Announcing Raspberry Launchpad

I’ve been working towards this for several months, but today I finally wrote initial software for the thing:

It’s small; the screen is about 2″ diagonally.

The intent is that this provide useful information as you’re getting ready to go out the door. What’s displayed in the image above are easier, proof-of-concept things:

  • Sunrise and sunset times (this still required dealing with Daylight Savings Time, as if I needed another reason for it to annoy me)
  • Day and date
  • System uptime

As it is now I have it refreshing on the hour.

This is just the beginning, though! I hope to add support for configuration files, and weather and bus information too. It’d be nice to know what sort of temperatures to expect that day, and whether I’m likely to need an umbrella. And when to leave for the bus. (I have USB speakers so it could chime.) The e-ink display (PaPiRus Zero) I’m using has some tiny switches on it, but they’re not easy to use at all, so I’m hoping to figure out how to use a handful of keyboard keys. 3D printing will likely be very helpful with that.

It’ll involve more hardware work, but I’m also hoping to have this thing provide a UI for measuring the weight of my cat’s food and water bowls. Currently I’m doing it manually, and I only get a start and end measurement for each day at varying times, so there’s a lot of slack to it. If I automate it, every few minutes will be no problem, and I can get an idea of his consumption rate. Graphs! This seems likely to require more soldering, as I haven’t been able to find a USB scale that operates in grams, but I have been able to find someone else with the same problem who solved it by soldering things.

You can find the code here.


22 Map Release

Liciti and I are done (TM) with our map for Taylor Swift’s 22!

It’s here!

EDIT: The link was to the user page instead of the song page. Also here are videos of playing it on normal and on hard.



Almost two weeks back I had this dream:

I had constructed a sentient intelligence in a cube one foot to a side. It had a little lopsided hat on top and was suspended over a three-story drop onto a enormous floor constructed of white panels which reached out past the horizon. My intent was to use this cube for calculations.

When I climbed the staircase up to it, it said to me “two plus two is two and big foo.” Seeing my expression change, it asked apprehensively “you don’t like big foo, do you?” I said I didn’t. It said hopefully “well, you have time to fix it, right?”

I thought for a moment, and instead of answering it directly I started battering at its connection to the line suspending it above the floor, trying to get it to detach. Recognizing my intent, it said “let me save you the trouble.” There was a click, and it started falling. Just before it hit it called “remember my percentage!” then shattered into its components across the floor.


OpenVR Volume Control

Beat Saber is pretty loud, so I often want the volume level at or near 1%. This is hard to do from within VR with existing tools, which involve pointing at a small 2D slider.

So I made this:

It’s available on GitHub, and I’ve posted a build of v0.1.

I hope it’s helpful!


Beat Saber Maps!

I’m trying out Beat Saber mapping! It’s a mix of fun and tedious so far. In that way it reminds me of animation.


Adventures in VeraCrypt Bruteforcing

I wrote a script – one that facilitates bruteforcing VeraCrypt passphrases – with the intent that the user probably remembers most of the passphrase. It’s available here.

It didn’t end up working for me, outside of test cases to make sure the script itself worked, but hopefully it’ll prove useful for others. One day I realized I was in the process of forgetting my VeraCrypt FDE passphrase, even though I’d been using it for months. It was odd – as though the harder I tried to hold onto it the more damaged my recollection of it became. Even though I still think I remember it, the passphrase I remember is wrong. I used the script to check similar passphrases, but they too were wrong. Going forward, it seems wise to not rely on muscle memory, and instead repeat to oneself the actual content of one’s passphrases from time to time. Go over mnemonic devices. Fight against it slipping away.


C.H.I.P SSH Troubles

I was working with a C.H.I.P and the SSH host keys were regenerating each boot after upgrading to Stretch. This caused a host key mismatch every time. It turns out /etc/rc.local was a script which checked for the presence of SSH host keys, including DSA, and if found all of them it replaced itself with /etc/rc.local.orig, which is the stock does-nothing script. If it didn’t find all of them, it would delete any existing keys and regenerate all of them.

