The Core Dump The Core Dump is the online home of Nic Lindh, a Swedish-American man living in the Sonoran desert. 2016-06-04T02:50:26+00:00 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes Nic Lindh 2016-06-03T00:00:00+00:00 <blockquote> <p>Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes.</p> </blockquote> <p>—Bertolt Brecht</p> “Tea, Earl Grey, hot” Nic Lindh 2016-05-29T00:00:00+00:00 <p>Virtual assistants are hot. Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google’s, well, Google are becoming more and more capable and smart. While Apple, Google, and Microsoft are shipping assistants on their smartphones and wearables, the one for the home right now is Alexa—Amazon’s ghost in the cylinder.</p> <p>But competition is heating up: Google recently announced a competitor to the Echo coming in the fourth quarter of 2016, and Apple is rumored to introduce something in this space at <a href="">their developer conference</a> in mid-June. So competition is coming for Alexa, but right now it (Alexa is a bunch of software running in who knows how many data centers across America, so I’m going to refer to it as “it”, despite the female name and voice) is the only one you can buy and plonk down in your home.</p> <p>If you’ve read this blog before you know I’m a massive sci-fi nerd, including of course the brilliant-if-uneven <em>Star Trek: The Next Generation</em>. I love Gene Roddenberry’s vision of Star Trek as showing us how we, as humanity, can be better. And despite the rickety sets and wobbly acting—apart from Sir Patrick Stewart, of course—<em>Star Trek: TNG</em> hit on so many great technological advances, like their reading pads that were pretty much tablets, the holodeck, which I never understood how they got people to leave voluntarily, the tricorders, which were pretty much smartphones with even more cool gear, and, of course, the taken-for-granted masterpiece, the ship itself. Just talk to the air and ship will know you’re talking to it. Ship will do what you need it to. Ship is your friend.</p> <p>And now you can have ship in your house. Kind of. Ship’s primordial ooze ancestor. And you know what, ship’s distant ancestor ain’t half bad. Alexa knows thing. Alexa can help you with things.</p> <p>But above all, <em>you can talk to the air and the air responds.</em> Sure, it’s not a true AI in any sense of the word—it’s dumb as a box of bricks, but when you talk to the air and it gets it, it’s <em>magical</em>. Seriously, it’s magic.</p> <p>I giggled like a little girl when I first set it up and it responded to me.</p> <p>“Alexa, tea, Earl Grey, hot.” Of course it knew how to respond to that.</p> <p>For my use case, Alexa fits in well. I ask it random questions that pop into my head. “Alexa, what’s the temperature?” etc. I have it set timers and alarms. I have it play podcasts from my phone through its not-great-but-okay speaker.</p> <p>It’s a spirit I can command. A dumb spirit now, sure, but it’s getting smarter every day, and who knows how smart it will get.</p> <p>It’s future now.</p> Mad Max: Fury Road vs Mad Max Trilogy Nic Lindh 2016-05-23T00:00:00+00:00 <p>There’s an amazing amount of shots reused between the original Mad Max trilogy and Fury Road. It’s impressive how George Miller’s vision has stayed true to itself over the years.</p> </div></div></div> <div class="embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9"> <iframe class="embed-responsive-item" src="" allowfullscreen></iframe> </div> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> When the levee breaks Nic Lindh 2016-05-15T00:00:00+00:00 <p>The professor who taught the first political science class I took spent much of the semester on his pet theory about how people will tolerate a surprising amount of oppression, but there is a limit and once you get past it, <em>boom</em>.</p> <p>This was a long time ago, so he used examples like the Iranian revolution, where the Shah created such a corrupt, horrific regime that finally the people had enough and went full medieval, instituting a theocracy that’s been a thorn in the west’s side ever since.</p> <p>I’ve been thinking back to those lectures by that funny little man in his bow tie over the last few years—the Occupy movement, the Tea Party, Black Lives Matter, and the rise of Trump and Sanders seem powered by anger and frustration.</p> <p>People are angry. Inequality is at the level of the robber barons, the middle class is under siege, rural America is wilting on the vine, and people of color are still dying at the hands of law enforcement.</p> <p>At this point the anger is mostly constrained inside the political system, though it’s starting to leak out, like with the Bundy Ranch standoff and the Ferguson riots.