These PDF files are automatically synced to various devices and I can read them at a later stage.

What often is frustrating to see: bad the print results of website layouts as these websites have not even thought of the remote option of being printed.

With this blog I want to support any workflow and first and foremost my own. Therefore printing this blog adds some print-audience specifics.

For example the links I am using in the articles are usually inline when you are using a browser. When you’re printing the article those links get converted and are being written out with the text. So you can have them in your print-outs without loosing information.

this is how Google Chrome shows you the print preview…

And the changes you need to apply to any webpage to instantly enable this are very simple as well! Just add this to your page stylesheet:

@media print {
a {
text-decoration: none;
}
a::after {
content: "( " attr(href) " )";
margin-left: 0.2em;
text-decoration: underline;
}
}

Twitter Blocklists

My usual twitter use looks like this: I am scrolling through the timeline reading up things and I see an ad. I click block and never again will I see anything from this advertiser. As I’ve written here earlier.

As Twitter is also a place of very disturbing content there are numerous services built around the official block list functionality. One of those services is “Block Together“.

Block Together is designed to reduce the burden of blocking when many accounts are attacking you, or when a few accounts are attacking many people in your community. It uses the Twitter API. If you choose to share your list of blocks, your friends can subscribe to your list so that when you block an account, they block that account automatically. You can also use Block Together without sharing your blocks with anyone.

blocktogether.org

I’ve signed up and apparently this is as easy as it gets when you want to share block lists.

There seem to be more people that use Twitter like I do. For example Volker Weber wrote about his handling of “promoted content”.

My block list on Twitter currently includes 1881 accounts and these are only accounts that put paid promotions without my request into my timeline.

I’ve read that Volker has such a long list as well – maybe it’s worth sharing as Volker is one person I would trust on his decisions for such a list. (vowe is a good mother!)

how do you organize your tasks?

For about 2 years now I am using Todoist as my main task management / todo-list service.

This lead to a lot of interesting statistics and usage patterns as this service seems to integrate oh-so-nicely into a lot of daily tasks.

What kind of integration is it? Glad you asked!

At first we were using all sorts of different ways to manage task lists across the family with the main lists around everything evolved being the personal tasks and todos of each family member as well as the obvious groceries shopping list.

We’ve been happy customers of Wunderlist before but then Microsoft bought it and announced they will shut it down soon and replace it with “Todo” out of Office 365. Not being an Office 365 customer did lead to a dead-end on this path.

And then Amazon Alexa showed up and we wanted to naturally use those assistants around the house to add things to shopping and todo lists right away. Unfortunately neither Wunderlist nor the intermediate solution Toodledo were integrated with Alexa.

Then there suddenly was a window of opportunity We wanted Alexa integration and at least all the features we knew from Wunderlist and Toodledo and Todoist delivered right out of the box.

It takes todos and shopping items from Alexa, through the website, through Apps, Siri can use it and in general it’s well integrated with lots of services around. You can even send it eMails! Also we’ve never experienced syncing issues whatsoever.

And it’s the little things that really make a difference. Like that Chrome browser integration above.

You see that “Add website as task”? Yes it does exactly what you would expect. Within Chrome and two clicks you’ve added the current website URL and title as a task to any of your lists in Todoist. I’ve never been a fan of favourites / bookmarks in browsers. Because I usually do not store any history or bookmarks for longer. But I always need to add that website to a list to work through later the day. I used to send myself eMails with those links but with this is a much better solution to keep track of those links and not have them pile up over a long time.

What’s also very nice is the way Todoist generates statistics and tracks your progress over time. There’s a system in Todoist called “Karma”.

Which allows you to marvel at your progress and sun yourself in the immense productivity you’ve shown.

But hey – there’s actual value coming from this. Like if you do it for a year or two you get such nice statistics which show how you did structure your day and how you might be able to improve. Look at a simple yearly graph of how many tasks have been completed at specific times of the day.

So when most people in the office spend their time on lunch breaks I usually complete the most tasks from my task list. Also I am quite early in “before the crowd” and it shows. Lots of stuff done then.

And improvements also show. On a yearly base you can see for example how many tasks you did postpone / re-schedule when. Like those Mondays which are currently the days most tasks get postponed. What to do about that?

and then there’s Chrome OS.

I recently wrote about how I am using ThinClients in our house to always have a ready-to-use working environment that get’s shared across different desks and work places.

To complete the zoo of devices I wanted to take the chance and write about another device we’re using when the purpose fits: ChromOS devices.

A little bit over a year ago I was given a HP Chromebook 11 G5 and this little thing is in use ever since.

The hardware itself is very average and works just right. The only two things that could be better are the display and the trackpad. With the trackpad you can help yourself with an external mouse.

The display works for the device size but the resolution being 1366×768 is definitely a limiting factor for some tasks.

What is not a limiting factor, astonishingly, is the operating system. I did not have any expectations at all when I first started using the Chromebook but everything just fell into place as expected. A device with almost no local storage and everything on the google cloud as well as a device that you can simply pick up and start using with just your google account may not sound crazy innovative. But let me tell you: if you start living that thin client, cloud stored life these Chrome OS devices hit the spot perfectly.

