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!

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!

Beautiful bits – information from old catalogs

There are many connectors out in the world. A lot of them are old but get still used. And once every while you might need an actual great drawing / scheme of such a connector.

There’s a place for all your needs and curiosity. It’s bitsavers.org.

Just take a look at this drawing and cut-away of a coax connector from the 1976 AMP product catalog:

There is lots more, just take a look at bitsavers. Especially the software bits archive of (very) old computers software and sources. Just wow.

electronic fireworks

The firecracker exploded. Apparently after 2 weeks of usage of the Chuwi Hi10 Air the eMMC flash is malfunctioning.

In a totally strange way: Every byte on the eMMC can be read, seemingly. Even Windows 10 boots. But after a while it will hang and blue screen. Apparently because it tries to write to the eMMC and when those writes fail and pile up in the caches at some point the system calls it quits.

Anyhow: It means that no byte that is right now on this eMMC can be deleted / overwritten but only be read.

The great chinese support is really helpful and offered to replace the device free of charge right away. That’s very nice! But I came to the conclusion that I cannot send the device in, because:

It contains a full set of synched private data that I cannot remove by all means because the freaking soldered-on eMMC flash is broken.

The recipient of this broken tablet in china would be able to read all my data and I could not do anything about it.

Only an extremely small fraction of data is on there unencrypted. Only that much I hadn’t yet switched on encryption on during the initial set-up I was still doing on the device. And that little piece of data already is what won’t let me send out the device.

Now, what can we learn from this? We can learn: Never ever ever work with anything, even during set-up, without full encryption.

The Fastest journey from Roma to Londinium..

…in July takes 27.1 days, covering 2967 kilometers. At least if you would have taken the challenge in times of the Roman Empire.

ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World reconstructs the time cost and financial expense associated with a wide range of different types of travel in antiquity. The model is based on a simplified version of the giant network of cities, roads, rivers and sea lanes that framed movement across the Roman Empire. It broadly reflects conditions around 200 CE but also covers a few sites and roads created in late antiquity.

ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World

By simulating movement along the principal routes of the Roman road network, the main navigable rivers, and hundreds of sea routes in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and coastal Atlantic, this interactive model reconstructs the duration and financial cost of travel in antiquity.

CCCamp 2019 – 21. – 25. August 2019

The Chaos Communication Camp is an international, five-day open-air event for hackers and associated life-forms. It provides a relaxed atmosphere for free exchange of technical, social, and political ideas. The Camp has everything you need: power, internet, food and fun. Bring your tent and participate!

CCCamp 2019 Wiki

It has been 2005 that I had the time and chance to attend an international open-air meeting of normal people. Of course I am talking about the 2005 What-the-hack I wrote about back then.

This year it’s time again for the Chaos Communication Camp in Germany. Sadly still I won’t be attending. Clearly that needs to change with one of the next iterations. With the CCC events becoming highly valuable also for families maybe it’s a chance in the future to meet up with old and valued friends (wink-wink Andreas Heil).

The Chaos Communication Camp (also known as CCCamp) is an international meeting of hackers that takes place every four years, organized by the Chaos Computer Club (CCC). So far all CCCamps have been held near Berlin, Germany.

The camp is an event for providing information about technical and societal issues, such as privacy, freedom of information and data security. Hosted speeches are held in big tents and conducted in English as well as German. Each participant may pitch a tent and connect to a fast internet connection and power.

CCCamp in Wikipedia

Enjoy the intro-movie that has just been made available to us, alongside the whole design material:

electronic firecracker: Chuwi Hi10 AIR Tablet

The Android tablets I am using for my kitchen scale display and for myfitnesspal data-entry are aging quite bad and apart from the near-display death of one of the tablets both are not supported and updated anymore.

Using them therefore poses an increasing risk. After one of them almost died on me I was determined to replace them both. Looking at alternatives at the lowest possible price quickly showed that I am not going to get another Android tablet.

Instead I was ready to give a chinese company a chance:

I ordered it on 24th of June and it was delivered today. All in all I’ve paid 136 Euro for the tablet and 45 Euro for the keyboard attachement.

Despite the ridiculously low price this thing is quite impressive. It’s sporting a fast-enough Intel Atom processor with 1.4 ghz and 4 Gbyte of RAM. The 64 Gb of solid-state storage where quickly upgraded by an additional 400 Gb MicroSD card for local data storage.

As of writing this it’s still installing and updating the Windows 10 to 1903 but so far I am beyond impressed.

I’ll write more about the device when I’ve had more time to use it. One word for the keyboard attachement: the keyboard is good-enough. Not great but better than for example that on the Pinebook. The touchpad is very small but works – the thing has a Touchscreen anyway.

