You know when grown-ups tell you everything's going to be fine, and you think they're probably lying to make you feel better?
Everything's going to be fine.

Sunday, March 31


Daily News Stuff 31 March 2024

Postprismatic Stress Edition

Top Story

  • A little more background on that security disaster that almost was.  (Substack)

    It looks like it started with "social engineering" - a confidence scam - two years ago, with one person attacking the maintainer of the xz utility and another one offering to help, and then actually helping.  That warped over time into slipping more and more suspect code into the package, until they got caught.

    It's a bit of an odd one because it took a lot of care and planning but was guaranteed to get caught and removed if it ever went mainstream.  So it's not a targeted attack on particular groups, and not subtle enough to pass unnoticed long-term.

    If you infect one server you're likely to get away with it, but if you infect every server in the world, there are literally hundreds of honeypot servers set up by security researchers specifically to detect weird stuff like this.

    Purely speculation but I'm wondering if this was North Korea rather than China or Russia.  It looks like the kind of miscalculation they would make.

Tech News

Sasaki and Peeps Opening Credits Video of the Day

Not sure what I expected going into this, but this show goes in every direction at once.  It's no Frieren but it's not objectionable either, and it just got a second season so we won't be left hanging for too long.

I really like the quiet competence of the main character.  He's not out to save the world; he's just trying to do his job, no matter how weird things get.

Disclaimer: I think "Don't care, didn't ask" would make a great state motto.

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Saturday, March 30


Daily News Stuff 30 March 2024

Almost Oops Edition

Tech News

  • The man who saved the world:  Andres Freund noticed that SSH logins - used by every server in the world - were taking half a second longer than they should.  (Ars Technica)

    He was curious so he poked at it a bit and found the equivalent of the demon core being added for free to every school lunch in the world.

    In essence, had this been done with more care and not caught before it was added to production releases of Linux, a state actor - this is almost certainly the work of some place like China or North Korea - could have had access to everything, everywhere.

    You might be at AWS and have all your services behind a VPN, but that wouldn't help you at all because they'd just need to hack AWS first.

    All the development for this hack was done in public, either by a developer who spent a lot of time building up trust by writing useful code, or by hacking that developer's GitHub account.

    Expect GitHub to force 2FA on all users in short order, even if that wouldn't have prevented this incident.  Every warning sign has a story behind it, and Andres is the Harry Daghlian and Louis Slotin of the age, except that he didn't die of radiation poisoning.

  • However, some not-really-production releases of Linux were impacted.  (CyberKendra)

    Fedora Rawhide and Kali Linux were affected for the past three days.  Arch Linux has been affected for five weeks, and Debian's unstable release seems to be the worst hit, with the new packages added eight weeks ago.

    Fedora 40 Beta might be affected if you set up the test library versions as well as the regular beta libraries.

    AWS Linux is not affected, nor are stable releases like Ubuntu LTS or RedHat Enterprise Linux.

Tech News

Disclaimer: Danger, may contain electrons.

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Friday, March 29


Daily News Stuff 29 March 2024

Griftcoin Edition

Top Story

Tech News

  • FuryGPU is completely open-source - including the hardware - and can run Quake at 60 fps.  (Tom's Hardware)

    Not the 2021 version; the 1996 version.  Which would run on most domestic appliances these days.

  • Unless you source your domestic appliances from Russia, where half the CPUs don't work.  (Tom's Hardware)

    Russia, like China, has been cut off from advanced chip production facilities.

    China has its own 14nm production.  That's a long way behind TSMC, Intel, or Samsung, but it's not terrible.

    Russia is still at 90nm.

  • The race to replace Redis.  (LWN)

    Redis isn't a conventional database, but rather a kind of Swiss army chainsaw for short-term data storage and manipulation.  It's extremely useful and justifiably popular and has been included in most Linux distributions for the past decade - and it just stopped being open source.

    So the race is on to replace it because otherwise you won't be able to update to new Linux releases without things breaking.

  • The race to replace VMWare ESXi.  (Serve the Home)

    VMWare ESXi was a free, entry-level version of VMWare's enterprise platform, intended for engineers to run on their own computers so that they could experiment with the software and provide better support.

    VMWare got bought by Broadcom, which appears determined to kill it.

    Proxmox VE can now import and run your VMWare ESXi servers, which solves your problem if you were using it, but does nothing for Broadcom's self-inflicted wounds.

  • Oh, outrageCloud hosting provider Vultr has hastily removed some wording from its terms of service after users noticed.  (The Register)

    The legalese was supposed to grant Vultr rights to reproduce your content that you posted to their online support forums, which is normal because you can't run an online forum without that.

    But the way it was worded made it look like they could just make off with the data on your servers.  Which would be bad.

* Except maybe Robert L. Forward in his work Self-Limiting.**
** He proposed making currency out of plutonium.

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Thursday, March 28


Daily News Stuff 28 March 2024

Sleepfirewalking Edition

Top Story

Tech News

  • Amazon is investing another $2.75 billion into AI company Anthropic, developer of Claude.  (CNBC)

    If you haven't heard of Claude you are not alone, but it is a thing that exists.

