Category: Uncategorized

New visitors

Hi,

This serves as another reminder to myself that people from various circles actually read what I write on here.

I tend to use this place as a place to vent, so there are a number of rants that I keep unlisted but are still public for whatever reason. However, I needed to remind myself that I can’t do that anymore – what is private should remain private. I became quite nervous when someone, presumably from one of my classes, found this blog, so I finally have decided to take the initiative to mark all of such posts to private, out of respect for those I choose to discuss about, before what I write becomes a weapon against me. It is very true that once information becomes public, it is extremely difficult to control. So, I’ll restrict public posts to expository writings about technical subjects, as I have been doing thus far.

In real life, people see me as a leader, although I have suffered greatly from self-doubt and fatal mood swings since high school, in a time when I perceived myself as having little to lose. It has become clear today, however, that my opinion is highly valued.

Despite anything I write, this blog is here to stay. But please tread lightly if you decide to comment – it’s difficult to remember what I wrote three years ago. And remember that if you do post a comment, I read it even if it is “pending approval” – approval simply decides whether or not I decide to publish it.

If you are looking for something interesting to read, go read about my trip to Japan last year. (And if that wasn’t enough for you, try part 2.)

Thanks.

Paranoia

This morning, I received a “boil water” notice from the university. I immediately searched the news to investigate the exact reason – is the water contaminated, and what is it contaminated with?

However, all that I could find were two vague reports from city officials about how the treatment plants were overloaded from silt due to flooding, and that Lake Travis was only four feet away from spilling over the dam. Pressed to maintain a water pressure adequate enough for fire hoses to remain usable, the city decided to “reduce” the treatment of the water to allow enough water to be supplied, such that it is no longer at the “high standards” that the city provides for potable water.

But water treatment systems are not a black box; they are a multi-stage process! What stage of the treatment was hastened; or are stages being bypassed entirely? Surely, the filtration for particulate matter is being reduced, but the chlorine process should still be keeping the water sterile. However, none of these questions can be answered due to the vagueness of the report.

Affected treatment plants? Undisclosed. Particulate matter and bacteria reports? Nonexistent, assuming the Austin website actually works right now, which it does not.

Here is the main contradiction in their statement:

WHY IS THE BOIL WATER NOTICE IMPORTANT Inadequately treated water may contain harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites which can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms.

But earlier in their statement, they stated the following:

It’s important to note that there have been no positive tests for bacterial infiltration of the system at this time.

So what bacteria am I going to kill from boiling water?

All that I can conclude is that the city of Austin is spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt of the water quality simply to reduce stress on the system, without presenting hard evidence that the water is indeed unsafe to drink. Boiling water will not eliminate particulate matter, and from the aforementioned press release, “city officials” (whoever those are) have explicitly stated that bacteria has not yet contaminated treatment plants, so there is no bacteria to kill from boiling water.

One benefit to treatment plant operators from this warning, however, is that they now have free reign over which stages they wish to reduce or bypass, including the disinfection stage. However, due to the lack of transparency, there is no information to ascertain which stages are being bypassed – the water can really be of any quality right now, and it could even be still perfectly fine.

My questioning of this warning stems from a fundamental distrust in government decisions and communication to its citizens. People simply echo the same message, without seeming to place much thought into it: “Boil water. Boil water. Boil water.” And on the other hand, city officials might state that the treated water is completely safe to drink, despite findings of statistically significant lead concentration in some schools!

I’ll comply out of an abundance of caution (and because noncompliance has social implications), but mindless compliance and echoing of vague mass messages should not be the goal of the government. Individuals should be able to obtain enough information to make an informed decision and understand the rationale of the government in its own decisions.


It is now the next day since the announcement of the restrictions, and the technical details surrounding the problem remain vague. It seems that the restriction has indeed granted free license for treatment plant operators to modify treatment controls as they see fit, without necessarily needing to meet criteria for potable water. Moreover, it appears that the utility has known about this problem for quite some time now, and only now have they decided to take drastic action to prevent a water shortage.

I would not trust this water until the utility produces details of actions being taken in these treatment plants to fix this mess up.

Personal protection

You may know my blog well for my rants, but if you have been or are planning to look into my personal life, you should know that I have hidden these posts. They have provided great insight into myself, but being public on the open Internet, they can also be used against me in unpredictable ways.