</p> <p>Obviously, the Occupy movement and the Bundy Ranch crew place the blame for their anger in different places, but both points of view feel in their bones that they are getting shafted. Shafted hard.</p> <p>And it’s not getting better—the trend lines point to inequality increasing, for the downward spiral for rural people and the middle class to continue to accelerate.</p> <p>And I think back to my old poli-sci professor and wonder where the limit is, at what point the levee breaks.</p> It’s a content blocker, not an ad blocker Nic Lindh 2016-05-08T00:00:00+00:00 <p>I don’t use ad blockers. I think it’s a fair trade: You give me content and I see your ads.</p> <p>I do, however, use content blockers.</p> <p>The difference is not sophistry or comic book guy pedantry—an ad blocker blocks ads while a content blocker stops your browser from downloading many different kinds of data. This especially includes trackers, the little pieces of software that follow you around the web, cataloging your every move.</p> <p>This means content blockers also block ads, but that is because the advertising networks track you across the web.</p> <p>Does that mean they know specifically who you are? Name, rank, and serial number? Probably not. But we can’t know for sure, because the industry isn’t saying. What we do know is that when you visit a site that participates in an ad network—which is most commercial sites—the ad network uses the information it has on you to create an auction where different advertisers bid on the privilege to show an ad to you, or at least the demographic you’ve been lumped into. The auction takes milliseconds and then the ad starts to load.</p> <p>What this means in plain English is that when you go to a site, your information is sold and aggregated. So it’s not a matter of if you trust the site itself, but if you trust the companies the site is selling you to. Companies you don’t know and <em>can’t</em> know without manually inspecting the source of the site.</p> <p>Perhaps I’m over-sensitive, but the feeling of having my browsing habits sold to the highest bidder whenever I visit a site gives me the creeps. Content blockers are the weapon we have against this.</p> <p>It’s not the ads themselves. You giving me content in exchange for exposing me to ads is fine, good, even. You giving me content in exchanging for selling my information to who-knows-who is simply not okay.</p> <p>It’s also an amazing state for the media industry to find itself: They have outsourced the very thing that brings them revenue. This does not seem particularly bright, to put it mildly.</p> <p>The solution is simple in principle but difficult and expensive to implement: Host your own ads. Accept that the internet is here to stay and that you need to own your own publishing and revenue stack. Accept that if you are a publisher today <em>you are partly a technology company.</em></p> Why the media will lift Trump up and tear Clinton down (Vox) Nic Lindh 2016-05-06T00:00:00+00:00 <p>While the hed for the piece is “Why the media will lift Trump up and tear Clinton down,” the headline in the URL itself is “The 2016 general election is going to suck.” Basically the press and the commentariat are so wedded to the idea of false equivalence, and there is so much more money to be made in a contested election, that the lopsidedness—”make it Coca-Cola versus Pepsi instead of Coca-Cola versus sewer water”—will be swept under the rug.</p> <blockquote> <p>So there will be a push to lift Donald Trump up and bring Hillary Clinton down, until they are at least something approximating two equivalent choices.</p> <p>It’s not a conspiracy; it won’t be coordinated. It doesn’t need to be. It’s just a process of institutions, centers of power and influence, responding to the incentive structure that’s evolved around them. The US political ecosystem needs this election to be competitive.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="">Vox</a></p> Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves Nic Lindh 2016-04-19T00:00:00+00:00 <blockquote> <p>Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.</p> </blockquote> <p>—Carl Jung</p> How the G.O.P. Elite Lost Its Voters to Donald Trump (The New York Times) Nic Lindh 2016-04-13T00:00:00+00:00 <p>Argues that decades of bait-and-switch policy tactics are coming home to roost for the G.O.P in the form of angry Trump voters.</p> <blockquote> <p>In dozens of interviews, Republican lawmakers, donors, activists and others described — some with resignation, some with anger — a party that paved the way for a Trump-like figure to steal its base, as it lost touch with less affluent voters and misunderstood their growing anguish.</p> <p>“This is absolutely a crisis for the party elite — and beyond the party elite, for elected officials, and for the way people have been raised as Republicans in the power structure for a generation,” said Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary for President George W. Bush. “If Donald Trump wins, he will change what it means to be a Republican.”</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="">New York Times</a></p> Review: Synology DS416j Nic Lindh 2016-04-11T00:00:00+00:00 <p><img src="/images/ds416j.jpg" /></p> <p><i>Synology DS416j loaded up with drives.</i></p> <p>I’ve been meaning to buy a <a href="">NAS</a>—a small, specialized computer that serves files—for years, but have always been put off by the cost.</p> <p>This is the <a href="">Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness</a> as coined by the late great Terry Pratchett. Meaning I kept blowing money by buying external USB drives to hook up to my computers and then replacing them as they invariably died early deaths instead of making one larger investment.</p> <p>A NAS means paying more upfront and then making it back over time as you spend less for upkeep <em>and</em> getting built-in redundancy so if one drive (or two, depending on how you’ve set things up) fails you can replace it and keep on trucking without data loss.</p> <p>At least that’s the theory. (As a sidenote here, <a href="">“RAID is not a backup”</a> is a truism for a reason. Do not believe you’ve nullified Murphy’s Law by getting your files on a RAID. End of sermon.)</p> <p>The DS416j is a great deal: <a href=";ref_=sr_1_1&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=ds416j&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1460419199">Around $290 from Amazon</a> for a four-drive NAS running the very good and n00b-friendly <a href="">DiskStation Manager operating system</a>.</p> <p>Of course, at that price Synology had to make trade-offs. The DS416j is expressly designed for light home use. If that is what you’re looking for, I wholeheartedly recommend it. If on the other hand you want a NAS for your office, you’ll be unhappy with this device.</p> <p>Some of the trade-offs Synology made include:</p> <ul> <li> <p>One gigabit Ethernet port only, so there’s no link aggregation—gigabit is as fast as it gets.</p> </li> <li> <p>512MB of RAM, which is even less than Apple puts in its products.</p> </li> <li> <p>No support for hot-swapping drives. If you need to replace a drive, you’ll have to power the Synology down and break out your screwdriver. Like an animal.</p> </li> </ul> <p>For a home server that costs less than $300, these are perfectly valid trade-offs. For a business NAS with 50 people on it, they are recipes for misery.</p> <p>Thanks to the maturation of the software on NAS devices these days, people are using them for all kinds of tasks apart from backups and media drives, which is great. But know that the DS416j comes with an <a href="">Armada ARM chip</a>, which is not particularly studly. This means two things: Any third-party software you want to use has to be compiled for that chip, and it plain doesn’t have a lot of muscle.</p> <p>The DS416j could perhaps be used as a Plex server. Maybe. For some files. And I’m not going to test it myself. Why? Because I don’t want to pop my popcorn, grab a chilled beverage and sit down to get entertained, only to find that whatever media file I happen to be interested in pushes the little Armada chip to a nervous breakdown.</p> <p>In a few years Moore’s law guarantees that whatever NAS you buy will be able to transcode anything you throw at it, but that’s a few years out.</p> <p>It’s important to note the NAS itself is only a container for drives, and you need to pay attention to the drives. You need to buy drives tuned to live in the cramped, hot, 24/7 environment of a NAS. After some research I decided the sweet spot for my usage was the <a href=";dpSrc=sims&amp;dpID=519kbF0XBjL&amp;refRID=0JS21ECE750ZK98CAS7A&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;ie=UTF8">3TB Western Digital Red</a>, so I picked up four of them from Amazon and they cost more than the DS416j itself.</p> <p>It’s kind of nice that when the drives are under load, their thrashing sounds like rain. It’s soothing.</p> <p>If you’re in the market for a NAS, Synology makes good ones, and <a href="">the software</a> especially is impressive. If you’re in the market for a light-usage home NAS that will be used mostly as a backup target and media file server, the DS416j is a nice product.</p> <p><strong>Note:</strong> Amazon links are affiliate links. If you purchase something through them I get a tiny kickback. It doesn’t cost you anything.</p> Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard Nic Lindh 2016-04-02T00:00:00+00:00 <blockquote> <p>Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.</p> </blockquote> <p>—H. L. Mencken</p>