off by one for 2013


Thu Jan 03 09:16:52 PST paper cut: adding nautilus folder bookmarks in Ubuntu 12.04:

You used to be able to drag and drop folders to the "bookmarks" pane in Nautilus... but you can't any more. At least, I can't. However, you can add bookmarks using control-D -- from within the folder you wish to bookmark.

Tue Jan 15 08:28:17 PST next, Borislav Ivanov confesses on Oprah...:

How will we detect doping in strategy games in the future?

Thu Jan 17 16:09:20 PST Who wants serial killers when you can have much faster parallel killers? With Centronics ports!:

Enjoy this treasure trove of nerd jokes. From the usual gang of idiots.

T Thu Jan 24 06:44:35 PST home, pgdn, pgup, end buttons not working in FF? it's a feature, not a bug.:

For a while now, my home, end, pgup, and pgdn keys have not been working in firefox. It's been very frustrating. Turns out, it's caret browsing. It's a little too easy to turn on if you ask me.

Thu Jan 24 14:57:33 PST looking for volunteers to donate their web data to SCIENCE!:


Do you know what network sniffers like Ethereal or Wireshark are? Do you like SCIENCE? Would you be willing to surf the web UNENCRYPTED and UNCOMPRESSED for about an hour (or so) and send me, a trustworthy individual, captures of the data you downloaded? If so, please read on.

If you don't know what Wireshark is or how to get it, you're not really sure what I'm talking about, how it would work technically, or you DO understand very well thankyouverymuch and are horrified or unwilling to do so because of security or privacy concerns, thank you, but you can stop reading now.

Still reading? Cool!

I'm working on a research project involving the properties of web data in the real world. It would be super convenient if I could just browse the web all day and use my own data for my experiments... unfortunately, I can't assume that the way I use the web is typical, so I need other people out in the world to surf the web and send me the logs of the data they viewed. I will perform analysis on the data, which *probably* won't require me to look at the data. (I can tell you more about my research if you are interested, but I don't want to post about it here.)

Does this sound like a privacy risk? It is. But, it's not as bad as it sounds. (If I thought I was putting you at risk, I wouldn't ask.) I need the full contents of the data you view through the browser, but I don't need or want you to do anything sensitive like do your online banking, email, Facebook, or researching that mole on your arm on WebMD.

Chances are, there's a lot of other stuff you do online that isn't normally encrypted and doesn't fall into the category of "highly personal" (unless you think everything you do is highly personal). That's exactly the kind of data I want. Still, there is a risk in saving your web data and sending it to me, since there could always be some unexpectedly private information in there. This SHOULD make you think twice... so no hard feelings if you just don't want to do it.

If you're still willing, I promise you that I will make every effort to keep the contents of your data private. In *most* cases I should not even need to examine the contents of the data, no one else will be given copies of it, and I will destroy it after my experiments. My analysis is mostly statistical and numerical in nature -- sizes of files, how long they would take to transfer over a network, etc. NO names of websites, IP addresses, content or anything like that will be revealed in my papers or graphs. There should be no way to personally identify that you contributed to my research.

Still willing to help?

Here's the process I would need you to go through. These instructions are for Firefox only:

1. Quit all open Firefox windows, and restart it. Open your preferences. Under Advanced | Network, clear your "web content cache".

2. Next, we need to disable encryption, because I can't analyze the properties of data if it is encrypted. (Don't worry, we'll arrange a way for you to transfer me the data in an encrypted fashion.)

In Preferences | Advanced, under Encryption, *uncheck* "Use SSL 3.0" and "Use TLS 1.0". Yes, again, I am asking you to DISABLE YOUR ENCRYPTION. This is a necessary step, but I will personally remind you to re-enable encryption when you send me your data.

3. Next, I need you to disable compression. In the "address bar" of Firefox, enter "about:config" and hit enter. It will (probably) print a warning about how this could ruin your browser, but what we are doing is safe and reversible. In the search window, type "encoding", which will limit the configuration lines to those that match.

Right-click on the line for the preference "network.http.accept-encoding". Look for the an option "Reset", which should be grayed out if you have not changed the setting. If it is NOT grayed out, then you have changed the setting. If it does not exist, you are using an old version of Firefox. Either way, write down the setting for that preference (the default is probably: "gzip, deflate").

Double-click on the entry, erase the text, and confirm the change.

4. Now, start Wireshark (or Ethereal if you are using that). On the upper left side of the corner (probably under the "Edit" menu) there is an icon of a network card with a wrench on it. Click it. This will configure the capture settings. We need to do four thigns: a) choose the interface, b) limit the capture to web traffic, c) limit the capture size, and d) start the capture. Here's how to do that:

a) Select the network card you are using -- probably eth0 if you are using a wired connection and wlan0 if you are using wireless.

b) Then, in the Capture Filter field, type "tcp port 80". This will limit the captured traffic to web data only.

c) Next, on the bottom left, check the box to "Stop capture ... after" a certain number of megabytes. I would prefer 25 or 50 megabytes of data.

d) Finally, click Start. Wireshark will begin logging web traffic.

5. Start surfing! Don't do anything sensitive like online banking or anything personal, but otherwise please just use the web as you normally do. You may notice that you can't access certain sites like Gmail or Facebook with SSL disabled. That's OK. As Han said to Chewie, "Fly Casual".

6. Wireshark will stop capturing data automatically, but you may want to periodically look at it to see if it is still capturing data.