  • FTX - what's left of it - is selling off most of its stake in Anthropic to raise funds to pay back customers.  (Yahoo Finance)

    FTX misused customer funds to - among other things - buy a $500 million stake in Anthropic.

    That stake is now worth $1.35 billion, and may be the key to FTX customers getting all their money back.

  • There's a mod for that.

    Untamed Wilds adds 24 new animals to Minecraft, with anything up to 17 species of each animal.  (So it counts "Big Cat" as one animal, but it actually includes lions, mountain lions, jaguars, leopards, snow leopards, and tigers.)

    Only problem is it also includes camels, giant pandas, and polar bears, which are already in Minecraft, and the config file doesn't let you turn off individual species.

    Bad Mobs, though, does.  When you load your modpack it automatically generates a config file of all the creatures existing in your game and lets you turn off any of them.

Disclaimer: It's turquoise all the way down.

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Wednesday, March 27


Daily News Stuff 27 March 2024

Strawberry Fields For Never Edition

Top Story

Tech News

  • The Lenovo Legion Tab is officially coming to Europe and Asia.  (Lenovo)

    This month.  Better get a move on, because there's not much of this month left.

    Downside is that at 599 Euros the price is not much cheaper than importing the Japanese version.

    On paper though it's a great device, with a 2560x1600 8.8" screen, 12GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage.  CPU is a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, which has a Cortex X2 as its main core, so it's both recent and fast.

    It includes a microSD slot and two USB-C ports.  Either one can be used for charging, so you can charge while it is connected to a monitor or a headphone adapter (no separate headphone port).

    I'll buy one since there is no real competition.  Not two though, not at that price.

  • I did buy the Asus M1505, the cheaper of the two Asus models I've highlighted recently.

    Ryzen 7730U CPU (8 Zen 3 CPU cores and 8 Vega graphics cores), 16GB of RAM which I'm upgrading to 40GB, 512GB of SSD which I'm upgrading to 2TB, the Four Essential Keys in the form of a three-column numeric keypad - not ideal but better than not having them, and the standout feature, a 15.6" 2880x1620 120Hz OLED display.

    Roughly $1000 as configured.

  • If you have Mac Studio envy the FN60G sold by Topton is basically a shrunk-in-the-wash version.  (Liliputing)

    It's bigger than a regular NUC but still very small; it uses an Intel desktop CPU and a laptop graphics module.  No expansion slots apart from memory and storage, so what you buy it with is all you get.

    Apart from those two memory slots and two M.2 slots, it has two HDMI ports, two DisplayPort ports, one USB-C port which can also drive a display for up to five monitors in total; two 2.5Gbit network ports, and four USB-A ports on the back.  On the front, another two USB-A ports, one USB-C, headphone jack, and a full-size SD card slot.  Which is a pretty good complement of ports for a small system.

    Prices fully configured start around $1000 and go up to $2000, which is not terrible but you can certainly build a regular PC for the same price.

  • No further Minecraft crashes since I disabled the Strawberry Fields in Mystic's Biomes.  Though given the number of new biomes in the modpack (over 200) and the number I've seen during testing (maybe 30) there could be something still lurking.

    It's not entirely happy running in the default 4GB heap, but it certainly runs smoothly with 16GB of RAM, which my original efforts didn't.

    If I don't trip over anything else I'll publish it to Curseforge this weekend.

Disclaimer: Or, as I just noted, a rather nice laptop.

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Tuesday, March 26


And Then There Was Splat

So judging by this crash log, somewhere between the strawberry bushes from Mystic's Biomes, Oculus, Ferrite Core, Better End Island, Immersive Weathering, Serene Seasons, Friends and Foes, and Better Desert Temples, my modpack seems to crash randomly when creating new chunks.

I suspect the culprit is Mystic's Biomes, which would be a shame, but it's not essential.

Update: Mystic's Biomes is on GitHub, so maybe I can help out.

Also, now I seem to have a schrödinbug.

Update: Probably Mystic's Biomes; it had a big update just three days ago. I'll test some more and see if I can report something useful back to the dev. Something more than "one of these 200 mods is breaking my game and I blame you". It's configurable enough that I can turn off just the strawberry fields and see if the bug is specific to that biome.

The current "full" version of the modpack now runs in the default 4GB heap, though I suspect it might run into trouble in more complex regions, since it's hovering around 3.5GB.

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Daily News Stuff 26 March 2024

Chalkled Edition

Top Story

  • Europe is investigating Apple for its malicious compliance with the new Digital Markets Act.  (The Register)

    And Google.

    And Facebook.

    Do all three companies lie and cheat and steal?  Sure.

    Are they all woke beyond possibility of redemption?  Well, Google certainly is.  Apple while woke as hell notably produces genuinely well-engineered hardware on a regular schedule.

    Do they suck less than the European government even after granting all of that?  Absolutely.

Tech News

Disclaimer: Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos.

