Well, scratch the last plan I had.1 I will not be able to go to
OggCamp 17 as I had planned. Due to a member of my immediate family
having been put on the docket for open heart surgery, family wants me to
stay on-continent and within six counties of Northeast Ohio if at all
possible.2 I do not have a date yet for when that family member will
be going into surgery but recovery will be tough.
Yes, I was looking forward to the trip to be able to meet up with
everybody in-person. Other relations have indicated to me that, if
there is an event next year, they may help me plan for travel.
Continuing uncertainty about the status of my job due to proposed
cutbacks by the departmental offices in their budget submission to the
Congress has not helped things either. I am certainly not happy about
this but I will have to soldier on.
Efforts to unravel some of the mysteries behind Outernet continue.
Eventually I will be able to put together some sort of paper. My
preference was to have presented something at the gathering in
Canterbury. I will be having to review plans instead. Learning more
about LaTeX may prove useful, I suppose.
The trip was going to be nicely timed before the Fall 2017 semester
started at Lakeland Community College. I missed one class during the
Spring 2017 semester during to workload constraints at my day job.3
If I had taken that class I could have graduated. If I can talk the
program director into getting the capstone offered off-cycle in the fall
I may be able to graduate from the program by December 2017.
Somehow the work as an evangelist at West Avenue Church of Christ is
continuing.4 It is hard preaching to residents at a nursing home.
Shut-in populations still deserve to have the opportunity to hear the
Word if they so choose, though.
If you want to talk about anything contained here, I don't have comments
on this blog. Use something like Telegram to contact me at
https://t.me/smkellat or via Mastodon/GNUSocial/StatusNet/Fediverse at
https://quitter.se/alpacaherder/. I've been off IRC for too long so I
cannot be found on freenode at the moment. Others have more special,
rather direct ways of reaching me.
Have a beautiful day!
It is reasonable to ask exactly which plan at this time as there
are so many, though... ↩
Northern Ireland has 5,460 square miles. Ashtabula, Lake, Geauga,
Cuyahoga, Trumbull, and Portage counties come to a mere 2,935 square
miles. One is just slightly over half the size of the other. ↩
It is rare to be in a workplace where you actually have "All Hands
On Deck" called and that is an actual operating condition but I
Eventually the congregation may get a website. That is triaged
low. Getting audio issues sorted out in the sanctuary is a higher
priority problem right now. ↩
At this point there seem to be some systems problems arising on the web. I have had more than minor difficulty attempting to access http://identi.ca as well as http://quitter.se. Identica has frequently been down as of late. As to Quitter.se it seems that there is a site in the so-called fediverse that is providing a proof-of-concept bit of destruction to the federation between social sites. At the last bit I could see, there was discussion of implementing a routing "blackhole" against the miscreant to keep the rest of the federation operating.1
Between this and other matters, I do have pause to wonder as of late.2 How does our connected world survive? Frankly, I do not know the answer.
I have noticed lately that the amount of physical media that I own has increased. If there is a DVD version of a movie that I want to watch again, I may in fact own it. I have a decent catalog of books that I own. That you can search that library catalog at https://www.librarycat.org/lib/alpacaherder is something left unfinished.3 Unlike Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory, I do not have things barcoded and I do not have the circulation module fired up. It is more an attempt to just track what I own.4
Much of the Internet could easily be classed as ephemera. It is full of things that are here today and gone tomorrow. That is why there is often to push to host your own servers so that when servers run by others disappear, you may in fact still be online. To a certain extent, much of what I try to do is attempt to hang on to a sense of permanence.
I am still learning about the morehype package on CTAN to learn how it can be used to take LaTeX2e documents intended for print and convert them for the web.5 Not everything needs to be a PDF although I am finding that I really like the style of the Paratype font. Quite a bit of what I have had to do lately for church-related matters has been intended as "Large Print" for the elderly so I've been working my way through the font catalog.
Change is hard. I like stability. With as bizarre as things have been at work lately, I know I will have plenty of change and little stability there. Watching social sites disappear suddenly also helps contribute to that feeling of lost stability. The threat of a possible reduction-in-force at work coming in late September/early October does not really help either.
My upcoming big goal is to book the tickets, find accommodations, and cross the Atlantic for OggCamp. This is a major undertaking. There are still matters in play on my part. Strangely enough, Canterbury won't be the farthest I have ever traveled into Europe if I manage to pull this off.
These aren't the greatest musings to start a week. For those interested in contact, you can reach out via Telegram at http://t.me/smkellat perhaps. I may inhabit other channels you are already in as well.
