Goodbye, Wordpress

For about eight years this blog was powered by WordPress. When I tried to upgrade to HTTPS (thanks, Let’s Encrypt), I ran into slightly insurmountable issues with resource URLs generated by it. I never really liked WordPress all that much, anyway, beyond the sheer convenience, so I decided it was time to move on.

I’ve always been fond of static website generators, because they remove most of the work the server has to do when someone tries to view a page, and so I started looking for one that can do both blogging and other stuff, and is reasonably customizable. The most well-known one, I guess, is Jekyll, written in Ruby. Ruby’s package manager doesn’t have a convenient option for confining package installs to a single project/directory, and I was quite turned off by the idea of doing a system-wide install of who knows how many packages, so despite all my misgivings about node.js, I ended up choosing a node-based tool due to npm’s capability of installing dependencies “locally”. If you think that’s a poor reason… feel free to sue me.

So, this blog now uses Hexo. Of course that doesn’t mean I’ll start posting more, but perhaps I’ll get into the habit. Only one way to find out!

Goodbye, comments

I’m done with moderating comments. Commenting now means you contact me in private. I’ve added a section at the bottom of each post to explain how it works.

How to sing well, part 1: harsh reality + survival guide

Well then. There’s been a tiny little bit of interest. Good enough. Let’s talk about the fundamental requirement for getting better at singing – according to me, anyway. It’s in how you approach the whole process.

As I’ve said throughout the intro to this series, becoming an awesome singer consists of three kinds of tasks: doing the less of the wrong things, doing more of the good things, and doing both of that more consistently. All of these need to be approached in slightly different ways, but there’s one thing common to all of them:

You have no idea.

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How to sing well: an introduction

Okay, this is hardly a new topic on the internet… but it’s yet another new topic on my blog (the strategy is to have as little focus as possible and thus make it completely impossible to “monetize” the blog). The topic, formulated as a question, is: how do you improve your singing? And your speaking, I guess. The problem with that topic is that there’s a lot of information about it on the internet, much of it either wrong, misleading or irrelevant. So I thought I’d add some more noise, and I’ll try to give you a few explanations of why I think certain parts might be more or less useful.

So, here’s an introduction to all the stuff you’ll find on the internet, and which parts of it really matter (if you ask me). (Note: I made substantial changes to this article shortly after first publishing it.)

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dmsetup-tc: now works on 64 bit systems

Well, this is embarrassing. I thought I had done everything to avoid portability problems. But in trying to avoid them, I stepped right into them, doing something that by now I know very well not to do. Oh well, here’s an updated version of dmsetup-tc (which you can use to mount TrueCrypt®-encrypted Windows system drives/partitions on Linux). It’s no longer really necessary since the Linux version of TrueCrypt® added support for this back in version 6.0, but dmsetup-tc is still a lot more lightweight than that, so you might still be interested in it.

Download source code: dmsetup-tc-0.4.tar.bz2 (21 KB, updated 19th February 2012)

Some credit goes to oli of for bringing the issue to my attention.

Update: the latest version, 0.4, now also fixes a problem with approximately 50% of encrypted partitions… but apparently exactly those 50% that never complained. ;)

Open source licenses quick reference

There are a lot of open source licenses. Even if you look at only the OSI approved ones, that’s still a list of 67. And, of course, they are all different in subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways. Can you keep all the small details straight in your head? I know I can’t. That’s why I just made a quick reference page:

  • HTML version:
  • PDF version: download (A4 paper, 46 KB)
    It focuses on just a few commonly used licenses (at least from what I can see), but covers more criteria than the other comparisons I’ve seen so far.

I hope it will be useful for you.

Update 3rd April 2011: footnotes fixed. Sorry.

mod_gnutls and StartSSL level 1 certificates: the problem (and solution)

Update: This patch is pretty outdated. There have been major rewrites in mod_gnutls since then. I’m not sure whether the current version properly supports subjectAltNames; I don’t use mod_gnutls myself anymore.

Yesterday, I wrote a small patch against mod_gnutls (that’s the GNU alternative to mod_ssl, and it’s leaner; and it supports SNI (server name indication), whereas even the version of mod_ssl in the upcoming Debian squeeze release doesn’t). It took me quite a while to figure out the problem in the first place, and I guess it’s a bit of a corner case, but I can’t imagine I’m the only person who might run into this problem, so here is an explanation.

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Host your own (di)graph pastebin

I just had some time to procrastinate away, so I built a little open source graph pastebin web application called Instagraph. It’s based on GraphViz, PHP, MySQL and Apache. At least the first three need to be installed on your web server, and the fourth one is necessary unless you tweak your way around using the included .htaccess file (which makes use of mod_rewrite).

I’ve been wanting to write something like this for ages. Often enough I want to explain concepts in IRC and find myself struggling to present all the relationships between different things in an understandable way. Now I can just use a private Instagraph instance to make a nice picture that will speak a thousand words for me. Awesome.

Instagraph is woefully underdocumented but shouldn’t be too hard to set up. It’s also extremely simple and has no user interface to speak of.

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Intuition for the unintuitive

Intuition is an interesting concept, and I believe that it’s a bit hard to really make sense of for people who don’t consider themselves intuitive. At least it didn’t make a lot of sense for me a year or two ago.

I suppose many think that intuition is something you are born with… some people just “know” certain things without being able to reason them out, and other people have to conduct an elaborate analysis of the facts in their minds to end up with the same conclusion. If that’s the way you think about it, you might believe that intuition is something of an unfair advantage.

Another widespread position seems to be that intuition is very risky… after all, intuition doesn’t give you the certainty that logical reasoning can give you, right? So perhaps if you go by that idea, you might say that it’s better to not use intuition at all.

I think that the answer is somewhere in between, as it often happens to be… and I’m going to tell you how intuition became a natural thing for me, even though I wasn’t exactly born with it, nor did I think it made sense to trust in it. But now I do have it, and I do trust it, because I use it in a way that I’m confident in. And don’t worry, I’m not going to cite the usual hogwash about left brain versus right brain… I’ll just explain a useful way of looking at intuition, and I’ll also waste a few words on how important I think it is for knowledge engineering.

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A scientific defense of pseudoscience

Pseudoscience is significantly worse than what science claims to be, and that’s the problem: science isn’t actually what it claims to be. Many people who boast about their extremely scientifically oriented thinking don’t actually know what science is, and they’re actually thinking religiously or even dogmatically.

Whew. That’s a rather provocative first paragraph, isn’t it? I’ll have to be extremely scientific to avoid getting shouted at by would-be scientists. Don’t worry, dear scientists, I’m not against science! I’m a huge fan of it. Until some “scientist” starts making overly general statements. That’s where it stops making sense. Why? Well, let’s have a brief look at how science works.

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Relatively absolute philosophy

Here is a (not necessarily complete) list of philosophical “isms” that I believe in. I don’t believe in “isms” lightly at all, because I feel that adopting an “istic” view is a rather drastic thing to do.

The following list will give you deep insight into the way I understand life, reality and science… if you want to find out, that is.

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