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Autumn thoughts.

2023-10-28, post № 279

conducted-computing, #politics, #brief, #ai

Of late, one pervasive thought has evermore clouded my mind: “I am only interested in the uninteresting.”

I am interested in self-emitting ANSI escape codes for light formatting. I am interested in the mere structure of UTF-8 and its implications for byte output. I see an innate beauty in discrete information representation, in ordering the soon-to-be-trashed. In classifying the unimportant.
But also in sincerely tackling the digital, its ways to see information in a purer light: unconstrained from physical representation medias, formatting idiosyncrasies or chronical decay. I find these properties a driving force in realising that the digital holds vast amounts of untapped possibilities. Untapped most likely due to their lack of sheen.

Scrolling through my university’s lecture timetable, I stumbled upon a lecture called [generative language model currently of economic relevance] in rhetoric. I am unsure if these tools will ever reach people outside the very small intersection of academic insiders and hazy fad. When the workflow gains of the humble text file were not able to penetrate the rock-like wall of ignorance over the past fifty years, how should a tool of such intricacy?

I was today (a lot of moons past the last calling had been) called a missionary in regards to digital privacy, potentially the broader topic of morally passable human-computer interaction. I don’t know if I am. But I am certainly trying to bring something to the grand table at which those infected with the malady of knowing about bits sit. And with my recent hiccough in my (bit-alien!) studies implying a delay, freeing up time for frivolous bit-minded thought, Brief development is bound to pick up speed once more.

Truly do I wonder what there is for me personally to gain from these machines. Lingering in this murk of thought, I evermore edge closer to the realisation that there nothing lies.

Giddily Gitting it wrong

2023-09-30, post № 278

programming, #git, #database, #lang:go

With GitHub soon closing its door for me with their ongoing 2FA fad [1] and the winter semester starting tomorrow, it’s about time to yank the Joy Assembler repo out of US-controlled grasp and refactor the project into a 2023-presentable state. Fortunately, I have not made use of GitHub’s non-Git offerings (wiki, issue tracker, CI/CD, …), making the hostage rescue a simple git clone --mirror.

Skimming the Git log, however, to my dismay I realised inconsistencies in my author and committer names and e-mail addresses: git log --pretty=format:'%an <%ae> | %cn <%ce>' | sort | uniq even reports the committer “GitHub <noreply@github.com>” for the initial commit which I find a tad odd since it implies I only authored my project’s first commit, GitHub immortalising its brand as the committer: meddling with the very first commit, after all, invalidates all object IDs.
Following a bettered SemVer [2] understanding, I also want to re-tag v1.0 to v0.1.0. So fully obliterating compatibility poses no hindrance for me.
Thus, seeing October as a fresh start, I want to both move repo hosting as well as sanitise my repo history’s metadata. All without losing project history, which I find important to keep: bug introductions, design considerations and personal development in how to code make a repo’s history worthwile. Defining the HEAD tree as the new initial commit, consequently, is not an option. But neither is mucking around with Git’s default CLI as losing a commit or accidentally updating the committer date to today are too likely of an outcome.
What to do?⸺Write a full Git database implementation from scratch (at least enough to read in my repo of interest) and use said API to write a one-off tool to perform the above described facelift.

Liquescent Lolly

2023-09-02, post № 277

photography, #street-photography

I do shed tears; tied down, tormented:
too many tales of tech pervailing.
In its reckless path engulfing, spreading
I find myself forever stuck.
Yet should all these horrors be let to imply
the only reasonable, to abstain?
Or can the vile potential of entropic capture
⸺ perpetuated by a figment of an agent alien ⸺
be cast aside when one does cross paths
with fleeting scenes forthwith dear to one?
2023-09-01_jonathan-frech_liquescent-lolly.jpg

It’s the clients that betray you.

2023-08-05, post № 276

software-design, #text-editor, #e-mail, #chain-of-trust, #web, #digital-politics

One of the saddest realisations I have come across while exploring the web on its protocol level over the past few years is how the majority of mineable data only crosses the wire due to compliance on the victim’s end: there is no ‘singular stateful backend’ that tracks; it is an oligarchic network of machines constantly fed back this state. Referer:, Cookie:, User-Agent:, client hints and from unfuzzed headers extractables as well as foreign-controlled scripts with a plethora of probes are all solely client-powered.
Techniques employing stochastics powered by the bits of leftover bits such as not explicitly client-informative headers, traffic correlation and profiling based on underlying IP properties is most likely still powerful enough to warrant hardening, yet undoubtedly the bulk is provided by clients.

This begs the question why so many clients are not subordinate to their users but a trojan window into a foreign-controlled service.

Yet this fight I leave to more politically-inclined folks such as the IETF, the Tor Project, Brave Software, the FreeBSD Foundation and what is left of the FSF, GNU and Mozilla to name a few. I wish them the very best but do not expect to be alive to witness their certain (!) victory.

Leaving aside the morally still inexplicit principals of data collection, what troubles me is another kind of clients’ breach of trust: forwarding unsanitised content heedlessly imbued by the client with the trust its user allotted it.

