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Week 33 – Long Time Passing

That I now have to make a decision on whether weeks begin on Sunday or Monday for this is probably a bad sign. It’s Monday, anyway.


My current contract is coming to an end, and with the company on a different footing to the last year, my position of emergency relief may be coming to an end. I kind of have to assume it is, anyway, so I’m looking for more different things. I’ve got an interview on Wednesday for a full time contract, which will be something of a novelty after working 3 days/week for the current one. Part of their interview process was this intensive logic-based Aptitude Test, and if I’d seen it coming I maybe wouldn’t even have applied. It’s the kind of mental-gymnastics “Could you get into Mensa” test that I’ve traditionally done really badly at – which means I panic, which means I do worse. I got the Face to Face interview before they sent me the test, though, and they haven’t cancelled that yet. Doing it on Wednesday put me on edge, though, which made a sudden explosion of drama in one of my corners of the internet hit a bit hard, so Thursday was crap, and then Friday, by dint of an astounding series of coincidences that built up into a *huge* pile of shit, was worse.

So it’s been a weird week, and this week isn’t looking much quieter.



The drama’s based around my “big” larps, those run by Profound Decisions that I help crew for, and was based around how well PD deal with abuse reports. To clarify: My role at Odyssey occasionally means dealing with the first part of these, in that I’m usually the first person people end up speaking to, but I’m under strict instructions – which I almost always follow – to directly redirect such complaints to non-volunteer staff (Sometimes the player doesn’t want to, sometimes other things get in the way). Paragraphs deleted here. I’m not getting into it.

Part of it is that I’m going to be running events, I hope, in the future; and I can’t see a clear path where I would have done it better or even particularly differently. The numbers are low enough that statistics become inferable to specific cases too easily, and I fundamentally disagree with last-action policies. That is, if you know someone is attempting to deal with anger issues, and you poke them with a stick so you can then point at them and say “This was going to happen anyway”, my sympathy is significantly less than if you poke them with a blunt stick and they bit your head of on spec. I don’t even begin to know where the answers are on events that happen out of the game that affect people’s ability to feel safe in the same tent/camp/field/county; and the line between asking people quietly to fall in line and publicly being seen to make a stand isn’t clear cut either.

It’s a hard problem, it’s a disservice to everyone – organisers, crew and players alike – to pretend there are heavy black lines around all of the areas (Yes, some actions are clearly bad), and the initial explosion of righteous “They’re being stupid”, “They’re being oblivious” didn’t help. The more nuanced discussions later were a lot better, but that was after the initial damage.


I spent most of Saturday on PiracyInc, the long lost Pirates Game I’ve been working on for years. It’s currently an excuse to learn Node – I do a lot better at learning languages by building things in them – and rebuild the visual mechanics of the game as a Cookie-Clicker style percentage bar system, but backed onto something akin to an MMO engine. There’s almost certainly better ways to do almost everything I’m currently doing, but right now I have the basics working, and can now start putting meat onto the bones.


I’ve also been working on my personal data archiving project, Lifestream. Right now it’s drinking in data on a lot of things in my life, and storing them in a database. A lot of that’s reproduced as part of, but some of it is on two timeshifted accounts, Aquarions Of History, which reproduces my tumblr of four years ago in real time, and @timeshifted-aq, which does the same for my Twitter stream. The new updates for the Twitter side replace “@” with the unicode ? symbol, to avoid sending notifications to people for tweets 4 years ago. On the tumblr side, I’m using queueing to make the times slightly more accurate (Twitter doesn’t let you schedule tweets with the API, so they appear when the script runs, every 15 minutes)


My iPhone 6S arrived on Friday, and I’ve been experimenting with it over the weekend. Battery life is a lot better than my (2 year old, >800× recharged) 5S was, Using it to navigate to a new place was – as expected – a large drain, as was being in a low-signal house for a while. Staying in the same place with low signal but wifi calling appears to have only lost 10% over the day, though, so it’s looking a lot better.

I’m looking at porting my Trello-based voice-mail system – Vox-ex-machina – from its current mess of hand-coded PHP into a nicer Node-based system, but that may come after Pirates gets a bit more love.