They explain in great detail, for instance, why I seem to lack the motivation to work on my projects, what effect this incurs on me, and what grim outlooks I have had on life in the past two years – but I do believe there are some people out there who are willing to argue nonetheless about my personal life, arguments which take mental energy and time to address.

I may open these posts in the future, but for now, a little bit of privacy might be appreciated.

Migration event soon

I tried to connect to my own website on Friday, but the connection kept timing out. My mind raced with all of these awful thoughts: maybe some script kiddie finally breached the PHP process and decided to bring everything down. Or perhaps a disk failed on the old SCSI RAID array, and now the server is just waiting for me to connect a keyboard and press Enter all the way back at home to start the server in degraded mode.

But alas, the reality was none of it. Upon returning home on Saturday, I entered the attic and saw that the server was off, fans spinning at idle. I impatiently turn it on, the machine roaring to life once again. I supervise the whole process: everything good. Maybe there was a power outage?

Yet more wrong guesses. The culprit was my father, who decided to turn the server off (God knows in what way – did he really push the power button until it turned off?) without any express notice. Later he made an off-hand remark about how he had turned the server off, not knowing that I turned it back on again.

I want – well, now need – to migrate the server. It’s old, it’s heavy, it’s loud, and it’s expensive in power costs (costs about as much as the pool filter in kilowatt-hours per month). It’s pointless to keep it around, and probably embarrassing to explain why I still use it.

My main choices are to throw the site into my Digital Ocean droplet. I could use a Docker container but then I would have to learn how to deal with volatility and general maintenance.

There is also the option to convert everything into Jekyll; the main problem with this is that I am very unfamiliar with Ruby, and I would lose the markup characteristics of HTML (at least that’s the impression they give me). On top of that, I don’t know how to transplant my blog template into a Jekyll template (it’s not my template!) and I don’t want to give into the overused templates they offer. And then after that, where will I host the site? GitHub? There’s no reason for me to push my rants into GitHub, so the world can see what kinds of “contributions” I make every couple of weeks.

Finally, there is the option to move into a Raspberry Pi, which would grant me the benefit of continuing access to my home network, zero maintenance costs (my parents pay for power), and minimal changes to the web stack I currently use.

So immediately before leaving off for college again, at the cost of probably arriving late, I fumbled around for my Raspberry Pi and connected it to the Ethernet port in my room. I guessed the password a couple of times via SSH and then just decided to pull out the keyboard and break into it locally, so that I could remember what the password was. Oh, right, it’s those credentials. I shove the keyboard and dongle back into my duffel bag, gather my other things, and finally set out.

Now, it is my responsibility to get the RPi up to speed, as the new successor of the PowerEdge 2600.

Domain change

After an entirely unexpected drop of the extremely popular homenet.org domain (yes, visitors from Google, “homenet.org is down”!), it became impossible to reach the website via longbyte1.homenet.org due to an unreachable path to FreeDNS. Thus, I decided to just finish moving to n00bworld.com. It took a while to figure out how to get WordPress back up and pointing to n00bworld.com, but I eventually succeeded.

What I do not know, however, is if I will succeed in finishing the account of the Japan travel. I have been putting that off for too long now. Ugh.

Amazing find!

So I reluctantly got an older version of Pokemon Type Wild and started playing it. I noticed that the music was sounding a bit funkier…. and I found that the music for the older versions for Type Wild were MIDIs!

I find MIDI to be a highly flexible format (you can make the instruments 8-bit, mash it up, …); as such, I cherish MIDI and especially VGMusic for its massive library of MIDIified (and original) game music.

This is a lucky discovery because then I can remake the MIDIs into nicer quality audio files for those who don’t have 500 MB worth of instrument data.

First!

After thinking about making a blog for a very long time, I decided to just download WordPress and go for it. It’s by far the most popular blogging software used on the Internet – and the most sought-for by spammers and h4x0rs. “Blogging” on Word documents, while giving a nice user experience, means absolutely nothing because nobody is reading what you’re writing. Your writings are simply in draft form… forever.

So why not post it on the Web where everyone can read it? Yeah, “everyone” meaning that one guy who found this tiny blog on the corner of the interwebs. Speaking on a podium in an empty auditorium save for that one guy is good practice, I would think. To speak before man, you must speak before his subordinate: the chair.

Wow 130 words so fast? Dang, I’m already getting good at blogging.

This website definitely needs some attention. Maybe I will find some time to fill it with content.