Doubter

2023-07-08, post № 275

poetry, #elektronenhirnkritik

I doubt efficiency is understood:
I doubt it not to be a mere façade,
a ploy advancing niche technologies’ proliferation
in a habitus ill-suited.
They say, escape from bits is futile
⸺at least that’s what I’ve heard.
I doubt they ever truly tried
and doubt they stand above the ploy.
A ‘fight’, some call it, with vague ideals.
I doubt they’ll ever be understood.
To force grass roots into this wasteland
I doubt to be an endeavour proper.
So the right and only goal is invardly rejection,
the obstacle oneself precisely.

“Come, put ingenuity into this box.”

2023-06-10, post № 274

prose, #terse-story, #elektronenhirnkritik

“Come, put ingenuity into this box.” He gasped for he was doubtful. “Doubt not⸺for what doubts you must have of thy own feeblish nature.” She seemed to have struck a nerve. Initially wary of the obtuse object she had brought in to the extent of shying away from its sight, confronted with truths about himself he had forgotten how to accept, he seemed to ponder. “Ponder thy life to its bound but you cannot pretend not to feel the might which lurks herein.” Indeed, he had felt something. And she was right in that he had not felt frailty confined. He waged a peep.

She lifted the box slightly, leaving one edge resting on the ground. What once were sporadic glimmers he could barely make out became a beacon of white he stared down. Bedazzled by a future he told himself to see, his mind numbed. “Let loose,” she calmly whispered. Enamoured, he complied and fused in thought with what she brought.

“Surely you jest,”

2023-05-13, post № 273

prose, #terse-story

“Surely you jest,” the barman shouted as a shoddily clad older figure lept of his stool, heading for fresh air. In the melancholic tranquility of this Tuesday’s late evening, an every step on the worm-torn floorboards was a distinct event. It took him a while until reaching the door, situated in a dimly lit corner of Tom’s.
I took another sip of my broccoli-flavoured milk. The mild gust of air from when he had finally managed to push open the heavy ’20s era single-winged door reminded me of Dorothea. “Dorothea and her summits …,” I mumbled in overcome despair. The barman sighed in sympathy. Having polished the last of the recent batch of mugs, he came over to ask if I wanted a refill. I declined and began to leave myself when the ceiling light gave out with a bang.

One blinding flash followed by sense-numbing darkness.

“Glad to be on my way out,” I noted with a chuckle, but got no response. I knew this place too well not to be able not to get trapped in it. Curiously, even the street lights suffered an outage, rendering the sixth in utter darkness also.
With the dim shine of the night sky, I walked off into the night.

Book review: ed Mastery

2023-04-15, post № 272

book-review, software, #ed

Depicted on the around eighty pages strong paperback ed Mastery [L18 [1]] is a grey-bearded Beastie in a study illuminated in a soft red. Sitting on a throne, eyes layed upon a lectern’s open book, Beastie smiles. When opened, one is greeted with three pages of justification for covering ed in this “bleak age” [L18, p. 3] we call ours. Though cheekily elitist in tone, it spells out this book’s intent to educate on one of the classics that make up a UNIX system.

In the next thirty pages, ed is seen in action. From core concepts of modes and addresses to commands and shell interaction, one is guided not just through what this editor can do but most importantly how it expects one to work with it. Being concise but not cryptic, it is at times as if one read the man page with someone by one’s side giving enough context to truly grok ed. As a basis for demonstrating editing functionality serves a poem in traditional UNIX-style text representation, the loose file format ed was designed to effectively manipulate, and later a ficticious, though humerous, list of chores and dreams.

Chapters five and six are dedicated to ed’s regular expression engine. Being a line-based editor, working with heterogenous or overly long lines is not a task ed excels at. Lamentably, Lucas does not address this weakness and gets carried away with an imprecise introduction of ed’s regular expressions exemplified by contrived examples followed by scatterbrained artificial workflows such as ASCII-underlining minutely and laboriously specified lines of text.

This low is only in parts resolved by the final six pages showing off ed’s power as a UNIX-universal scripting asset.

Unfortunately, ed Mastery was envisioned as an April Fools’ joke and appears not to be able to shed its provenance. Whilst ed’s historical significance and conceptual strengths in a world where metaphor sheer [S99 [2]] is an occurring phenomenon shimmer through at times, the work gets undermined by both said inception as buffoonery and its author’s play [L18b [3]] into LoPresti’s interpretation of a comedic take on computing [L91 [4]] as well as the drudgingly kept-alive so-called editor wars.

Nevertheless, ed Mastery is a joyous read. If one does not let typesetting inattentiveness dampen the mood and focuses oneself on the book’s title, one is left with a sincere and informative guide through ed’s facilities. Furthermore, as I understand it, Lucas in his works tries to represent a non-tribal, pragmatic approach to computing; with this in mind and thus avoiding identity-entanglement, room is left for a skin thick enough to cope with the mockery.

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