An attempt to view the site in question immediately resulted in a possible malware download so that site could easily be branded "anti-social media" perhaps.***
The electromagnetic pulse threat posed by the government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to North America makes many scary possibilities become imminent.***
I have an earned master's degree in library science but it has been a rather long time since I have been a proper librarian.***
LibraryThing does not support DVDs yet. I should make a support request, perhaps.***
Well, taking just over 60 days to write again is not generally a good sign. Things have been incredibly busy at the day job. Finding out that a Reduction In Force is expected to happen in late September/early October also sharpens the mind as to the state of the economy. Our CEO at work is somewhat odd, to say the least. Certain acts by the CEO remain incredibly confusing if not utterly baffling.
In UK-slang, I guess I could probably be considered a "God-botherer". I've been doing work as an evangelist lately. The only product though has been the Lord's Kingdom. One of the elders at church wound up with their wife in a local nursing home due to advanced age as well as deteriorating health so I got tasked with conducting full Sunday services at the nursing home. Compared to my day job, the work has been far more worthwhile serving people in an extended care setting. Sadly it cannot displace my job that I am apparently about to lose in about 90 days or so anyhow thanks to pending actions of the board and CEO.
One other thing I have had running in the background has been the external review of Outernet. A short research note was drawn up in LaTeX and was submitted somewhere but bounced. Thanks to the magic of Pandoc, I was able to convert it to HTML to tack on to this blog post.
The Outernet rig is based in my garage to simulate a field deployment. The goal by their project is to get these boards into the wild in places like the African continent. Those aren't "clean room" testing environments. If anything, temperature controls go out the window. My only indulgence is that I added on an uninterruptible power supply due to known failures in the local grid.
Inside the house a Raspberry Pi running Raspbian is connected via Ethernet to a Wi-Fi extender to reach out to the Outernet board. I have to manually set the time every time that ASTROCONTROL is used. Nothing in the mix is connected to the general Internet. The connection I have through Spectrum is not really all that great here in Ashtabula County.
The board hit a race condition at one point recently where nothing could log in. A good old-fashioned IT Crowd-style power-cycling resolved the issue.
Sometimes I have used the Busybox version of tar on the board to gather files to review off the board.
The interface gets a little cramped on a smartphone like the one I have.
And now for the text of the paper that didn't make the cut...
A current endeavor is to review the Outernet content distribution system. Outernet is a means to provide access to Internet content in impaired areas.1 This is not the only effort to do so, though. At the 33rd Chaos Communications Congress there was a review of the signals being transmitted with a view to reverse engineering it.2 The selection of content as well as the innards of the mainboard shipped in the do-it-yourself kit wind up being areas of review that continue.
In terms of concern, how is the content selected for distribution over the satellite platform? There is no known content selection policy. Content reception was observed to try to discern any patterns.
As to the software involved, how was the board put together? Although the signals were focused on at the Chaos Communications Congress, it is appropriate to learn what is happening on the board itself. As designed, the system intends for access to be had through a web browser. There is no documented method of bulk access for data. A little sleuthing shows that that is possible, though.
The software powering the mainboard, a C.H.I.P. device, was put together in an image using the Buildroot cross-compilation system. Beyond the expected web-based interface, a probe using Nmap found that ports were open for SSH as well as traditional FTP. The default directory for the FTP login is a mount point where all payloads received from the satellite platform are stored. The SSH session is provided by Dropbear and deposits you in a Busybox session.
The mainboard currently in use has been found to have problems with power interruption. After having to vigorously re-flash the board due to filesystem corruption caused by a minor power disruption, an uninterruptible power system was purchased to keep it running. Over thirty days of running, as measured by the Busybox-exposed command uptime, was gained through putting the rig on an uninterruptible power supply. The system does not adapt well with the heat as observed in the summer in northeast Ohio as we have had to power-cycle it to reboot it during high temperature periods as remote access became inaccessible.
Currently the Outernet mainboard is being operated air-gapped from other available broadband to observe how it would operate in an Internet-impaired environment. The software operates a Wi-Fi access point on the board with the board addressable at 10.0.0.1. Maintaining a constant connection through a dedicated Raspberry Pi and associated monitor plus keyboard has not proved simple so far.
Presently a few categories of data are routinely transmitted. Weather data is sent for viewing in a dedicated applet. News ripped from the RSS feeds of selected news outlets such as the Voice of America, Deutsche Welle, and WTOP is sent routinely but is not checked for consistency. For example, one feed routinely pushes a page daily that the entire feed is just broken. Pages from Wikipedia are sent but there is no pattern discernible yet as to how the pages are picked.