Still playing AdVenture Capitalist. Can clearly give it up any time I want to.

Batman Arkham Knight

In an attempt to use my PS4 a bit more, I picked up Arkham Knight for it – also affected by the reports of the PC version being shoddy. I like the Arkham games a lot, they’re hands-down the best representation of the concept of Batman in video game form and the gadget-centric progression fits the model of the character really well. That said, Knight’s push bigger has lost focus somewhat. The explicit mission tracking is welcome, but the scope and repetition of some of the tasks aren’t doing so well. Primarily, the Batmobile is massively overused. I understand they want to fit all the things they wanted to do with it over the last couple of games, but the Batmobile as puzzle-solving device gets old quick, and the shooting-gallery of tanks is just frustrating. It would be better if there *wasn’t* a concept of clearing out the islands, because it makes the one-line notification of “oh, BTW, there’s another stack of tanks to beat” frustrating. AND THEY RESPAWN. One of the leading lights of the Arkham series’ vaulted combat system was that when you got into a fight, you could see there are twenty guys, and then you’d beat 20 guys, and you’d win. Here – and it’s not just in the batmobile sections, they do it in the hand-to-hand too – there’s a high chance of multiple waves, without telegraph, that means you can never tell how close to success you are. The number of special-combo-to-beat enemies appears to have gone up too, turning many fights into effectively quick-time events as the tutorial window pops up with “Press X-X-O-Meta-Bucky-Five to disarm quantum field generators” with the added bonus of having to abort halfway though as some other fucker throws a TV at you from off-screen.

So, while I’m enjoying Arkham a lot, it’s not without flaws. Most of the reasons why I’m enjoying it a lot are where they’ve improved the original concept, and most of the places where I’ve not is where they’ve stretched it.

They’re making me bored of the Batmobile, though, which is an achievement in itself.

Pillars of Eternity

With the new expansion released, I’m also retreading though Pillars of Eternity. I’d got though to Act 3 previously, but when I came back to it I had no idea where I was, so I’ve restarted as a Moon Godlike Chanter, going from the least original class/race combo in the series to something distinctly more interesting. The replay’s going fairly well, I’m remembering most of the major plot beats and getting slightly different results, but the game’s still got a problem with leading you into fights you can’t possibly win at your current state, which I’m hoping the expansion’s better at. Though since by the expansion the party will be at a significantly higher level, it may work out anyway.




Current Affairs web development

the political and technical state of .ly domains


The libian govenement has outsourced control of the .ly root name space to a (libian) organisation, “LL ccTLD“, which is not the government, (The UK does kind of the same thing, it delegates to nominet). The administrative and technical representatives to the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority are part of “LY ccTLD”, but their contact addresses are at the the “Sponsoring organisation” for the TLD, the “General Post and Telecommunication Company” which is technically a private company which supplies a lot of Libyan infrastructure. The website’s not accessable right now, but apparently the chairman of the company is Muhammad al-Gaddafi, eldest son of Muammar, so its independence is unlikely to be real.

It’s true that would buy a domain, and at some point the company who manages the domain registration will probably pay the government something, be it taxes or contracts, but it no more supports the government of Libya than buying a or .com domain supports the invasion of iraq.


.ly is interesting as a country code, because while most countries operate a geographical restriction (‘you may not own a .fr domain if your company doesn’t exist in france’) .ly operates under the same restrictions of Libyan law (No porn, No gambling, pigs by appointment only) but doesn’t restrict internationally. For example, the domain “”, released as a “sex positive URL shortener” got it’s renewal revoked after it launched. The .ly NIC system has always had an air of the stickytape-and-string about it.


Libya currently does not have unrestricted international internet access, and this works both ways.

.ly domains primary authority (as in, the central “What does this domain do” answering service) is cloned over five datacentres, two in Libya (currently on a “white list” though the great firewall of Libya) one in the netherlands and two in the states. Registering a .ly domain is currently difficult because the central database is not on that whitelist, but still possible.

Likelyhood of downtime

The ccTLD has been active in keeping .ly domains up during the political issues, including moving some of the authority outside the country, so the technical issues of contacting the domains are unlikely to be a problem. Poltically, it’s possible that the government may remove domains it finds offensive, but the logistics of doing that to every .ly site would not seem to be likely, especially since the people doing the checking don’t currently have access to the international internet.