Everything updates in the background and as long as you are okay with web based applications or Android based applications you are good to go.

being productive?

Did I miss anything functionwise? Yes. At the beginning there was no real shell or Linux tools available for Chrome OS natively. This has changed.

Chrome OS comes with linux inside and exposed now.

Would I buy another one or do I recommend it and for whom? I would buy another one and I would recommend it for certain audiences.

I would recommend it for anyone who does not need to game anything not available in the Google Playstore – anything that can be done on the web can be done with the Chromebook. And as long as there is not the requirement of anything native or higher-spec that requires you to have “Windows-as-a-hobby” or a beefy MacOS device sitting around I guess these inexpensive Chrome OS devices really have their niche.

For kids – I guess this would make a great “my-first-notebook” as it works when you need it and does not lock you in too much if you wanted to start exploring. But then again: what do I know – I do not have kids.

I see artificial people

When people think of artificial intelligence, AI, they think of Alexa, Siri, Google Home and self-driving cars.

When an AI dreams of humans it dreams up their faces. No really.

Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN) are a relatively new concept in Machine Learning, introduced for the first time in 2014. Their goal is to synthesize artificial samples, such as images, that are indistinguishable from authentic images. A common example of a GAN application is to generate artificial face images by learning from a dataset of celebrity faces. 

Style-based GANs – Generating and Tuning Realistic Artificial Faces

This is some highly impressive stuff given that the system does produce fairly believable results without lots of distortions. You can see some distortions if you click on the image below and keep refreshing. Evertime it will generate a new face for you…

You definitely will not know this person:

using calendars to automate your home

When you want to make things happen on a schedule or log them down when they took place a calendar is a good option. Even more so if you are looking for an intuitive way to interact with your home automation system.

Calendars can be shared and your whole family can have them on their phones, tablets and computers to control the house.

In general I am using the Node-Red integration of Google Calendar to send and receive events between Node-Red and Google. I am using the node-red-node-google package which comes with a lot of different options.

Of course when you are using those nodes you need to configure the credentials

Part 1: Control

So you got those light switches scattered around. You got lots of things that can be switched on and off and controlled in all sorts of interesting ways.

And now you want to program a timer when things should happen.

For example: You want to control when a light is being switched on and when it’s then again been switched off.

I did create a separate calendar on google calendar in which I am going to add events to in a notation I came up with: those events have a start-datetime and of course an end-datetime.

When I now create an event with the name “test” in the calendar…

And in Node-Red you would configure the “google calendar in”-Node like so:

When you did wire this correctly everytime an event in this calendar starts you will get a message with all the details of the event, like so:

With this you can now go crazy on the actions. Like using the name to identify the switch to switch. Or the description to add extra information to your flow and actions to be taken. This is now fully flexible. And of course you can control it from your phone if you wanted.

Part 2: Information

So you also may want to have events that happened logged in the calendar rather than a plain logfile. This comes very handy as you can easily see this way for example when people arrived home or left home or when certain long running jobs started/ended.

To achieve this you can use the calendar out nodes for Node-Red and prepare a message using a function node like this:

var event = {
'summary': msg.payload,
'location': msg.location,
'description': msg.payload,
'start': {
'dateTime': msg.starttime,//'2015-05-28T09:00:00-07:00',
'timeZone': 'Europe/Berlin'
},
'end': {
'dateTime': msg.endtime,//'2015-05-28T17:00:00-07:00',
'timeZone': 'Europe/Berlin'
},
'recurrence': [
//'RRULE:FREQ=DAILY;COUNT=2'
],
'attendees': [
//{'email': 'lpage@example.com'},
//{'email': 'sbrin@example.com'}
],
'reminders': {
'useDefault': true,
'overrides': [
//{'method': 'email', 'minutes': 24 * 60},
//{'method': 'popup', 'minutes': 10}
]
}
};
msg.payload = event;
return msg;

And as said – we are using it for all sorts of things – like when the cat uses her litter box, when the washing machine, dryer, dishwasher starts and finishes. Or simply to count how many Nespresso coffees we’ve made. Things like when members of the household arrive and leave places like work or home. When movement is detected or anything out of order or noteable needs to be written down.

And of course it’s convenient as it can be – here’s the view of a recent saturday:

get your calendar (one each)

In less than 10 days the season of chaos will end and discord will take over.

To be prepared and to not miss any important days – as some sort of public service announcement – I hereby link you to the discordian calendars adjusted for the current year 3185 (2019).

A holyday not found on any calendar. A calendar not found on any planet. A planet not found in any universe. A universe not found in any imagination. An imagination not found.

cliche internet alias

pushing notifications in home automation

I was asked recently how I did enable my home automation to send push notifications to members of the household.

The service I am using on which all of our notification needs are served by is PushOver.