Currently there is a need to review how Wikipedia may make pages available in an automated fashion. It is an open question as to how these pages are being scraped. Is there a feed? Is there manual intervention at the point of uplink? The pages sent are not the exact web-based versions or PDF exports but rather the printer-friendly versions. For now investigation needs to occur relative to how Wikipedia releases articles to see if there is anything that correlates with what is being released.
There are still open questions that require review. The opacity of the content selection policies and procedures limit the platform's utility. That opacity prevents a user having a reasonable expectation of what exactly is coming through on the downlink.
A technical platform is only a means. With the computers involved at each end, older ideas for content distribution are reborn for access-impaired areas. Content remains key, though.
I can say that work has not been pretty as of late. Some people have contacted me via Telegram. The secure call function works nicely provided I wear headphones with a built-in microphone so I can see the screen to read off the emojis to the other participant. When we get to April 28th I should have a clearer picture as to how bad things are going to get at work as a federal civil servant. My ability to travel to OggCamp 17 will probably be a bit more known by then.
I have not been to Europe since 1998 so it would be nice to leave the Americas again for at least a little while after having paid visits to the British Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Canada in the intervening time. If I could somehow figure out how to engage in a "heritage quest" to Heachem in Norfolk, that would be nice too. I know we've seen Daniel Pocock touch on the mutability of citizenship on Planet Ubuntu before but, as I tell the diversity bureaucrats at work from time to time, some of my forebears met the English coming off the boat at Jamestown. If I did the hard work I could probably join Sons of the American Revolution.
So, what might I talk about at OggCamp 17 if I had the time? Right now the evaluation project, with the helpful backing of three fabulous sponsors, is continuing in limited fashion relative to Outernet. We have a rig and it is set up. The garage is the safest place to put it although I eventually want to get an uninterruptible power supply for it due to the flaky electrical service we have at times.
There is still much to review. Currently I'm copying the receiver's take and putting on a Raspberry Pi in the house that is running on the internal network with lighttpd pointing at the directory so that I can view the contents. Eventually I'll figure out how to get the necessary WiFi bridging down to bring the CHIP board's miniscule hotspot signal from the detached garage into the house. Currently there is a WiFi extender right next to the CHIP so I don't have to be so close to the board to be able to pick up the hotspot signal while using my laptop.
2016 was not the best of years. While my parents have told me that it wasn't a bad year, my "log line" for year was that this was the year I was under investigation, threat assessment, and who knows what other official review. These things kinda happen when you work in the civil service of a president who sometimes thinks he is a Stuart monarch and even worse acts like one from time to time.
I will note contra David Tomaschik that disclosure of employee information that is available under the Freedom of Information Act isn't really a hack. In general you can request that directory information from any federal agency including DHS and FBI. The FOIA micro-site created by the US Department of Justice can help in drafting your own inquiries.
Nine months ago I had a blog post up about "Apologizing". This continues what was said there as the matter I was apologizing about then finally came to a conclusion. You can read that if you want.
Many folks who frequent a variety of "hacker" events worry about the so-called Five Eyes and, if they're in the US, the actions of "three letter agencies" towards them. I can nowadays say that I was under investigation for the vast majority of 2016 by "three letter agencies" as well as four letter agencies, five letter agencies, and bureaus you've probably never heard of. Those investigations are successfully concluded although they got really messy at points where I had to limit contacts with "non-US persons" and verify if people in the US that I came into contact with were US citizens or not.
When you're involved in Linux at large or even the Ubuntu realm more specifically, that's incredibly restricting. I could end up apologizing until well beyond the heat death of the universe to people I had to ask questions of so that I could be prepared for sit-down meetings with investigators. All of this came about simply due to a transfer request to move from one federal civil service job to another. That wound up on hold initially for an investigation that went 9 months overdue and then even as that is finally done the job transfer is stuck on hold for an additional fiscal year.
I had yet another co-worker literally carried out on a stretcher from the job last week. Our attrition rate at work has been phenomenal over the past several months. We're not BOFHs by any stretch but we're in a high pressure environment as civil servants handling the cases of citizens and beyond. The stress of our work gets bad enough at points that when we talk about "group rates" for counseling sessions it is more a form of dark humor than anything else. This is why the extraordinary measures were taken to even attempt the transfer request with all the restrictive hoops that cut me off from the community. The gamble was to get through processing things and then be able to re-join community activities. Sadly it didn't work and I've been watching crewmates get ground down.