I don’t like the long-tail Windows 10 default cursor

The first device in my household recently has updated itself to the newest Windows 10 1903 build.

On the very first moment of the login screen appearing and logging in I could tell that I hate one specific change that has made it into this latest update.

And it’s the default mouse cursor.

Back in the Pre-Windows Vista days, when I used to work for Microsoft, I was using the latest internal build of Windows and just around the first RTM (release-to-manufacture) build they touched up on the final designs.

I remember vividly when the mouse cursor had changed from the one we new and used since Windows 3 to a shorter tailed more “high-def” looking one.

Since then there were a couple of changes on the cursor but the general design was kept.

Now apparently with the latest Windows 10 update from 1803 to 1903 I got a new – old default mouse cursor.

left: like!
right: booh!

By reflex I changed it back to the one I love and stored safely in a backup. I cannot stand the long tail and the weird pixel-ness of the cursor. It just looks kinda weird to my eyes.

the “new” cursor in 1903
the beloved cursor.

Which one do you like better?

a red triangle on the window

When you walk around in Tokyo you will find that many buildings have red-triangle markings on some of the windows / panels on the outside.

some of the windows have red triangles pointing down
do you see the triangles pointing down on the upper right wall?

I noticed them as well but I could not think of an explanation. Digging for information brought up this:

Panels to fire access openings shall be indicated with either a red or orange triangle of equal sides (minimum 150mm on each side), which can be upright or inverted, on the external side of the wall and with the wordings “Firefighting Access – Do Not Obstruct” of at least 25mm height on the internal side.

Singapore Firefighting Guide 2018

The red triangles on the buildings/hotel windows in Japan are the rescue paths to be used in case of fire. All fire fighters know the meaning of this red triangle on the windows. Red in color makes it prominent, to be located easily by the fire fighters in case of a fire incident. During a fire incident, windows are generally broken to allow for smoke and other gases to come out of the building.

Triangles in Japan

automated downloads

Hmm… I’ve set-up a script to automatically download a TV show about a year ago and just remembered it…

Apparently 1 year of this show is 167 Gbyte…

For completeness the download script – ignore my bad scripting:

#!/bin/bash

# parameter 1: month
# parameter 2: from day
# parameter 3: to day
# parameter 4: year

# data -dmonday +%d

next_monday=$(date -dmonday +%d)
next_monday_month=$(date -dmonday +%m)
next_monday_year=$(date -dmonday +%y)

previous_monday=$(date -d'monday-7 days' +%d)
previous_monday_month=$(date -d'monday-7 days' +%m)
previous_monday_year=$(date -d'monday-7 days' +%y)

next_friday=$(date -dfriday +%d)
next_friday_month=$(date -dfriday +%m)
next_friday_year=$(date -dfriday +%y)

previous_friday=$(date -d'friday-7 days' +%d)
previous_friday_month=$(date -d'friday-7 days' +%m)
previous_friday_year=$(date -d'friday-7 days' +%y)

for i in `seq 1 7`;
do
        day=$(date -d'today+'$i' days' +%d)
        month=$(date -d'today+'$i' days' +%m)
        year=$(date -d'today+'$i' days' +%y)
        wget -c "https://rodlzdf-a.akamaihd.net/none/zdf/"$year"/"$month"/"$year$month$day"_sendung_dku/1/"$year$month$day"_sendung_dku_3328k_p36v14.mp4"
done

making ICs at home

Try to wrap your head around this: There are people out there that take the term “Maker” to new levels. People Like Sam Zeloof. He went out and created his very own integrated circuit designs and then he built them. Like the actual silicon, the die, the bonded chip, the IC. The real thing.

Be inspired:

I am very excited to announce the details of my first integrated circuit and share the journey that this project has taken me on over the past year. I hope that my success will inspire others and help start a revolution in home chip fabrication. When I set out on this project I had no idea of what I had gotten myself into, but in the end I learned more than I ever thought I would about physics, chemistry, optics, electronics, and so many other fields. Furthermore, my efforts have only been matched with the most positive feedback and support from the world; I owe a sincere thanks to everyone who has helped me, given me advice, and inspired me on this project. Especially my amazing parents, who not only support and encourage me in any way they can but also give me a space to work in and put up with the electricity costs… Thank you!

Sam Zeloof

online celebrities: Elon Musk

Seemingly short-message services are becoming the standard mode of communication for the powerful and rich. It seems that especially Twitter is capable of bringing the worst in those among us to the outside.

Of course the most controversial statements are being washed away by the sheer throughput. The next one always comes up quicker than you expect.