Once the data has hit the limit and stopped (you can see that the packet count at the bottom of the application will stop growing when you load new pages), save the data.

To do this, click File | Save As, and save the file as "whatever_you_want.pcap". Then, contact me at and I will give you instructions for delivering me the data via SSH or your delivery method of choice.

7. FINALLY, remember to turn encryption and compression back on:

a) Preferences | Advanced | Encryption -- enable SSL and TLS

b) Enter "about:config" in the address bar, search for encoding, and right click on "network.http.accept-encoding" and select "Reset" -- or double click and enter whatever you wrote down previously.

Thank you! Your help will hopefully help make computers more efficient someday, and it will definitely make a tangible contribution towards me graduating!

Update: If you want to use tcpdump instead of Wireshark, here's a script to automatically stop capturing after a certain size:


rm $FILE
touch $FILE

sudo tcpdump -i $ETH -s0 -w $FILE -Z $USER tcp port 80 & 

trap '{ echo "Quitting with ctrl-C"; kill $PID; exit 1; }' INT 

while ps -p $PID &> /dev/null
    if (( $(stat -c%s $FILE ) > ( $MB * 1048576) ))
        then kill $PID
        sleep 5

Mon Jan 28 11:21:05 PST virtualbox -- assigning multiple cores to guest without hardware virtualization?:

Q: Hey pedro, I have an old server with multiple cores, but without AMD-v or VT-x. Can I give a guest machine access to more than one of those CPU cores?

A: No. You need AMD-v or VT-x to assign more than one core to a guest machine.

Sat Feb 16 20:46:57 PST oh yeah!:

Run a sequence of SQL statements in a script and spit the output to a file:

shell> mysql db_name < script.sql >

Wed Mar 13 08:59:46 PST What kind of object is this R variable, anyway?:

Numerous ideas here, with the first being:

R> typeof(something)

In other news, I've decided to just start posting all the questions I end up looking up, since I often have to find them again, and I believe in "upvoting" them for posterity.

Wed Mar 13 09:46:35 PST Quick instructions for bar plots in R:

Need to make bar plots quickly in R? It's easy!

Thu Mar 14 09:25:07 PST resizing windows in ubuntu:

Like many hackers I'm constantly looking at or moving around tons of different terminal windows, which often need to be resized. Compiz in Ubuntu includes the Grid plugin, which at first I thought was super annoying, what with its automatically resizing my windows for no apparent reason. But then I set some hotkeys that make my life easy. Basically, using the modifier <Ctrl><Alt><Shift> and the keys A,Q,W,E,D,C,X,Z and S, I can stuff a window into various quadrants or halves of the screen. It's REALLY handy for lining up two vertical terminals side by side on today's widescreen monitors.

But the other day, I was using a crufty old P4 with an ancient video card do I had to fall back to GNOME. Boy, did I miss grid. But in googling around, I found out that in addition to ALT-leftbutton_drag to move windows, there's also ALT-middlebutton_drag to resize windows. I thought, "that's dumb"... but then I tried it and it's pretty awesome, especially when moving windows from a bigger monitor to a smaller monitor when grid or maximize gets confused. A little middle-button alt dragging and things are just right.

I actually have a whole set of left-hand chording shortcuts for window management that I'll post about at some point later. It makes window management for multiple terminals and desktops super easy.

Wed Mar 20 09:57:47 PST when will I ever learn?:

I do a lot of performance testing in the course of my research, and so, like a lot of other people I imagine, I wrote a little test harness to manage running jobs. That harness treats each test as a discrete part of a larger test -- and runs through them individually until complete. The benefit of this is that you can use the model to make sure that your conditions are the same for each test, you can see the progress of the overall tests by looking at the job queue, and you can pick up where you left off if something goes wrong. I've spent a lot of time on that script.

But then, I always forget about it and start a long string of jobs using a nested for loop... and then I lose all those benefits. My tests aren't particularly sensitive to conditions, but since I didn't use a job queue of any kind, I have no idea when the overall tests will end, and if I kill the task, I'll lose all my progress. Gar!

Wed Mar 27 06:11:19 PST cosmic rays!:

Pretty cool story about encountering a random bit flip corruption in RAM, and recovering from it.

Thu Mar 28 06:13:58 PST PFNA -- Proposal For New Acronym:

We already have TLA, for Three Letter Acronym, but I've been thinking for a while that the TLA namespace is almost exhausted, which could result in the catastrophic failure of efficient communication. Either that, or everyone is going to have to start using NAT to allow multiple expressions to hide behind one TLA (... but that's a topic for a separate post.) Anyway, having just encountered the acronym SPOF -- Single Point Of Failure -- I propose the acronym AOFL: Acronym Of Four Letters. You can either speak it as "A-O-F-L" or, as I prefer, as "awful."

Acronym creators should transition to the new AOFL protocol as soon as possible.

Update: I'm reminded by Nick Moffitt about ETLA -- Extended Three Letter Acronym. There's also a list there of other four letter acronym acronyms, and even my favorite, which describes the class of acronyms including things like LASER and SCUBA: VLFLA -- Very Long Five Letter Acronym. So I guess that AOFL will just be a forgotten standard -- the Betamax to ETLA's VHS.

Thu May 02 07:08:10 PST SESE -- Single Entry, Single Exit -- Considered Misunderstood:

I was just wondering about this the other day...

Sat May 25 06:59:17 PST Super cool idea -- using servers to heat homes:

Why not heat your home and water with a rack of servers?. From clickolinko.

off by one for 2013



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