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What Do I Win, Internet?


Rod Serling

I don't honestly know if this says more about me winning the Internet, or me losing at sanity. You be the judge. I was pretty much just playing Geoguessr, saw that restaurant, noticed the name and remembered exactly the place from the TV show from 15 years ago or whenever. And that they were in Wales so it was pretty likely. Also I play an unseemly amount of Geoguessr. Probably as much as any non-bot user.

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Thanks Again AT&T


-- this was an email I wrote but I just pasted it here instead so it's...emailey

I just totally assumed that this is exactly what happened and started writing, but then I looked it up and I'm really happy that reality is exactly how I imagined it.

In 1922 AT&T standardized the 19" rack with 1.75" RU modules, generally now 42u or 45u high, but obviously, sky's the limit with those early switches.

But there were admins, just like me, in the '20s and '30s who now supported literal TONS of hardware in 19" racks bolted to their floor. Oh, new smaller super switch comes out? Good. Fits my 19" racks, thanks AT&T.

Then one day, hey, who're these IBM guys rolling shit in here?  What is that some calculator doodad?  Yeah, whatever, 19" racks, bolted to my floor. Figure it out.

Oh it's the '40s and you're building some whiz-bang tubemajigga to make your bombs boom bigger. Yeah take your insane death machine and get it in the 19" racks bolted to my floor.

That's not to say that IBM and DEC didn't build shit that didn't fit in a rack, but they at least respected the aisle depth and their cabinets were often just extra-roomy 19" racks bolted together. A lot of times I think the internal components bolted into internal 19" racks. *

'90s? Where'd these DotCom weenies come from and why did they just rent the whole datacenter? They're building their shit into desktop machines? Who fuckin' cares, make 'em cram it in that 19" rack.  **

I just love that AT&T did that, and that generations of asshole Operations Guys like me have made everyone adhere to it for 100 years.

Let's hope Skynet gets why it's trapped in 19" racks forever.  Sorry, assholeGPT I don't make the rules. ***


* There was a small IBM zSeries that was constantly in my way at C&W in Bermuda. I would alternate between tripping over it and using it as a standing desk and storage rack. I don't know what bank owned that stupid thing but I'm sad to say I never spilled anything in it.  There was a very leaky AC duct right in front of that machine that I always wacked my head on too, so it totally would have looked like an accident.


** I did this.  Some customer of mine in 2000 rented /open/ rack space like by the RU from what was at the time Boston Datacenters, in the Charlestown Hood plant.  That was some sketchy as frig shit.  Literally their two stupid desktop machines with their beta version PCI card based load balancers.  Phobos.  Utah.  I think.  Look it up.


*** Just occurred to me writing that that I literally watched Jeeves get shot in the face and dragged out behind the dumpster.  There were several dozen racks one week, all gone the next from AT&T in Billerica.  Matlab was also there with racks and racks of Xserve's.  Wonder how that investment paid off.  I think it was all for QA automation running lots of desktop instances or something.



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And you wanted to be my latex salesman


For a brief moment I considered wiping one of these decommed Netscalers and using it to replace a Raspberry Pi for "around the house" tasks.

Well not with a sound like that mister. You're going back in the barn:

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Two Step Remote Assistance Tool


My mom has a Mac, and occasionally something will fuck up in a way that is best fixed by me having some control over her machine.  I had one of those cases last week and it was embarrassing that there was no good way for me to get remote access.  Google Meet doesn't cut it, but there's a whole other Chrome Remote Desktop app, but that was a lot of hoops to install and gave up any hope of walking my mother through the install process.

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Mister Multisystem, Finally


I am not writing this as a "getting started" or beginners guide, though it might evolve to serve that for some people. It's just notes I'm taking for things I need to look up. I'm not going to do any in-depth technical review or anything, go watch a youtube video for that. My perspective is from a career as a sysadmin and Linux user. Your mileage will certainly vary.

I strongly encourage you to skip my un-edited drivel and just scroll to more listy looking part.