Specific sites, such as, may be in more danger if some red-taped official can’t tell the difference between a redirect and a host, but that would by why owns both and You can replace the “” bit of any url with either of those to the same effect. (That does not stop links all over the internet from breaking, but it’s not a solvable problem, and one inherent in the shorturl concept. “Don’t use .ly” is fair enough, although if the US government did the same thing with there’d be just as much recourse. “Don’t treat shorturls as historically achievable” is probably better, but articles on the internet are annoyingly transient anyway. If Cool URLS Don’t Change most of the internet is decidedly uncool).


I don’t own or admin any .ly domains anymore (and haven’t since I stopped working for Skimlinks on (Still the only URL shortener with an accurate rendering of the current moon phase in the header)).

social web development

In which Aquarion has no idea who you are

Yesterday I had a flatwarming. It was great and stuff, and there was alcocustard, and mead, and cake. I think it went well. Today we went to Forbidden Planet and I accidentally an art shop, then we went to a pub with a tree inside it for food, then some people went home and other people went to collect cars and meet at the pub later. I went back to the flat, so as to as to recover my cope before heading to the pub to socialise again.

(People are great, I like people. I need gaps of no-people between lots-of-people).

So I’m sitting in our flat at my computer, the view behind it over the football fields of Hackney Downs, and I check Google Reader with some trepidation, as I’ve not done so for a couple of days. The flat is silent save for the whirr of the server fans, all is quiet, all is peace. There’s a message on the screen.

“One new person is following you”

For a short amount of time, the terminology of our new Social Internet hits me at the wrong angle. They’re following me? Why? How did they get my address? I can’t hear them. Are they in the flat?

A click, and Google Reader illucidates slightly:

“Paul is following you”

That’s it.

Who, exactly, is Paul?

The profile image doesn’t inspire confidence, and there are no further details. Either they don’t have a Google Profile to click though to, or Google Reader doesn’t click though to it.

“Paul is following you”

This isn’t a unique problem. I keep getting mails from twitter saying “$foo is following you” (You’d think with all these people following me I’d be able to see them. Perhaps milling around while I’m in the flat or something) without any way to connect $foo with an identifier I could actually recognise.

“Paul is following you”

A bit of digging (though the Google Reader Sharing Settings Page, of all places) gave me the google account ID of my followers, which was a little better. (If you’re interested in finding out who I am where, check Project Walrus.

In conclusion, profiles on social networks do actually serve a purpose: They allow your stalkees to identify you. This means you, Paul.

computing Imported From Epistula intertwingularity


I am a qualified sysadmin. Whilst I currently am in a “I will never be on-call ever again” phase of my career (Very much like the “I will never drink again” phase of a hangover, with much the same future), the fear of people coming to your desk at 17:25 saying “The little lights have stopped flashing on my disk drive, and I’ve got a report for the board due, is this a problem?” never truly goes away. The other thing that office-environment sysadmins learn to hate with a passion usually reserved for Windows ME is this:

Wireless Networking.

It used to be a truism of security that the only secure computer was one with six inches of air beyond every port. Then came WiFi, Bluetooth, IRDA and such other mechanisms. Unfortunately, it appears that every single writer of wireless router firmware, Wireless card firmware and wireless card driver software is the type of person who go to “Information wants to be free” rallies. Everything is fine, providing you don’t, ever, try to do something as freedom-limiting as secure your wireless fucking network.

(Aside: I know of no way of fucking wired-ly, and that all fucking networks will, by their nature, be mostly wireless. I can, in fact, not think of any exceptions to this last statement and would further request that I not be educated in this regard. Aside ends)

I have borrowed a Belkin wireless router for my new flat, which I configured in no-time flat. Well, no time I was being paid for, at any rate, so in contractor terms it was free. In actual terms it was several hours of faffing with ports and cables and netmasks and reset switches and that was before I turned on the wireless network.

Then I turned on the wireless network. I configured it to be WEP secured with a 128 bit key, generated from a ten byte string set by the administrator – me. I fed this to my laptop, and it was happy. I was suspicious, because my laptop is rarely happy with anything, but I moved on.

My desktop, though it won’t be on wireless often, was also happy. I began to fear.

Sure enough, the Wii disagreed, and demanded I enter the full hex key. Since I don’t have a USB keyboard right now, I did so with the wiimote, over a Long Time.

I’ve borrowed an iPhone from work (I may get one, because (a) SHINY, and (b) I hate freedom). That required the full hex key too.

So did my Windows Mobile smartphone.

I’m beginning to notice a pattern here. Every device without a proper keyboard demands the full hex key. Every device with easy entry of such just needs the passphrase.

I hate computers.

Imported From Epistula intertwingularity social trutap web development weblog

It's not for you

Chris Selland:

But as a biz dev guy (who doesn’t have time – or a reason – to be online much) – and despite the fact that my job is all about relationships – I find twitter to be pretty pointless. LinkedIn, on the other hand, I use every single day.



I’ve been watching the Social Networking backlash with something of a professional interest, seeming as I’m working for a company whose primary product is to interact with many of them, and my primary response to “I can’t use Facebook as a professional Customer Relationship Management system” and “Twitter’s no use in maintaining business relationships” and “Google’s not helping my website get more hits” is… er…:



Twitter is ambient sociality. It’s what it is good at. It’s for “this is what I’m doing” and – more often – a ping in the background with something that someone else is doing. Attempting to use it as a network management tool, either for people or servers, is not what it is designed to do. It works suprisingly well as a command-line interface to remote websites (I’m a new convert to remember the milk), but complaining that Twitter doesn’t help you manage your business is kin to complaining that you can’t use lego for your corporate HQ. It may look the right shape, but you need a heavier tool.

Facebook is at its best as a social – in the “go out with friends” sense – network. Not as a network of everyone you have ever met, but as everyone you’ve ever wanted to keep in touch with. I have a simple criteria for adding people to facebook. a) Can I remember something you’ve said to me, b) Were you on fire, would I look an extinguisher or piss on it if the former is not an option. Subquestion: If the former _is_ an option. As a kind of online contacts directory of everyone I’ve ever met or worked with, or wish to maintain a professional relationship with, it’s not really the target market.

LinkedIn is, though. Facebook I use daily – more this week than ever before – LinkedIn I’ll visit periodically to add someone I’ve worked with/for, or more often if I’m looking for people to work with (trutap is, incidentally, hiring perldevs, Ops team & QA folks), but I wouldn’t use it to keep track of – for example – my best friends from secondary school.

There appears to be a tendency within the web technologist literati to see there only being one online social network to which you throw your allegiances and all others can hang, but they’re all better at some things than others, and until we can transport all our networks from one place to another though an defined standard format (I have my doubts as to this ever actually happening, but leave the floor open to the more optimistic) you’re always going to have more people on one network than another, so you have to decide on whether you’re going to miss out on a person for a website account, which – to me – isn’t any choice at all.

There is no silver bullet. There’s no best language as there will never be a best social network, best operating system, best text editor (though emacs will retain it’s bottom position, obviously), there is merely the best tool for what you’re looking for right now, and you can find me on most of them.

And if just one of them is perfect for everyone you want to list as a friend,



Current Affairs Imported From Epistula music web development weblog

Pandora closes the box

I just got an email from pandora

It says:

As you probably know, in July of 2007 we had to block usage of Pandora outside the U.S. because of the lack of a viable license structure for Internet radio streaming in other countries. It was a terrible day. We did however hold out some hope that a solution might exist for the UK, so we left it unblocked as we worked diligently with the rights organizations to negotiate an economically workable license fee. After over a year of trying, this has proved impossible. Both the PPL (which represents the record labels) and the MCPS/PRS Alliance (which represents music publishers) have demanded per track performance minima rates which are far too high to allow ad supported radio to operate and so, hugely disappointing and depressing to us as it is, we have to block the last territory outside of the US.

I would gladly pay a fee to have access to Pandora, it is a wonderful thing from wonderful people, and it is depressing that the organisations who think they are protecting the artists are doing so by fucking over their customers.

Yes, there are technological ways around the IP block, though I won’t discuss them here. This is a sad day for online music.

