The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

Liz says – well, duh Matty.

| June 2, 2014

So, it occurs to me that I’m sad that I subscribe to a pile of RSS feeds that I never read, because they’re on my laptop – and I used my laptop less and less during times when I read (generally, on the go, on my lunch break, at night before sleep, etc.). Why? Because I have a tablet.


Anyway, I tried:

  • Fleedly, which is apparently all cloudy or some stuff. So, I uninstalled this one.
  • RSS Reader, which I liked reasonably well, except I couldn’t find out how to add a single podcast. I can import my existing OPML list; that worked fine, but couldn’t add just one.
  • RSS Reader (yeah, same name, but a different app) did all these things, but has the annoying property of redrawing the whole screen when the advertisement changes. So, I’m currently looking for a better one. If someone has a suggestion, feel free to leave in the comments. Searching around a bit, several people seem to be fond of FeedEx News Reader, so I think I’m going to play with that next.

Update: FeedEx is way awesomer. It is currently what I’m using. I’ll update this if it annoys me.

Update on the boys and other things.

| April 8, 2014

The boys continue to grow like crazy. Max has decided he likes things that he sits in (bouncy chairs, etc.) and Miles has decided that he likes laying on his back and hitting those types of things that dangle in front of your face. Both of them are over 13 lbs, with Max at nearly 14 lbs.

Anyway, I’ve added several more pictures spanning from the end of February to the end of March to The Max and Miles gallery (scroll down, they’re in chronological order, with the most at the bottom)

On the programming front, a friend of ours introduced us to Rockabye Baby! so we picked up some CD’s off of, and I ripped them to a USB stick so I can play it in the car. Of course, this brings up the age-old problem of there not being any decent .m3u playlist generators or synchronizers (or, at least, not any that I like). So, I wrote one. You can find it on one of my github repos. You’re looking for manage_playlists.

On the consumption of media front, I’ve finished Monster Hunter International, very good, highly recommended.

I’ve also been playing through X-Com: Enemy Unknown, which is also highly recommended. This is a bit different than the original, more streamlined. The key with this version of the game seems to be to drag it out so that your troops can gain experience and make scientific advancements. If you research the priority items too rapidly, the game progresses too rapidly and you get overwhelmed.

Additionally, I’ve been playing a little bit of Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall, which I’ll likely be playing more of now that the manage playlist script is finished.

I also finally got to cooking up my hot sauce from the peppers for this year:

Hot sauce - peppers

Hot sauce – peppers

Hot sauce - blending

Hot sauce – blending

Hot sauce - straining

Hot sauce – straining

Hot sauce - done!

Hot sauce – done!

So, that’s about what’s been going on in my world.

Adjusted the “categories” display

| December 4, 2013

Just an FYI, when going to a “category” display (e.g., it will now display full posts, rather than excerpts. I figure this is better for folks who want to just read about a specific topic.


| December 3, 2013

sudo apt-get install tesseract-ocr

Of all the ones in the Ubuntu repos, this one was the best. Very impressive, actually. I found only a few errors in 3 pages of text (it interpreted a . as a -, and a couple -‘s as ~’s)

Random snippets…

| November 26, 2013

So, for years I’ve sent myself emails saying “blog about this” and a link. I’m trying to get through them and actually do that, so here are a collection of links in that vein. Some of them are quite old, but I don’t think that they are particularly time-critical – the world hasn’t changed that much since they were published, so they are still interesting to me.

  • Dirty Harry Potter – Not dirty in the not safe for work sense, dirty in the Clint Eastwood sense. It’s a surprisingly interesting examination of the distribution of force in the Harry Potter universe (and, realistically, how their world would have been different had more folks carried guns, not wands)

  • Bufferbloat – This is a very interesting series of articles which, if you deal at all with networks, you should really read. Essentially, what it comes down to is this: internet protocols are designed to compensate for unreliable networks, lossy links, etc. When you add large buffers along the chain, it masks underlying transport problems and can actually lead to worse performance than if you just let the end-devices set their data rate “naturally”. Once again, KISS triumphs.

  • Is the bandwidth hog a myth? – The interesting part from this article is here:

The fact is that what most telcos call hogs are simply people who overall and on average download more than others. Blaming them for network congestion is actually an admission that telcos are uncomfortable with the ‘all you can eat’ broadband schemes that they themselves introduced on the market to get people to subscribe. In other words, the marketing push to get people to subscribe to broadband worked, but now the telcos see a missed opportunity at price discrimination

  • Not only are they uncomfortable with it, but the reason that they may be so is that they’re so overprovisioned that if everyone started using their capacity, they might gasp have to upgrade to a proper level of provisioning, which would cut into profit margins. Think about how many people in urban areas subscribe to cable internet and get surprisingly slow speeds because everyone is on it. If you couldn’t get phone service because “all circuits were busy”, you’d raise all manner of a ruckus, and when was the last time we had rolling blackouts in the US in major metropolitan areas as a matter of course? However, it’s perfectly normal to pay for 25Mbps and get 5Mbps, and when you complain, the cable company says that they have no guarantee of service. Now, in rural areas, it’s much better, because, assuming you have access, it’s NOT generally overprovisioned. Indeed, I typically get better network speed than everyone in my engineering group at work, except, perhaps, the guy with FIOS.

Back in the saddle

| November 23, 2013

So, I’ve been away for a bit, at first because I’ve been legitimately busy with harvest activities:

  • Making applesauce from a pile of apples we got from my father-in-law’s apple trees (up to 21 qts so far).
  • It’s deer season! I’m about finished processing the first one, but there are two more in the fridge.

However, I also ended up having to change hosting providers. I moved from, where I’d been a customer for somewhere along the lines of 10 years, because the mailing list portion of their hosting had been down for three weeks, and their tech support was not being very responsive.

