Nov 282021
 

In the middle of this week’s tragedy regarding refugees drowning in the channel, various really nasty specimens of humanity were all over the word “illegal”. Which really gets up my fucking nose, because it’s bollocks.

Under the terms of the 1951 Refugee Convention (to which the UK is a signatory) those seeking asylum have a right to enter any country (not the first safe country) and apply for refugee status. Of those asylum seekers who enter the UK nearly 70% are eventually granted refugee status and whilst they are waiting are held in appalling conditions which any decent country should feel ashamed of.

Nov 272021
 

I can accept “Saving the Planet” as a political slogan for those who advocate taking action to combat climate change – political slogans don’t have to be entirely accurate although I might argue that “Saving People” is more accurate. Because no matter how serious climate change gets, the planet will carry on.

Don’t get me wrong, I think climate change is really serious – we will see millions of deaths at least; quite possibly billions of deaths. And climate refugees will make the Syrian refugee crisis seem like just a tiny taste of what the real thing will be like. And some historians put the collapse of the western Roman empire down to climate change refugees – I don’t think it’s that simple but it was certainly a contributing factor. That is the level of disruption from climate refugees that we can expect.

And if you’re one of those inhumane nasties that imagines military level forces using lethal force to stop refugees, you can forget it – not only are there enough of us bleeding heart liberals who will shout “fuck that shit”, but it is doubtful that any level of military force could stop millions of refugees.

Climate change won’t destroy the planet; it won’t even destroy the environment. It will change the environment catastrophically and humans are to blame. Whole species will become extinct, but probably not humans; we’re too adaptable and we’ve survived through extinction events before (although sometimes only just).

But before anyone gets too complacent, if we don’t do anything, humanity will survive by the skin of its teeth – if just 90% of us are killed, we’ll be lucky. If we act today to make drastic changes, we might keep things down to just a few million dead; if we had acted back in the 1980s, that would be considerably less.

Walking The Beach
Nov 112021
 

If you follow a certain Linux on Youtube, you may well be aware of an incident where Linus was trying to install Steam on a newly installed copy of Pop_OS! and managed to produce a bit of a mess without a desktop environment. What happened?

I think that when he encountered a problem installing Steam with the gooey, he then obtained a command-line “recipe” for installing Steam – potentially for a different distribution (it certainly mentioned removing lots of “stuff” including gnome-desktop).

Is this a problem with Linus being a bit of an idiot or Linux being a bit broken? A bit of both perhaps.

Linus’ idiocy is perhaps an example of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing – he mentioned being comfortable with using the command-line, but would admit that he doesn’t understand everything that goes on within it (to be fair, nobody understands everything even those who’ve been using the Linux command-line for over 20 years). And certainly when apt said “To install this package, I’m going to remove this long list of other packages”, the appropriately cautious should be saying “No” (and yes there is a prompt to allow you to do that).

The Linux command-line follows the principle that if the human wielding it wants to do something dumb, it may warn you but it will let you do whatever you want. That’s handy but scary and dangerous.

Now most users will likely veer away from the command-line – this is where Linus was a bit of an idiot – at least until they have a bit more experience. But perhaps those who make distributions should make the danger a bit more dangerous by adding a warning when opening the terminal (added to ~/.profile so we can remove an unnecessary warning) :-

WARNING !!!!

The command-line can be dangerous if you are not careful. Pasting in "recipes" found on the Internet for solutions to issues can result in serious damage to your Linux installation requiring re-installation.

In particular a recipe should be specific to your distribution and the version of the distribution you are running. 

When looking for solutions on the Internet, always bear in mind that there are idiots out there who will publish “solutions” that are anything but. As mentioned in my hypothetical warning, recipes are very often (especially when dealing with software installation) specific to a particular distribution and version – use it inappropriately and you may well run into serious trouble.

On the subject of gooeys, it would be handy to include a “Solutions” link when an error occurs in a software package manager that takes you to a web page specific to the package you are trying to install. Encounter trouble installing “Steam 6.23”? The solutions link might take you to a page saying “This package is out of date; please run Update”. This would allow links to be specific to the distribution and version in use – a lot more helpful than simply expecting the user to search the Internet for a solution.

King Alfred Looking Down At The Runners
Nov 062021
 

Someone asked me about this – a zsh function which I use to generate random passwords :-

✓ mike@pica» rpass noise
oOg6vsM+V0It4he6US4Xk6DuZPja9okyOpQyUCfW6NQ=
✓ mike@pica» rpass words
patternmaker+meio+tubicolous+misbelievingly

It’s too small and simple for me to classify as “open source” but there’s no harm in sharing the function :-

✓ mike@pica» which rpass
rpass () {
	case "$1" in
		("noise") dd if=/dev/random bs=1 count=32 status=none | base64 -i ;;
		("words") punct=("," "." "<" ">" "/" ";" ":" "-" "+" "=") 
			onep=${punct[$(($RANDOM % ${#punct[@]} + 1 ))]} 
			w1=$(shuf -n 1 /usr/share/dict/words | sed -e "s/'.*$//") 
			w2=$(shuf -n 1 /usr/share/dict/words | sed -e "s/'.*$//") 
			w3=$(shuf -n 1 /usr/share/dict/words | sed -e "s/'.*$//") 
			w4=$(shuf -n 1 /usr/share/dict/words | sed -e "s/'.*$//") 
			echo "${w1}${onep}${w2}${onep}${w3}${onep}${w4}" ;;
		("*") echo $1 not understood ;;
	esac
}

This is just a simple zsh function with all sorts of little “issues” – not least is that it could at least say “$1 not understood – try ‘words’ or ‘noise'”.

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