2007 aqcom Design Imported From Epistula

Redesign Aq15

Stripped back, back to blues, purples and (for reasons best known to the bits of my brain that aren’t talking to me) orangey-salmon-pink.

Epistula’s implementation – finally – of a views system means I can have different templates for the front page and the rest of the site, which is handy, so the front page becomes all about the latest article and a more traditional weblog down the left hand side, a host of things I’ve favourited on Youtube, added to, star’d in Google Reader, Deviantart, taken photos of and added to flickr or – hopefully – liked at all. That’s being merged together by Venus, Sam Ruby’s fork of Planet.

Coming up: Indicators on the Otherwhere panels to show where it came from and when, a return of the AqCom sections and Recent Comments bits, a redesign of the Comments field and the implementation of the old banners into the new banner area for areas where specific banners apply.

Plus, it’s not pink.

Imported From Epistula web development

Web Development Three Point Question Mark

Half of the Web Development community appears to have managed to go screaming round the twist.

First (In order of “Things Aquarion saw”) was Opera’s decision to file proceedings with the European Union for Microsoft’s failure to adhere to web standards. I’ve got more to say on this, but I’ll do so later.

Second, we have Malarkey’s call to disband the CSS committee on the basis that browser vendors don’t want CSS to be a quantum leap forward.

Third, there’s a mess about default codecs in HTML5.

Let us deal, first, with the second option, because consistency of options is for sissies. In the rest of the world, that bit not concerned with technology, the way Standards work is that there is an idea for a standard that would make everyone able to work with everybody else’s work. Then a standards body puts together a complete spec, which gets discussed a bit, then ratified, then things are implemented based upon it.

In the web world, which because it moves faster sees itself above such staid systems, innovations go into the spec. The example people give for how well this works is the XMLResponseObject stuff that started in IE and then spread out. The counterexample is the IE Filter system, which requires a DirectX interface – difficult in non-microsoft controlled applications, impossible on non-Windows systems. These two examples are pretty good because they demonstrate a defined, simple expansion that can be implemented by other people; and a complicated expansion that cannot be done by anyone else.

Other examples include the Canvas object, Wiimote javascript events, search engine addition objects, conditional comments, blink, marquee, and various other bits, plus the forthcoming native comet object I’m sure will happen soon.

Mostly these things happen not because of companies intentionally fucking up the web, but because a) They need the functionality for something else the web engine does (XRef Canvas, Filter, Wiimote) or b) to try out forthcoming functionality.

An example of (b) would be Mozilla & Opera’s implementation of CSS 3 things like rounded corners and opacity, which are well-implemented with a distinct namespace.

The bits where we get into trouble are when we start implementing or using a specification before it’s been finalised, as we enter a new set of dark days where your implementation of CSS3 depends on which point-release of it you read.

So, you need give and take. The browser vendors are going to innovate, and some of those innovations are going to be good and useful enough to go into specs, but innovations should be kept in their own namespaces, far away from where you expect the eventual specified method to be, so that when the final method is implemented it can be done so in the right place, with the right methods, and we don’t spend the next decade with backwards compatibility issues, and the only people who suffer are the ones who relied on unfinished functionality who have to rework their code to do things the right way. (This is Acceptable, the penalty for being on the bleeding edge is occasional paper cuts).

The web developers have to step back a bit and see the difference between a standard, an implementation, and a useful hack. The first is the only thing we should rely on.

Specification bodies need to move forward, release a hard specification that things can be built to, and then work towards the next point release. Remember to let developers specify which versions we’re relying on, and help us fall back gracefully if it isn’t there.

And everyone needs to stop overreacting, or we’re going to lose.

Imported From Epistula web development

Opera files a complaint against Microsoft

Håkon Wium Lie:

Today we have taken a stand. Opera has filed a formal complaint with the European Commission to force Microsoft to support open Web standards in its Web browser, Internet Explorer. We believe that Microsoft has harmed Web standards by refusing to support them; Microsoft often participates in creating Web standards, promoting them, and even promising to implement them. Despite their talent, however, they refuse to support Web standards correctly. For example, Internet Explorer is the only modern Web browser that does not support Acid2.

Imported From Epistula web development