In the end, I decided it was better to just run the whole thing myself, and then I could set it up exactly as I wanted (I’m picky), so I ended up just singing up for a Virtual Private Server at Linode, which came recommended by one of my gaming buddies. Their base package, at $20/month, is $5/month cheaper than what I was paying before. On top of that, I get more flexibility and (hopefully) more stability (once I get everything set up the way that I want). I’ve already had to contact Linode’s tech support once, and found their ticket system to be excellent and their customer service to be prompt and helpful.

One of the things that came out of this is that I’ve finally sanitized all my system install notes, which actually go all the way back to my Red Hat 7.3 install notes from 2002. I’ve kept all of those for posterity. However, for those who are likely to be configuring their own mail/web/etc. server, the Linode server install instructions are likely of the most used to you. It is actually comprised of a pile of different bits and pieces borrowed from work server projects, my house Amahi install, and my standard system install. Then there was some interesting bits that I set up for the first time on the Linode install, and then fed back to work. So, it’s all a big feedback loop.

I also been playing around with a light box and, once I get it right, I hope to be posting some more pictures of minis. I also have a pile of things in the back of my brain that I want to write about, I just need to have time to do it.

Anyway, in the meantime, here’s a picture of a couple of critters on the back porch, on a warm October day.

Diesel and Heidi on the back porch

Diesel and Heidi on the back porch

Peep peep peep!

| June 11, 2013

(You’ll have to make the sounds yourself, because apparently all my technology is old. My point and shoot camera doesn’t do audio with its video, I don’t have a smartphone, and my tablet’s camera sucks. I could steal Liz’s camcorder, but then I’d have to pull the stuff off it via firewire, but new laptop doesn’t have that – only USB 3.0 – for firewire, I’d need to use my desktop (because it has a firewire add on card).

But, anyway.. PEEPS!

Networks, Wifi and VLANs (oh my!)

| June 8, 2013

So, after about a week of fiddling, I believe I’ve gotten it all sorted.

Essentially, project goals were:

  1. Increase reliability
  2. Increase coverage

The extant arrangement of scattered WRT54Gs running OpenWRT was suboptimal, mainly because the core one would keep running out of memory, so various services would crash. So, you could associate with the AP with the big antennas, but then you’d never get an IP because the DHCP server crashed.

The solution was to buy a TP-Link TL-WDR4300 which has 128MB of RAM, and therefore has enough headroom that it doesn’t crash all the time. It also has 3 antennas, which you can orient in 3 different spacial dimensions (one straight back, one 90 degrees pointed up, one 90 degrees sideways) so they’re all at right angles to each other. Since the radio signals go in a “doughnut” shape away from the antenna (and generally don’t spread as much in the axis parallel to said antenna) 3 is loads better than 2, since we don’t live in Flatland.

Anyway, once that was set up, I checked coverage. It was pretty weak in my office (which is as far away from the access point as you can get and still be in the house) and in the garage (which is about 50 yards away from the house).

However, I now had 3 WRT54G and an old Netgear ME101 bridge – so, 3 pretty flexible devices and 1 that can only be a bridge.

With a little fiddling, I ended up with:

  • The ME101 in Liz’s sewing room, allowing a wired computer she has there to be wireless (we haven’t pulled cable there yet).
  • A WRT54G running DD-WRT with big antennas out in the garage. It’s running a “Vintage Stable” DD-WRT in Repeater Bridge mode, a DD-WRT exclusive.
  • A WRT54G running Tomato in my office, acting as an AP because the signal is weak there. Since my office is wired, a normal AP works.
  • A WRT54G running Tomato in the bedroom, acting as a bridge for the “smart” TV and Blu-Ray player in the bedroom (again, we haven’t pulled cable there yet).

So, 3 different types of devices, 3 different types of firmware, but it all seems to be working. We’ll see just how reliable it is.


  • OpenWRT – Tremendously customizeable, down to what packages you install on top of the base system. Very hacker friendly, but complicated.
  • DD-WRT – Not as customizeable as OpenWRT as far as packages, but the default “standard” setup is pretty good. The notes on what versions are most stable are also pretty good (OpenWRT doesn’t give you much guidance here). Supports the Repeater Bridge mode, which is nifty.
  • Tomato – Simple, easy to use – probably the easiest of the three as far as a replacement firmware which allows more functionality yet isn’t too complex for an average user. I ran this firmware for years with very few problems. Of note, however, is that it lacks VLAN support, which is useful when you’re paranoid like me. After all, I have this cell repeater from Verizon on my network, which is a black box, I don’t control, and unlike my Blu-Ray players, it doesn’t need to access the DLNA server to stream media.. so, let’s just have that guy VLAN-ed off so it can only talk to the world, shall we? Like I said – Tomato is really good for normal people.

Testing the Google+ crosspost.

| June 8, 2013

Since I actually tend to use Google+ (largely for playing games, more on that in a later post) way more than I ever used facebook, I’m attempting to set this up to (now) post to LJ, Google+ and here. Further, I’ve added another plugin which allows folks to comment on the blog using a variety of new identities – Google+, Facebook, etc. all that. Not sure if I’ll keep it or not, just have to give it a spin.

So, we’ll see how that all goes. Meanwhile, I have a router to configure.

Edit: So, the Google+ crossposter does not work correctly, and therefore I’ve disabled it. Basically, there is no proper API for it provided by Google (well, not one that allows for writes anyway), so the plugin is basically a clever but fragile workaround.

Testing out the Android app..

| June 7, 2013

Testing out the WordPress app for Android. It seems to be working so far.

Additionally, I installed 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean) on my TF101, using these instructions.