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Monday, March 25


Daily News Stuff 25 March 2024

Quick one today because I'm a brown paper package tied up with string.

Tech News 

Disclaimer: Where is Haruhi Suzumiya when her world needs her?

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Sunday, March 24


Daily News Stuff 24 March 2024

Lone Pine Mall Edition

Top Story

  • The global economy runs through a single road in Spruce Pine, North Carolina.  (Tom's Hardware)

    That road leads to a mine producing the purest quartz in the world, and the factory that processes it.  There is no naturally occurring substitute.

    The quartz is used to create crucibles which are used to produced silicon wafers, which are in turn sliced and cooked and dice to produce computer chips.

    It is possible to make the quartz synthetically; we just don't right now because there's an enormous pile of it sitting underground in this one spot.  But it would be a few difficult years if anything happened there.

Tech News

  • This seems like a bad idea: EVGA changed the connector layout of its GQ 1000W power supply without changing the model number.  (Tom's Hardware)

    If you buy a new one the cables have changed too, and everything works.

    If you have one already, and it's faulty and is replaced under warranty, then congratulations!  Your existing cables will plug in just fine and deliver 12V on the 5V line to all your disk drives.

  • The CEO and founder of Stability AI - creator of Stable Diffusion - has resigned.  (Tech Crunch)

    The official announcement doesn't say much and neither do his own tweets, but reading between the lines it seems he's pushing hard for actual open source solutions and the company's investors want bullshit that makes money like ChatGPT.

    Doubly interesting in that he apparently owns a controlling interest in Stability AI.  This is the same kind of conflict that recently roiled OpenAI, and led to Elon Musk's pending lawsuit against that company.

Disclaimer: Watch the new Philosophy Civil War documentary, the Grue and the Bley.

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Minecraft Modpack Mathematics

I was wondering why memory usage and load time seemed to be increasing exponentially as my Minecraft modpack grew.

The answer turns out to be that it seems that way because it is.

And the culprit turns out to be the utterly innocuous and very useful Every Compat (Wood Good), which is in itself only 2MB.

What this mod does is let you create any wooden item from any type of wood, whether the item and the wood are in the base game or in a mod.

So if you add a mod that lets you craft new types of wooden roof - Macaw's Roofs, for example - that works with every type of wood, automatically.

That mod is also just 2MB.

And if you add a mod that adds new type of wood, like the mauve wood in Regions Unexplored, that can be used to craft doors and pickaxes and any other wooden item in the game, automatically.

That mod is still small at 5MB.

But when you have a couple of dozen mods of each type, adding in Every Compat multiples them together and eats as much memory as all the other mods combined - about 2.5GB.

So now I'm well within the 4GB limit again, and can put back some of the mods I took out.

Update: All of them, in fact.  Blue Skies is back, as is The Undergarden, and Better Nether and Better End.  I'll see if I can configure Naturalist and Dungeons Arise to behave themselves and I can put those back as well.

Update 2: Well, not quite.  While it did start up and let me generate and enter the world, the Java heap filled up quickly after that and the game started to lag badly.  So if it's to be playable I either need to trim things back or increase the heap allocation.  I've set it to 8GB for testing, which is better than the 12GB I had previously, but there will probably be some cuts to the mod list.

  • Dropped Naturalist in favour of Untamed Wilds and Exotic Birds.
  • Removed Sky Villages because neat as it is, there's no config file and they keep showing up at spawn.
  • Further trimming is likely.  Base Minecraft 1.20.1 has 1146 different items in it.  My modpack increases that to 29,675, or counting Chisels and Bits, around 1012000.

  • Rebuilt a "lite" version that runs acceptably in the default Minecraft memory settings (4GB heap).
  • Lite version removes most of the large mods, including BetterEnd, BetterNether, Blue Skies, Twilight Forest, Aether addons, and Biomes O' Plenty.
  • Still includes Nullscape, Incendium, base Aether mod, and also Create and the Steam and Rails addon.  Additional biomes are supported by Terralith (100+) and Regions Unexplored (70+).
  • Item count is now 19,167, including 1146 from Minecraft itself, while reducing the modpack size from 949MB to 232MB.  Plus the 1012000 from Chisels and Bits.
  • Also includes the new wolf variants that will be in 1.21, plus four original wolf variants, four cat variants, a new fox variant, and many variants of chickens, sheep, cows, and pigs.
  • Also an annoying camel.
  • Bird life added with Exotic Birds.
  • Fish life expanded thanks to Unusual Fish.
  • Miscellaneous mammalia introduced by Untamed Wilds.
  • Arthropods courtesy of Canes Wonderful Spiders.
  • Reptiles provided by What the Geck'o.
  • Creepers supplied by Creeper Overhaul.  You're welcome.
  • Big box of crayons purchased at Dye Depot, doubling the regular in-game dyes to 32.  This works with wool, carpets, terracotta (including glazed terracotta), glass, and concrete.
  • Big boxes of chalk found at Chalk and Chalked - one for building and one for writing.
  • Quarks irradiated by Quark.

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