Pushover gives you a simple API and a device management and allows you to trigger notifications with icons and text to be sent to either all or specific devices. It allows to specify a message priority so that more or most important push notifications even are being pushed to the front when your phone is set on do-not-disturb.

The device management and API, as said, is pretty simple and straight forward.

apparently we’re sending a lot of notifications to these devices…

As for the actual integration I am using the NodeRed integration of Pushover. You can find it here: node-red-contrib-pushover.

With the newest client for iOS it even got integration for Apple Watch. So you not only are limited to text and images. You can also send our a state that updates automatically on your watch face.

As Pushover seems consistent in service and bringing updates I don’t miss anything – yet I do not have extensively tested it on Android.

a new header

I had redone the header of this blog a while ago but since I was trying around some things on the template I wanted something more dynamic but without any additional dependencies.

So I searched and found:

Tim Holman did a very nice implementation of this “worm generator” with only using the HTML5 canvas tag and some math. I made some very slight changes and integrated it into the header graphic. It will react to your mouse movement and resets if you click anywhere. Give it a go!

wireless mesh network

Since AVM has started to offer wireless mesh network capabilities in their products through software updates I started to roll it out in our house.

Wireless mesh networks often consist of mesh clients, mesh routers and gateways. Mobility of nodes is less frequent. If nodes constantly or frequently move, the mesh spends more time updating routes than delivering data. In a wireless mesh network, topology tends to be more static, so that routes computation can converge and delivery of data to their destinations can occur. Hence, this is a low-mobility centralized form of wireless ad hoc network. Also, because it sometimes relies on static nodes to act as gateways, it is not a truly all-wireless ad hoc network.

Wikipedia

With the rather complex physical network structure and above-average number of wireless and wired clients the task wasn’t an easy one.

To give an impression of what is there right now:

So there’s a bit of almost everything. There’s wired connections (1Gbit to most places) and there is wireless connections. There are 5 access points overall of which 4 are just mesh repeaters coordinated by the Fritz!Box mesh-master.

There’s also powerline used for some of the more distant rooms of the mansion. All in all there are 4 powerline connections all of them are above 100 Mbit/s and one even is used for video streaming.

All is managed by a central Fritz!Box and all is well.

Like without issues. Even interesting spanning-tree implementations like from SONOS are being properly routed and have always worked without issues.

The only other-than-default configuration I had made to the Fritz!Box is that all well-known devices have set their v4 IPs to static so they are not frequently switching around the place.

How do I know it works? After enabling the Mesh things started working that have not worked before. Before the Mesh set-up I had several accesspoints independently from each other on the same SSID. Which would lead to hard connection drops if you walked between them. Roaming did not work.

With mesh enabled I’ve not seen this behavior anymore. All is stable even when I move actively between all floors and rooms.

a scientific paper a day

I am long-time subscriber to a service that is delivering a curated choice of scientific papers to your inbox every morning.

And even better: On top of the choice and link of the paper you also get a great summary with additional links and hints on the topic.

The Morning Paper: a short summary every weekday of an important, influential, topical or otherwise interesting paper in the field of computer science.

https://blog.acolyer.org/about/

Depending on your specific interests the papers chosen will give you deep insights into certain topics. Recently a lot of AI related topics show up there.

The papers are delivered by eMail, by RSS feed of by just reading the blog.

celebrate the discordian holyday: Chaoflux

allow me to explain by quoting wikipedia:

Dicordianism is a paradigm based upon the book Principia Discordia, written by Greg Hill with Kerry Wendell Thornley in 1963, the two working under the pseudonyms Malaclypse the Younger and Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst.

According to its primary historian, Adam Gorightly, Discordianism was founded as a parody religion. Many outside observers still regard Discordianism as a parody religion, although some of its adherents may utilize it as a legitimate religion or as a metaphor for a governing philosophy.


The Principia Discordia, if read literally, encourages the worship of Eris, known in Latin as Discordia, the goddess of disorder, or archetypes and ideals associated with her. Depending on the version of Discordianism, Eris might be considered the goddess exclusively of disorder or the goddess of disorder and chaos.

Both views are supported by the Principia Discordia. The Principia Discordia holds three core principles: the Aneristic (order), the Eristic (disorder), and the notion that both are mere illusions.

Due to these principles, a Discordian believes there is no distinction between disorder and chaos, since the only difference between the two is that one refers to ‘order’.

This is likely a major reason for the inconsistency in the wording. An argument presented by the text is that it is only by rejecting these principles that you can truly perceive reality as it is, chaos.

wikipedia

And given that information you can expect a discordian calendar to exist. This calendar defines years (YOLD = year of our lady of discord) and seasons and days. And holydays:

Chaosflux is a Holyday of the season of Chaos. It is celebrated on Chaos 50 (Discordian calendar) or February 19 (Gregorian calendar).

Very little is known about this holyday. What we do know is pretty much made up as we go along.

discordia wikia GFDL

So now back to the holyday itself. How would you celebrate such a distinguished day?

I will use the services of theuselessweb.com to click 5 times on their most interesting button and then meditate on what comes up: