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I have been suspended!

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2023 at 6:22 pm

I hadn’t realised that it has been over six months since I (and many) switched from Twitter over to Mastodon and the Fediverse. Most of the people I followed on Twitter were tech related, either people I had met through conferences or people that were posting interesting things.

A handful of the people I followed (a couple tech but mostly those related to comedy, podcasts or photography) continued to only post to Twitter, so I kept my script running that would use the API to get their tweets. The main benefit was that this isolated me from the locking out of the big third party apps and also the (even more) usability pain of the Twitter website.

At various points there were announcements about having to pay for API access, but then that was postponed multiple times with no useful communications around it. My plan was let my script run and eventually turn it off once it stopped working. That day is today because I could see from the cron output that it was now getting a “Could not authenticate you” message and then after digging back into the developer console I found this:

SUSPENDED This App has violated Twitter Rules and policies. As a result, it can no longer be accessed. For assistance, submit a support ticket.

What policy did I violate? A policy about not paying? A policy about only viewing tweets and never seeing ads? I guess I will never know because I am not opening a support ticket to find out, you would have thought a courtesy email would have been sent…

I hadn’t tweeted since moving to the Fediverse (not that I ever posted often anyway) but I did make a final post saying goodbye to anyone I followed that were not also posting somewhere else. I will make a final pass through those I follow to find accounts on other services, but I think I already have them all…

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Turning on an Apple IIGS

Monday, May 15th, 2023 at 5:24 pm

For a long time the remains of my computer collection have sat in my old room at my parents house, with the occasional suggestion that I go over and do something with it all.

Where to start? It has been a long time since I downsized and I am not entirely sure what I still have. Then of those what items are cool and/or have sentimental meaning?

Tackling the sentimental angle first should be easy as that leads directly to the Apple IIGS which was our first family computer (I think in 1988) and our only computer until a 486 (in I think 1994). This GS was nothing special: a ROM01 with 1MB RAM expansion, two 3.5″ drives and a single 5.25″ drive, the AppleColor RGB display and an ImageWriter. This setup and the boxes of floppy disks will definitely be retained. However I do want to have something running that I can play with, so I do have a ROM03 unit and I think that will be the one that I expand with modern technology.

The mistake I want to avoid is to simply plug this old tech in and hope that nothing blows up, so a few weeks ago I ordered a couple of Universal PSU Kit‘s from ReActiveMicro. These arrived last week and over the weekend this was the result:

At top is Apple IIGS power supply with ReActiveMicro Universal PSU installed, below is original power supply out of the casing

At the top is the Universal PSU installed in the power supply housing, and at the bottom is the original power supply that will now be discarded.

I don’t yet dare turning on the original CRT display, so for now I have connected it to my TV with a composite cable. I do want to get the CRT running, but I haven’t looked into that yet.

I need to go back over and collect more items (I only grabbed the minimum to test out the upgraded power supplies) and figure out what I have and what I want to do. For example I do have a CFFA card so I can boot from compact flash instead of floppies, but that is from twenty years ago and it is tempting to get a CFFA3000 which would be so much easier to use…

I think I have an ethernet card for Apple II somewhere, as well as an Apple II SCSI Card, though before those I will need to sort out a display, possibly taking the approach of both working out how to safely use the original AppleColor RGB display and also how to get HDMI output (going as far as retrofitting an LCD would be ideal).

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In-person and open

Saturday, March 18th, 2023 at 8:17 pm

For three days last week I did something that I haven’t done in over three years, attended an in-person conference in the form of Everything Open.

To steal the conference blurb:

Everything Open is running for the first time in 2023. Linux Australia has decided to run this event to provide a space for a cross-section of the open technologies communities to come together in person. The conference draws upon the experience of the many events that have been run by Linux Australia and its subcommittees, starting with CALU (Conference of Australian Linux Users) in 1999, over the past twenty years, and the Open Source Developers Conference (OSDC).

Everything Open is a grassroots conference with a focus on open technologies, the community that has built up around this movement and the values that it represents. The presentations cover a broad range of subject areas, including Linux, open source software, open hardware, open data, open government, open GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museums), to name a few. There are technical deep-dives into specific topics from project contributors, as well as tutorials on building hardware or using a piece of software, not to mention talks covering the inner workings of our communities.

At the core of Everything Open is the community. The conference is entirely organised by volunteers who have a passion for bringing together the open technologies communities to share their collective experience. Everything Open is a not for profit event that aims to provide attendees with a world-class conference at a down to earth rate.

It was a bit weird but also quite familiar to be back at a conference. Although I had been back at in-person events for a while in the form of comedy shows and camera club meetings/outings, this was three full days of interesting presentations as well as a variety of dicsussions between scheduled talks. I have been attending conferences like this since 2004 (all twelve OSDC Australia and eight in-person conferences) and there are a number of people that I only know from these events.

There has been (and will still be) some discussion about whether the change from to Everything Open is good or bad, but I can say that for me I support the change. I will even admit that I did not attend for the Linux content, but for the other related talks, the talks about related open source technologies or activities. I wouldn’t be able to follow along with a talk about something specific to the Linux kernel, but I would happily listen to someone talk about how GPS works or the toxic (literally poisonous) history of wallpaper. I miss the content of an OSDC, and was glad that the topics of an LCA were getting broader.

It was always award to tell someone I was going to LCA and then have to explain Linux to them, so I agree that changing the name to Everything Open makes it more inclusive for everyone.

The recordings are still being uploaded to the Everything Open YouTube channel and once they are I will try to come back and update this post with links to my favourites, but for now I will link to the one talk that has stuck in my mind because what was demonstrated doesn’t seem like it should have been possible…

Houdini of the Terminal: The need for escaping – David Leadbeater (Everything Open 2023)

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Is time still broken?

Thursday, March 16th, 2023 at 10:39 pm

On one hand time doesn’t seem to be moving, but another year has passed which makes it three years of working from home.

This means that work has been the ongoing constant, while stuff outside of work has been gradually picking up, but in fits and spurts. The first few months of the last “year” (ie March to July) had the comedy festival (with an increase in international acts), a weekend at Phillip Island, the Kakadu trip and then I bought a new camera just before Open House Melbourne. There was a bit of a lull until the end of the calendar year where I didn’t do much apart from some photography and comedy events. So far in 2023 things have been picking up and I have managed to get out with my camera a few times (but haven’t yet processed the photos) and the demolition of the house next door (a new double storey house should be complete by the end of 2023) has prompted me to start acting on some overdue house projects such as getting the garage roof replaced.

However the biggest “return to normal” is that for the last three days I have been heading into the city for an in-person conference. After LCA ran online for two years there wasn’t one this year, instead there was Everything Open. There has been some spirited discussion about the change of name/focus, but will touch on that in a separate post which I aim to write in the next couple of days once I have had some rest…

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Managing passwords in the cloud

Saturday, December 24th, 2022 at 12:01 pm

For a long time (until a few years ago) my technique to avoid repeating passwords was to use a bookmarket called SuperGenPass which would generate a password for me based on the website’s domain and a master password. For important things like email and banking I had specific unique passwords, but the numerous other accounts used this method.

I also avoided using the same email address for new accounts by never using the “login with Google/Facebook” option and as much as possible created a new unique email alias for each one. I don’t actually see much spam but when I do it is always interesting to note which address was being used. Did company A have a breach or did they just sell their customer data?

Back to the passwords… it was nice to have a quick way of ensuring that my passwords were different, but over time I noticed a flaw in this process and that was to do with data breaches and forced password resets.

If the account wasn’t important, such as something that was needed for a specific purpose but no longer, then one option was to delete the account and move on. However if I needed to keep using the account then the password needed to change, but because it was generated from my master password and the domain of the site, it couldn’t. For a short time I had two master passwords, one for most accounts and then a second for accounts that I remembered had needed to be changed. This wasn’t working so I switched over to a password manager.

I didn’t want to have to manage a password file myself so based on recommendations I had a look at both 1Password and LastPass, deciding on LastPass as it felt easier to use. There were plugins for both Firefox and Chrome, as well as an Android app.

This was working out well for a couple of years, until LastPass announced that they would essentially start taking features away from the free version. The main change I remember affecting me was that free accounts would be locked into either desktop or mobile access. Not that big a deal as I rarely used the Android app, and desktop still meant that I could still use it across multiple browsers and computers.

I also started to notice the interface changing, and not for the better:

  • Something I really liked about the LastPass plugin was that I could click the toolbar icon, type part of a website name and press enter. It would then load the site and automatically login for me. This was very convenient, until it became glitchy, by which I mean that sometimes it didn’t take the keyboard input. So I would have typed the name and pressed enter, but nothing happened so I would have to click the icon again, then ensure the cursor was within the search field.
  • Not that long ago the plugin prompted me to save credit card details, I decided to give it a go and then removed my card details because it was just broken. I couldn’t see how the LastPass would be able to populate the card details when the forms on different sites are so varied, is the expiry date one field or two, is the year two digits or four, is the month a number or a name, it is a text input or a drop down? After having it enabled while I made a couple of online purchases, it insisted on four different entries for the same card. It also wanted the CVV, so nope.
  • About a week ago LastPass started prompting me to save the password for my email and my bank, these are the accounts that I never put into LastPass. I double checked that they are still listed under “Never URLs” in my account settings, however the plugin is still prompting me.
  • Another odd thing I discovered last year while listing a few items for sale on eBay was how the plugin interacts with websites. As I was listing items I kept getting an error saying my description contained javascript. I was hand typing the simple HTML, but it turned out that the LastPass plugin was fiddling with the form input, a problem that had been known about for a while. Any plugin of this nature does need to scan the page for login forms and possibly modify those, but it doesn’t make sense to insert javascript into the eBay listing description.

So… all of this has meant that I have been becoming less happy with LastPass over time, and this isn’t touching on the security problems that I had been kind of ignoring. I didn’t know that despite their marketing claiming zero knowledge of the data in my vault that URLs and other data is not encrypted.

So I need to swtich, but switch to what?

For convenience I want a cloud based solution and 1Password does appear to be the recommended alternative (these days I need to be prepared to pay for important things, not just go for free but limited options), though Bitwarden has also been suggested. Looks like it need to do some more reading…

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