As we've discussed in The Group, the plan for many of us is to leave the civil service. As I've been studying hard about mass care, the Incident Command System, as well as doing more to back up the ministry of West Avenue Church of Christ it seems that that is something to slide into. I could also concurrently pick the almost moribund not-funded research project up off the floor as the Outernet satellite effort keeps taking new directions but there is little external evaluation of it such as I propose to do. Getting out would allow me to be able to contribute back to the Ubuntu realm at least somewhat once 4 hours of the day spent commuting get reallocated to other uses.
For others looking at contributing, all I can say is not only am I not a lawyer I am also not your lawyer. For US tax guidance, Chapter 24 of Publication 17 Your Federal Income Tax may be quite useful to read as it talks about deducting contributions. If you look at Table 24-1 and decide that you want to support the "Domestic Mission Field Activity" at West Avenue Church of Christ that I already do work in, you can write to:
West Avenue Church of Christ
5901 West Avenue
Ashtabula, OH 44004
United States of America
I wish I could say the congregation has a website or an electronic presence but it doesn't so postal mail is it. The Field Activity has seen actions like me preaching in the woods as well as helping put together the church's outreach float in the Ashtabula City Christmas parade. When the regular pulpit minister is out, I'm the normal backup.
Unlike the "Holiday Hole" by the folks at Cards Against Humanity, I would say something productive would come out of funding me working 2017. External evaluation of the Outernet satellite effort can finally get underway. I would be aiding in the care of souls from a different perspective compared to metaphorically swinging the sword of state in my current job. I could probably sleep far more easily than I currently do. Some publishing work would be done as papers would be printed.
Since various efforts from the Software Freedom Conservancy, Free Software Foundation, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are also out there I'll say that frankly there isn't a fixed dollar amount sought. I don't hazard a guess what will come. Ohio will have an increase in its minimum hourly wage for 2017 and the Ohio Development Services Agency released an updated scorecard as to what the "median income" and other stats are for Ashtabula County. For far, far less than was raised for the Holiday Hole that was later filled back in by the Cards Against Humanity folks I can walk away from the conundrums of what it would mean to be a civil servant in the time of President Donald Trump.
If I don't catch up with you otherwise, have a merry Christmas. I've been "disappeared" from IRC for quite a while. I hope to fix that one of these days...
I had almost forgotten about Ubuntu Community Appreciation Day 2016. There is much for me to appreciate this year. I have had to absent myself from many community activities and functions for almost the entire year. There have been random blog posts and I have popped up on mailing lists at the weirdest of times but I have mostly been gone.
Being under audit and investigation for almost the entirety of 2016 can do that to you. Working in a government job also causes such things to happen, too. Thankfully I’m not moving onward and upward to higher office but I’m now thoroughly vetted for all sorts of lateral moves.
The Xubuntu Sticker from SpreadUbuntu.org found at http://spreadubuntu.org/en/material/sticker/xubuntu-sticker made by lyz
I thoroughly appreciate and miss the Xubuntu team. A great distro continues to be made. I wish I was still there to contribute. Life right now says I have other missions to undertake especially as social fabric in the United States of America seems to get all bendy and twisty.
I've seen Ms. Belkin go ahead and wrap up the Y (Yakkety) season while giving a look ahead to the Z (Zesty) season. I'm afraid I cannot give as much of a report. My participation in the Ubuntu realm has been a bit held back by things beyond my control.
During the Y season I was stuck at work. I have a hefty commute to work which pretty much wrecks my day when included with my working hours. My work is considered seasonal which for a federal civil servant means that it is subject to workload constraints. Apparently we did not have a proper handle on workload this year. The estimate was that our work would be done by a certain date and we would go on "seasonal release" or furlough until we are recalled to duty. We missed that date by quite a longshot. After quite a bit of attrition, angry resignations, people checking into therapy, people developing cardiac issues, and worse my unit received "seasonal release" only last Friday. Recall could be as soon as two weeks away.
The only main action I really wanted to handle during Y was to get a backport in of dianara and pumpa if they dropped new releases. I was a little late in doing so but I just got the backport bug for dianara filed tonight. I kept stating I would wait for furlough to do the testing but furlough took long enough that a couple versions of dianara went by in the interim. Folks looking at pump.io have to remember that even the website to a server is itself a client and new features have to be implemented in clients for the main server engine to pass around. The website isn't the point to pump.io but rather the use of a client of your choice is and a list is being maintained.