This past weekend we resolved to kicking off, tidying up and playing with the MiSTer Multsystem. The actual "Problem" with getting this project going was that everything was way too easy to get, which has been our luck every time we need any Raspberry Pi's and stuff. We anticipated about a 3-4 month minimum lead time to land all the parts, figure out how it all goes together and how to get software to it. Everything turned up within a week. We got the DE-10 direct from the Terasic and they shipped pretty much immediately. Same story with the MultiSystem pack. I've been extremely interested watching this project as Neil has announced updates and features. The box was well packed and safe even after a real kicking by the various shipping companies.

I think it sat on the Project shelf for a month before we even had time around the holidays to put it together and try it out. It was super easy to assemble. Note: I spent 3 or 4 years in a local computer store in the '90s, and a 25-mumble-year career in IT so your mileage may vary. Actually that's not fair. Natalie did pretty much all the assembly work with me just kind of putting the case together. I'm still paranoid that I over-tightened screws or something since I've never really worked much with 3d printed anything. The case is very nice, well laid out and, while tight, everything is easy to route and very well documented.

Goals vs Reality

The Plan: This guy should sit prominently in The Room, quite probably wood-grained and hooked up to the main TV. There it would host all the console games for all the consoles neither of us ever had, and so have no muscle memory or nostalgia for. You know, For Kids.

The Reality: I was familiar from well-afar of the Mister project for some time. I know why the ST is there, and given all our other projects, this does have the capacity of seriously amusing me. But I wasn't sure about the MiSTer's interface, it looked like it might be a lot less friendly than something like EmulationStation. And that's a thing I go into below.

The other day I temporarily yet elegantly installed the MiSTer in the arcade cabinet and gave it a quick smoke test to make sure it still did things. I took a few minutes to figure out what using the external drive that I just happened to have hanging around was about and the effect it had on the virtual filesystem browser stuff.

1 week later and we spent a couple of hours today playing a bit, loading more games and software, then playing a bit more. Natalie wanted to start getting things documented for the Manual to the Living Room we are slowly beginning to put together. As we went through computer platforms from Atari 8-bit, ST, Amiga Natalie was taking notes on how to load software on each and get back to the main menu and whatever but really aside from necessary differences in how the keyboards are mapped, everything's just the same. We've been playing with an X-Box 360 controller because it's the only controller we own and it just worked. The arcade controls are going to take a bit of effort but the sticks and the trackball work, I just need to map buttons, and from what I can see that's not very hard.

The Big, Ugly Truth

The reason I really liked the standard linux machine plus a slick launcher is because it looks nice on the arcade cabinet and people could navigate it pretty easy. You know what? There are no "people" and this thing is way more convenient to use than the Pi + RetroPie. No trying to keep the button layout relatively synced between a bunch of different MAME emulators. Make that "A bunch of different versions of a bunch of different emulators". Nothing was ever consistent beyond the necessary controls. But it does look cool.

Enter the MiSTer. Since we're not emulating, there's not really anything much to tweak. Everything can pretty much be set up globally aside from a few platform specific changes. Even with arcade cores the UI is so consistent and easy to deal with that I won't exactly be pining for RetroArch any time soon. I need to figure out how to set a default set of controls though so I don't have to set the controls up for every single arcade cabinet forever. I know there's a menu item for that I just haven't pulled the trigger on possibly screwing things up yet.

It's also extremely easy to keep updated with all the latest cores using the "update_all" script. I'm using the "RetroDriven" fork, though I'm not sure what materially differs from the main line version. It's just the one I saw first. That tool was a revelation since you can just have it go out and populate any missing arcade ROMs, as well as adding cores that haven't made it to the main-line MiSTer distribution yet.

Sound can be /amazingly/ better than MAME. I'm not familiar enough with any console game to know what it should sound like vs an emulator. But I played a couple of games to test out Donkey Kong and it took me 3 games to get past just how much better it sounded on exactly the same hardware. I think it's like emulating a Moog synth vs copying it electrically at the circuit level. It'll at least get you a lot closer to "actual hardware" than MAME possibly can. (Important Note: The 4th game of DK I got within 700 points of my personal best 62,500 score on the board, and it's not like I'm constantly playing that game, it's pretty rare for me to do that well that quickly. [I think it's really more like 85k but that was before we had the board so I can't remember])


While it's true that there are some arcade games that aren't yet "there" on the MiSTer, which work fine on a Pi-3, the fact is that while a given arcade core might not be ready for showtime just yet, like OutRun. And obviously there are systems that are simply too complex for the DE10-nano to copy. There are options, and they're imperfect, but still fun. The Sega 32x core works just fine I guess for games like Virtua Racing, and the Saturn core seems to be coming along fast. However for me a lot of the real value of this system is going to come in running the computers of my youth. Since I always had computers, I never really had consoles aside from the 2600 so I've been playing with the Atari 8-bit and ST cores (and the Amiga, because, you know, let's be real...). I'm even going to set up some hard drive images and profiles for color vs high-res mono.

This will get us through in emulation until the Next Big Kickstarter shows up at my door and I can use the ST to all of its ability with my SpecreGCR cartridge, etc...

I think we're into the MiSTer Multisystem for somewhere in the region of $400-$450. That's kind of steep, however what you get is every game released for every console up to about the PS1 / Sega 32x and maybe Saturn-ish. Plus all the 8-bit and 16-bit computers of the '70s through the early '90s, and their entire libraries. Plus a couple hundred arcade games. All easily managed in a simple to use and easy to understand interface.

Definitely 100% worth a look, especially given what people will spend for those "throwback" mini-consoles with a fixed set of titles baked into some potted-blob SoC.

I'm going to move a lot of the above into sorted bullets. I'm throwing some stuff around and will organize it as I go.

  • The "Minimig" Amiga emulator seems to run /way/ too fast, and I can't see any setting to slow it down, all indications are that it should be running a 7.whatever Mhz 68000. But the ST one works great. I saw someone saying the music was too fast, but indicated the game play was accurate. I disagree, the whole thing feels too fast to use for games I have muscle memory for (Tower Toppler).

  • As noted above in detail, the sound is fantastic, it's not even close.

  • Video Weirdness. I'm positive this is down to some scaling setting. I'm trying to get screenshots but my Mac keyboard doesn't have either a printscreen key or an F13 key, so balls. To use DK as an example since it does show up prominently what I'm seeing is variable "width" of identical single-pixel vertical lines or dots. So for instance the ladders in DK. One side of the ladder might be narrower than the other. Usually I see "normal" and "skinny" ladders, but I think I saw a "fat" one or two. Similarly in Ms. PacMan, some dots render as skinny. Aspect ratios seem correct otherwise so that's why I'm thinking it's some setting somewhere maybe. I don't even care it's a trade-off I'm willing to make for all the other benefits for gameplay and manageability.

    Yep, that was it: There are video processing options and you can choose from a list of profiles to match what you're doing

  • I do wish I could figure out how to directly edit core configs from the command line. Everything I've found seems to either be an empty file or binary that I can't modify. I'm sure there's something I can do. I'd love to figure out how to set generalized defaults for all cores, and then the user can define anything custom. So one key layout that will generally work across the board and then per-core settings can override that. Those per-core files could be shared as well. An editable "SNES Core - MS XBOX 360 Controller.cfg" or whatever.

  • I'm struggling to correctly make a folder for favorites using symlinks with absolute paths
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    Tech Henge


    Shriekback - Nemesis

    As noted previously we basically just bought our way into a retro-computer collection with the addition of an Atari ST and two further 8-bit systems. This created problems for us, but we decided to solve them with craftsmanship and as a result Natalie built an impressive henge.

    Previously my office had a bookshelf that Natalie built while I was out of town for work. It worked great for 10 years or so but the shelves were only 10" deep, and while I was able to cram an impressive amount of stuff on there, it had to change. So we designed one 24" deep with a work surface a couple of inches deeper than that, and then a 20" hutch for the top section. This will allow us to have several layers of display items with storage behind them.
    Because as is my motto: "If It's Not Display, It's In The Way"

    So we've spent the last week setting everything up and trying to consolidate all the new stuff into bins, test what's working and what needs repair, and cabling up all the systems and network hardware. We put two 12u racks in the bottom, one is full of network hardware, NAS, and webservers and the other has several Atari 8-bit peripherals that are hooked up and then storage for in-progress projects like the Kaypro II. We designed it with the three cubbies to accommodate our printer and scanner, but decided that they were better used with books and stuff, so as a bonus we swapped out the top on a metal cabinet we already had and it really fits in well.

    You can already see there's room for 4 computers/keyboards and mice "comfortably", and we could probably have 6 going if we really wanted to add anything more. We'll be spending some time to come trying to find the most effective way to fill this thing, but I think it's off to a good start, and we can nearly eat on our dining room table again, so that's a bonus! I think all we have left to do is unfortunately send the Elvis tapestry on a permanent vacation and replace him with 3 or 4 bookshelves to hold all the software and documentation we got with this haul.

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    Photo Backup


    I'm just sticking this here because it seems Mr. Santorum is reportedly expending some effort to get this photo removed from anywhere it's found on the Internet.

    So here's a photo of Rick Santorum with his arm around Russian spy and notorious honey trap Maria Butina. I mean, I'm not saying he fucked her, though it seems many other Republicans did. So if he didn't fuck her, then Santorum either missed out or dodged a bullet depending on how you look at it.

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    Search for Certificates on Windows Systems


    Nine Inch Nails - Broken

    Here are a lot of words about what's essentially a one-line CMD + Powershell script...

    I've recently run into a situation where a trusted root certificate authority certificate was missing from several Windows systems in multiple locations and domains. This was causing an issue with automation which reached out to a site which had a certificate signed by that CA. I can see a good use case for this if an organization has their own CA and needs to verify that all endpoints have that CA certificate in their trust store for example.


    TL;DR: Here's the Link:

    I use RDP a lot and had some scripts to let me launch lots of RDP sessions without having to enter my random-generated passwords over and over. I wasn't happy with how I was handling those passwords so I've made it more secure using gpg and KeePassXC. Last night I made it compatible with Windows and MSTSC which will be uploaded here shortly once it's cleaned up a bit.

    Basically I'll click a shortcut for whatever host, which runs my launcher. I get prompted for my GPG passphrase, which reads from an encrypted file containing my KeePassXC passphrase, which is then used to retrieve the user password for launching the RDP session.

    Gpg-agent uses a cache-TTL to "hold the door open" for 10 minutes by default, so I can launch a bunch of sessions and only type my passphrase once.


    - gpg client and running gpg-agent (gpg4win, etc) with a private key set up, etc.
    - cygwin if you're running Windows
    - KeePassXC (or some other key-store that has a command-line interface
    to query the database. In the beginning I was just using the gpg file
    with user/password pairs, so that works too)

    The tool has a few neat features:

    - If run from the command line with no arguments, it will prompt for user/pass/host/domain, good for one-off sessions to machines I won't log into much. That's great since I spend all my time in terminal windows and this stops me having to go back and forth to the mouse and keyboard while entering credentials.

    - If launched with -b, it prompts you for information for a one-off connection, but will also build a new shortcut launcher from a template. So like for the first connection to a machine you know you're going to use a lot. (Linux/Mac only)

    - Automatically tunnel sessions over ssh. This means I can launch RDP sessions on my Mac and they'll seamlessly proxy through my work laptop to the VPN.

    For tunneling, I am taking an arbitrary range of 200 ports and incrementing them based on what's currently listening. If there's already a process listening on port 6201, then try 6202 etc until there's an open one. So I can easily open 20-30 ssh tunneled sessions each with its own ssh process which will close down when the RDP window closes. 200 is "probably overkill", which means it might just be barely enough in the real world.

    The launcher shortcut mechanics are a bit different on my Linux and Mac machines so I split the -b script builder piece out based on OS. On Linux, I use KDE/Plasma, and so I generate these as KDE desktop files which look like this:

    #!/usr/bin/env xdg-open
    [Desktop Entry]
    Exec=/home/xrayspx/bin/ -h -d xdomainx -u xrayspx

    On the Mac side, I use shell scripts with the extension .rdp (which conflicts with Microsoft's client, but I don't care since I never use their client anyway). Those just launch using Terminal, so it does pop a terminal for a fraction of a second, but I really don't have a problem with that. To get the Terminal window to close (and I do associate these files with specifically rather than iTerm2), open, go to the Terminal menu -> Settings -> Profiles (tab) -> "Basic" or whatever profile is your default -> Shell (tab). Choose what action to take when the shell exits. I have it set to "Close if the shell exited cleanly" and "ask before closing" set to "only if there are processes other than the login shell..."

    The launcher for that looks like:

    #! /bin/bash -h -d xdomainx -u xrayspx &

    I generate those from the KDE .desktop files with a command like this:

    for host in $(ls | grep "\.desktop$" | awk -F ".desktop" '{print $1}'); do cmd=$(grep Exec $host.desktop | awk -F "xrayspx/bin/" '{print $2}'); echo "\!#/bin/zsh" >> $host.rdp; echo "$cmd &" >> $host.rdp; done

    That creates .rdp files in the same directory as the .desktop files, so now they can be moved around, have chmod set, etc.

    If I call it with AppleScript or Automator instead of a bash script as above, none of the password retrieval process works. I think it short circuits and sends the output back to the AppleScript rather than the bash script which ran the command. If I can get that working that would be ideal.

    The mechanics on Windows are similar to the Mac method. a .bat file which launches the bash script via Cygwin:

    C:\cygwin64\bin\mintty.exe -w hide -e /bin/bash -l -c '/home/user/bin/ -h host -u username -d domain'

    On Windows at least the Cygwin window it creates is hidden from the user, so that's nice.

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    TV History Time


    Mojo Nixon & Jello Biafra - Nostalgia For an Age That Never Existed

    So this is super interesting. You know, interesting to me anyway.

    I'm compiling another week of vintage TV shows, this time from 1963. It's remarkable how easy it is to get the exact episode of many of these even compared to getting episodes from 1980's shows. I'm making a playlist for each night and mixing in 1963 commercials throughout, should be fun. But first, see if you can spot why this week's playlist may present a particular challenge:

    As I started out on Sunday night (TVue is boldly not adhering to the TVGuide dictate that Saturday is the first day of the week), I found that while I could find the episode of whatever show I was looking for, the air date listed in IMDB was for like, several months in the future, in some cases as far as March 1964. What the balls IMDB. So it made it kind of tricky to pin down given episodes.

    After the 3rd or so show with this happening, I kind of noticed a pattern. Sunday, November 24, 1963 just doesn't seem to exist. IMDB consistently showed "Nov. 17" and then the next episode aired was 'Dec. 1".

    So seriously what the he... Oh. Right. Yikes.

    My TVue, from the Boston Advertiser, is listing the TV schedule for the week after the Kennedy assassination. I am building playlists to recreate a week of TV which ... ... never existed.

    For the record, this being the 24th, we chose Mister Ed, My Favorite Martian and The Judy Garland Show. I got all the right episodes on those, but I'd have liked to have seen the Ed Sullivan Show, but since that's live I imagine it was just canceled altogether. It was supposed to have a Stiller and Meara sketch, so I just picked one of those sketches from another Ed Sullivan. Growing up with Seinfeld it's just so easy to see "SERENITY NOW!", or "I've got a lot of problems with you people!". Genius.

    As in my previous week of vintage TV, if I can't find a thing, I'll go for the nearest I can get. So for instance What's My Line on Sunday, Nov. 24 Instead I opted for the December 1 episode with Colonel Sanders. I don't know what was scheduled for that episode, or indeed if it was ever actually shot.

    In addition to the JFK assassination horror, one thing that bums me out about this week is that I don't seem to be able to find any episodes of Grindl with Imogene Coca. I really want to see Aunt Edna, but young ('er, she was still in her '50s).

    So here's to building a playlist for a TV Guide week that never happened. Obviously this is going to be oddly similar to 9/11/2001, and ... that's about it really. I can't really think of any other week where the machine of commerce would have simply ground to a halt entirely.


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