I still don’t understand why this produced the behavior it did, because the script did succeed in producing DSA keys, but replacing the weird /etc/rc.local with the /etc/rc.local.orig that just exit 0s seems to have solved the problem.


St. Louis

I was recently in St. Louis. It’s a big city! 2.8 million in the metro area compared with 340 thousand here in Ann Arbor. The buildings bear that out: the tallest one in Ann Arbor is Tower Plaza at 267 feet (81 m) tall, whereas in third place in St. Louis is the Thomas F. Eagleton United States Courthouse at 557 feet (170┬ám). I guess the courthouse puts a lot more into each floor, because for all its height advantage it only has two more than the 26-floor Tower Plaza. I don’t mention the tallest because the courthouse was the reason for my visit – I’m an expert witness in a court case involving Freenet.

The courthouse cuts an imposing figure.

It even manages to make a row of elevators look stately.

I like this way of phrasing it better than “do not disturb,” which is what I’ve always seen these say.

The courtrooms themselves were similarly well-furnished.

Pretty sure this is view was a consideration in the hotel’s choice of location.


I learned many things on this trip. Among them were that I should not have wandered around until I found a place for lunch because the city has violence-prone areas. Another was how much one’s life can be destroyed by the legal system before even going to trial: apparently it is common for defendants to be prohibited from leaving a county, using alcohol, or using the Internet without being convicted. Yikes.


Cat Time Lapse

My cat is usually waiting at the door when I come home. I hoped he wasn’t waiting there long, so I set up a time lapse to find out. Initially I tried an old webcam connected to my Linux server with a script to periodically capture an image, but that failed after 4 hours. The kernel logged something about video URB and UVC probe control. (Not USB. Dunno what it was. Didn’t care to find out.) Continually connecting and disconnecting from the camera probably isn’t the friendliest of use cases for a video subsystem.

What I ended up doing was using the built-in Windows 10 camera application, which I was happy to discover supports time lapse. I used it to save images at 5 second intervals. In contrast with my hack using the other webcam, this application continually captures images, meaning the camera stays active, and it only saves them at the interval. The first time I tried it the camera captured fine until I got home, but I got home late enough that it was too dark to see the cat anymore. Today I got home early enough to find this sequence right before I got home:

He enters from the left of frame. Either behind the camera or below its field of view, perhaps eating food from his bowl there.

He looks out the window for close to a minute. Judging by the timing this was just before and as I was parking (visible from his position) and walking up to the building.

He then waits at the door for about 20 seconds:

Then I greet him and turn off the capture:

A fun experiment! It resulted in 1.3 GiB of JPEGs. I wonder what cues he has learned for my arrival. The stairs up to the second floor squeak so I assume he notices that at least. Earlier on he was on the couch looking around, and at the window looking around. This sequence here was just the last few minutes. He certainly didn’t seem to be actively waiting for long, which I’m glad to see.


Filesystem Transplant

Not having snapshots on ext4 finally got too annoying. I was able to copy the root filesystem off, then format with btrfs and copy it back on. I used System Rescue CD to do this, turn off Copy on Write on database files, and edit /etc/fstab with the new filesystem and UUIDs. It worked! Eventually. There were a few snags:

  • Grub gets angry when you wipe all your partitions. I’m still not clear on what the UUID it was looking for was, because it didn’t look like the old root filesystem. Using System Rescue CD’s Super Grub Disc image I was able to boot into the system and run update-grub and install-grub, which fixed it.
  • tar with bzip2 is slow. Using tar without compression ended up being much, much faster.
  • Taking out the drive with the swap partition caused the boot to hang until timeout. There isn’t an mkfs.swap, but there is a mkswap.
  • The script I used to disable CoW didn’t preserve ownership information, so I had to re-chown things appropriately. Oddly PostgreSQL still started, but MySQL did not. That was nice because it alerted me to the problem.

Hooray for snapshots! I’m hoping to set up snapshot backups Soon. (TM)