I don't really know what the plan is for Z for me. Right now many eyes around the world are focused on the election for President of the United States. People regard that office as the so-called leader of the free world. That person also happens to be head of the civil service in the United States. Neither of the major party candidates have nice plans for my employing agency. Both scare me. A good chunk of the attrition and angry resignations at work has been people fleeing for the safety of the private sector in light of what is expected from either major party candidate.
One of the hardest
topics to talk about in a blog post is business. When it comes to
the world of free software, it is generally assumed that there is an
algorithm to take care of that. There are also folks out there who
are dismissive of "business concerns" and lay concern that nobody
should be concerned about your business model while they themselves
receive compensation for work in someone else's business model.
I haven't had much
time due to the pressures of my job to spend on the fundraising
campaign to raise money to get out of my job. Yes, it is an
unfortunate catch. There was a research project proposed that may
need some tweaks now but fundamentally remains concerned with
reviewing access methods to the Internet via satellite. Considering
the SpaceX disaster recently that destroyed Facebook's hardware
that was to be deployed to space for Internet.org-based access, it is
still a live topic without much open or published research. The
basis for even doing such a thing started with a satellite called
PACSAT launched in the early 1990s but to hear talk of these
satellites today you'd think it was a totally new innovation.
By the numbers:
Year 1 Annual Compensation
Year 2 Annual Compensation
Office Rent (Both Years)
Communications (Both Years)
Printing (Year Two)
Travel (Year Two)
Taxes & Other Compliance Costs (Year Zero)
Now, these numbers
at immediate face value look bizarre. What could cost so much?
Isn't research free to conduct? Shouldn't anyone be glad they
have a great employer?
First and foremost,
bear in mind that I am a civil servant. If you are having a
difficult time watching news about the US presidential election,
imagine what it looks like to me. The outcome of the election leads
to a new chief executive and that may lead to many changes at work.
None of the impending scenarios look that great that may yet take
effect as of inauguration at 12:01 PM Eastern Time on January 20,
free to conduct. It takes time and that has a cost. Printing the
results of research and presenting it somewhere also costs money,
too. Working out of my home is not as doable as it might have been
previously due to the number of family members being housed under one
roof making it hard to have work space set aside. On the other hand
there is a nice luthier's workspace here.
structures were decided upon in putting this together. First and
foremost was the need for leasing office space. As noted above, I
don't have space to work out of home easily. Since the original
proposal happened to have some actual functional research to it
involving the mounting of antenna masts and other equipment, finding
space elsewhere would be important. I put a new roof on the house
not that long ago and do not have that much space to place antennae.
This would have been
structured as sole proprietor. That means that the judgment call was
made that the project was small enough to not require the founding of
a company to sustain a time-limited endeavor. After canvassing
multiple potential fiscal sponsors, there was not a suitable match
available in northeast Ohio that could be found either. Apparently
smaller questions like this don't fit places like an already
existing aerospace institute (not big enough) and too many local
academic institutions are too focused on social justice/LGBT issues
nowadays to do much cross-functional information science research.
Paying the various fees to the Ohio Secretary of State for
incorporation plus the minimum of $850 in user fees to the Internal
Revenue Service itself to ask it for non-profit status was thought to
be overkill for just one research project alone.
In the sole
proprietor status, all money received would book as income directly
to me and I would be taxed on all of it. I would take a direct tax
hit in one year even though the project is designed to run for two
years. Ideally the running time was planned to be January 2017
through December 2018. Considering who my current employer as a
civil servant happens to be, I'm actually well-trained for handling
the paperwork involved in such issues and handling compliance in
reporting the income. That's also why such a hefty chunk is broken
out in the amounts above for paying taxes as well as covering other
compliance costs. Income isn't tax-free when you're starting
from scratch. This is the least complicated option financially and
As to the other
figures, they're not that hard. The annual compensation is a bit
of a cut in pay from what I currently earn per year. I would be able
to pay the mortgage but won't be buying diamond rings for anybody
any time soon. Telecommunications costs are projected based upon the
not very competitive market locally. Printing would involve having
copies of the project final report produced for distribution. Travel
would involve getting to a conference location to speak.
These aren't the
simplest decisions to make on how to proceed in setting things up.
They are the difference between trying to proceed and giving up. As
we continue to reinvent the wheel in providing Internet via satellite
yet don't have a strong literature base about such forms of data
transmission, there is a hole to be filled. Waiting for the perfect
fiscal structure to support such research may easily result in the
research becoming moot as time slips away.