Helping the masses to keep track is a main task of journalism. That being said traditional journalism (as in newspapers, television) sees great difficulties to keep track as well. Too much, too quick.

So new forms of journalism develop. Often more tendentious then helpful for the cause so they require the cautious mind of the reader to add some more perspective.

This is the example of such a newly developing “tracking journalism” site around the dazzling public character that is Elon Musk. It is called “elonmusk.today“.

Editor’s note: others have done great work exposing Musk’s shameless charlatan carnival barking. If you enjoy this sort of thing, I highly recommend Niya White’s excellent article Musk Misses: The Stories You Don’t Hear About Tesla Anymore …

3D print a “Settlers of Catan” board

A very nice use of 3D printing technology: Print your own set of “Settlers of Catan” board game!

ThingiVerse

This is my new low-poly settlers of catan-style boardgame. Especially made for multicolor printers like the prusa mk2 multimaterial upgrade ore the palette from mosaic.

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2525047

“are you still watching?” – tailfix

drop in replacement for tail -F that asks you if you are still watching

Just like Laura I am also was having a moment when I stumbled across tailflix.

For those not understanding the reference: At the end of an episode you’ve watched on Netflix you will be shown another one, and so on, and so on. Until if you have not touched the remote at all for several episodes Netflix will ask you “Are you still watching?”.

N8.5 – Tokyu White

It always seems to me so much easier to meet a Hackers in Japan than anywhere else. Maybe social-gravity works different there. Or there are more of them.

Whatever the reason, I keep crossing paths with people that more or less deep-dive into topics and understand systems in ways and in details that you would normally not expect.

And todays example is a detail you would normally not think about:

The footbridge that was newly built in Shibuya was painted in N8.5. This is commonly known as “Tokyu White”…

はらしょ‏ on Twitter

“Tokyu White”, N8.5, … of course…if you would need a bucket of this you can order it online.

the future of (speech) podcasts

The Podlove project once again leads the way to improve the experience and the way we interact with knowledge and thoughts. With the most current announcement and introduction of transcription-support for podcasts. Click on it right now and try it yourself.

Fulltext-search. Listening to podcasts by reading them. This-is-amazing!

Transcripts are coming

Transcripts are an incredibly desirable thing to have for podcasts: they allow searching for specific parts, increase searchability by search sites when presented properly and they increase the accessibility of audio content significantly too.

However, transcripts have been considerably difficult to be created and used. Manually created transcripts are costly in terms of time and money and even if you spend the money there has been a lack of technical standards for storing and integrating transcripts into websites in a defined way.

This is now slowly changing: more and more automated speech-to-text systems are becoming available at reasonable costs and they are creating ever better transcripts with more and more languages being supported.
Still, automatic transcripts trail manually created transcripts in terms of accuracy, punctuation and so on but they are increasingly useful when they are primarily used for improving search results or helping you with your internal research when trying to find content in your older episodes.

New services are also coming up to deal with these problems by allowing users to quickly build on automatic transcripts and improve them manually in an assisted fashion. We will soon see a landscape of tools and services that will make creating transcripts easy and cheap enough for more and more podcasters so it’s time to come up with a good integration.

Last but not least, the WebVTT file format has become a de-facto common denominator for passing transcripts along, supporting time codes, speaker identification and a rudimentary set of meta data. While not perfect it’s enough to get a transcript infrastructure up and running and Podlove is leading the way.

from the Podlove Publisher 2.8 announcement

bumps ahead

This website is delivered to you by a single dedicated server in a datacenter in Germany. This server is old.

11:13:58 up 1320 days, 25 min, 2 users, load average: 1.87, 1.43, 1.25

uptime

And I am replacing it. While doing so I am going to take some shortcuts to lower the effort I have to put in for the move.

It will save me 2 days of work. It will mean for you: there might be some interruptions of the services provided by this website (there are more than this page…).

Jimmy is hitting again

I joy! I just found out that James Euringer had produced a new album. You do not know Jimmy Urine?

Let’s start the introduction with the description of his current gig:

EURINGER is a counter-culture, surreal, psychedelic, art house, avant-garde, possibly posthumous concept project from Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self Indulgence fame. Featuring guest vocals from Grimes, Serj Tankian (System Of A Down), Gerard Way   (My Chemical Romance) and Chantal Claret (Morningwood) – and also staring Jimmy’s Mom and Dad for good measure! – the record is one  long song/musical/concerto, as if an underground movie was made for your ears. “I wanted it to sound as if Depeche Mode hired J. Dilla and DJ Premier to drop loops while Frank Zappa produced, and then I came in and shit all over it,“ said Jimmy.

Metropolis Record / Euringer

Here’s the most current album in safe-for-work version:

EURINGER – FUCK EVERYTHING (OFFICIAL SFW VIDEO)

Now there’s a whole album.

And it’s not the first one from this direction. You may have heard of Jimmys other band “Mindless Self Indulgence“.

To round things up: His wife, Chantal, is the singer of “Morningwood”. Like, you know, “n-th degree”-Morningwood.

celebrate the Defenestration of Prague Day

Pungenday 70 Discord, 2784 YOLD (May 23, 1618 AD) Prague: a few royal officials were thrown out a window of Hradcany Castle by some noblemen, but survived the fall by landing in a cart full of manure. The date for this event falls on an extremely Illuminated day of the Gregorian Calendar, 5/23.

shared calendar

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!

japanese puns?

Learning a new language is full of discoveries along the way!

As I am spending more time on learning the Japanese language the more different things seem to unlock. One of those things is the apparent fun Japanese companies have with puns/slight writing mismatches.

Like this one – I think (as I can not be 100% sure yet…learning!):

こわはたんの活わだ?or これはたんの活わだ?or こわはたんの汚わだ? or これはたんの汚わだ?

This is an advertisement in a supermarket for a laundry detergent. It is themed to an Anime called “Attack on Titan” – properly because the detergents name is Attack. So when I tried to make sense of the text I first read it wrong, of course.

Let’s look at it step-by-step:

I first started reading the Hiragana portion and make sense of it. There I made my first mistake which is to misread the first second character. For some reason my brain went for (wa) when I should have gone for (re).

Then I typed away further and came to the Kanji. I read a (katsu) when it in fact was a (kitanai).

Given that you’ve typed those into Google Translate you will get very interesting results. I had a good laugh by then:

I am not sure if this is on purpose or not – as I do not yet know if I am just making a mess on this or if this is intentionally done so that, given your level of Japanese reading and attention-spent reading it, you get very different and funny results.

Any Japanese readers that can add some explanations? Am I far off with the thoughts?

Digital assistant language teacher

Since a couple of months we are trying harder to learn a foreign language.

And as we excepted it is very hard to get a proper grasp on speaking the language. Especially since it is a very different language to our mother tongue.

And while comfortably interacting with digital assistants around the house every day in english and german the thought came up: why don’t these digital assistants help with foreign language listening and speaking training?

I mean Google Assistant answers questions in the language you have asked them. Siri and Alexa need to know upfront in which language you are going to ask questions. But at least Alexa can translate between languages…

But with all seriousness: Why do we not already have the obvious killer feature delivered? Everyone could already have a personal language training partner…

How to get me to actively avoid your products

It is a simple one step process: shove unasked advertising in my face. Bonus points for loud full blast audio right of the start.

If I ever see unasked advertising that tried to be sneaky or not do sneaky I am going to block it without noticing from whom or for what it was.

But when it’s shown so often and is so intrusive that I take note of your brand. That brand is not considered for future business anymore.

That is especially for services where I am the product paying with my data.

Sample 1
blocking
Sample 2

reward driven speed limits

As you might know I am living in Germany. Germany is the one country where you have some roads that are legally not having any speed limit whatsoever. If the circumstances allow to safely drive 250 km/h you are allowed to do so. It’s up to the drivers judgement.

Now as much as this is a great thing of personal freedom it also has some negative side effects on the climate.

Your car is burning a lot more fuel when driving those kind of speeds. And a lot meaning that it resembles more an exponential curve than a linear line. Rule of thumb: 2x the speed is more than 4x the consumption.

Ever once in a while people start discussing about a general speed limit for Germany – as every other country has it. Some talk about 160 km/h, some about 120 km/h.

The motivations are diverse: climate, resource use, safety, …

In any case additional limits would need to be enforced. More speed traps…

A.Savin (Wikimedia Commons · WikiPhotoSpace)

What if things would be handled differently?

How about this:

Politics would introduce a “best speed lottery”. On every street without a speed limit there would randomly be speed controls and speed traps. Those who follow the best practices of driving … Let’s say 120 km/h… Would be rewarded when randomly photographed. The reward would be a tax discount on car tax and/or gas tax and one ticket put into the countries lottery pool. Once a quarter a new electric car or similar would be given to a random winner.

What would you think would make people drive slower in their own motivation?

icon this blog

I’ve written about the progressive web application functionalities provided by this blog. But I’ve missed to explain in all simplicity what it means for most of you trying to read.

This is where Volker explains in simple terms what to do:

Step 1: Tap this icon in your browser:
(maybe someone can send me an android icon that does this?)

Step 2: Find and tap on “Add to Home Screen”
Step 3: give the icon a name

Enjoy the quick access to this blog.