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Name Marco Von Ballmoos
Member since
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Home page http://earthli.com/users/marco
Description

The (only) developer at earthli.com.

Contents

2306 Articles
93 Comments

11 months Ago

Anyone Can Be a Programmer, Right?

Published on in Programming

The post on Reddit called Someone asked me to make a site for them and I don’t know how the fuck I’m supposed to go about it. is about exactly what it sounds like it’s about. Amid the flurry of comments with recommendations on how to pretend he (or she) knows how to build a web site by using tools he’s (or she’s) never heard of, I chimed in with,

What is it about software that makes people who have never done it think that they can do it professionally?

What if your neighbor had heard you... [More]

iOS can’t get the easy stuff right

Published on in Technology

This is a laundry list of issues I’ve had with iOS over the last half-year or so. Some things get fixed; others break. This operation system is in its 12th version and is 10 years old. It’s made by the richest company on the planet. It’s frustrating to watch the magical engine of capitalism and privatization be seemingly unable to get even the easy stuff right.

How is it that I’m the only one to whom this happens? iOS is supremely unreliable. I have an iPhone 6s with iOS 12.01 and a battery... [More]

SBB iOS App refreshes too much

Published on in Technology

Here is the text of my bug report to the SBB for its iOS App. I wrote them in German, so I’ll let them stand that way; translations are in the footnotes.

Verbesserungsvorschlag im iOS-App

Umgebung

iOS 11.4.1, SBB Mobile 8.2.2 (10)

Use Case

Einen Benutzer will schon geladenen Streckeninformationen ohne Datenverbindung lesen.

Beobachtetes Verhalten

Der SBB-App aktualisiert immer wieder automatisch, auch wenn der App nur vor kurzem verlassen wurde (z.B. 10 Sekunden, wenn man auf einem... [More]

RIP Uri Avnery

Published on in Miscellaneous

I have assiduously followed the writings of Uri Avnery for what feels to me like a long time now—at least 15 years. Those fifteen years were but the coda to Avnery’s extremely long and productive and honorable life. He was an Israeli peace activist with a wicked pen—right up until his death in August of 2018 at 94 years of age. He will be missed.

I include below two encomiums/elegies/obituaries from two other writers whose writings and reporting I respect deeply, Jeffrey St. Clair (editor... [More]

Windows 10 Search is not very good

Published on in Technology

Windows Search has been unpredictable for a long time. If you’re a MacOS user, it feels terrible. It’s an utter mystery how Windows can’t seem to find anything, even in a small pile of startup icons and control-panel entries. It’s a database of a few hundred entries, at best. Let’s see how Windows 10 fares.

I finally took the time to document my struggles to run the “Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio”. There are so many words in there. Which ones can I type to find the icon? Hint: I... [More]

Why use Docker?

Published on in Technology

Use Case

Let’s imagine we’re working on a PHP web site together, using PostgreSql as a database.

Without Docker

Without something like Docker, I’ll write a readme.md that tells you which PostgreSql to install (maybe latest, whatever), how to configure the Apache server (or Nginx, whatever) and make sure the document root, extensions, modules, etc. are all lined up for this project.

In order to write this readme, I had to set it up on my machine and carefully write down instructions matching... [More]

Apple iCal

Published on in Technology

Apple iCal is another piece of software that’s in a very established field, with a very established feature set, in which Apple has been producing software for over a decade. It’s a calendar application with reminders. The reminders can be set to a specific time, with one or more alerts. An alert can be snoozed for a certain amount of time.

This is not rocket science.

Ok, so a modern calendar has to be able to pull in remote sources, to sync with other sources, and to send notifications. It... [More]

Leaving Syria

Published on in Public Policy & Politics

The article Trump gets it (half) right by John Quiggin (Crooked Timber) is about Trump’s recent decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. In it, he makes the following point:

“[…] the history of US involvement in the Middle East has been one of consistent failure at least for the last 40 years. […] Reagan in Lebanon, 40 years of failure on Israel-Palestine, failed confrontation on Iran, incoherent attempts to influence oil supplies, and, of course, the second Iraq War including the rise of ISIS).”

Pulling out of Syria... [More]

Bad, bad jokes

Published on in Fun

I just read through a list of offensive jokes (Reddit). Here are, in no particular order, the ones I thought you would enjoy; your mileage may vary and don’t judge me.


Q. What do 50,000 battered women have in common?
A. They don’t fucking listen.


Adolf Hitler and Josef Mengele are sitting in a bar when Hitler turns towards a stranger and says: “I planning to deport and kill 16 million jews and 1 clown”. The stranger then replies: “why deport and kill the clown?”. Hitler turns to Josef and says... [More]

Chinese land a rover on the dark side of the moon

Published on in Science & Nature

The article China makes history by landing on the far side of the Moon by Eric Berger (Ars Technica) has pretty exciting news.

“a Beijing-based control center commanded the spacecraft to begin the landing procedure at 9:15pm ET Monday (10:15am, Tuesday, local time), from an altitude of 15km above the lunar surface. During an 11-minute descent, Chang’e-4 slowed its speed from 1.7 km/s to nearly zero before it landed in the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.”

This is a science mission, but I’m really hoping... [More]

Three nice stories

Published on in Books & Movies

One Missing Piece by Jill Talbot (The Paris Review) is the story of a chronically peripatetic woman and her daughter. The story is specifically about a road-trip from Texas to Camden, NY, returning to place they’d lived for 3 years, full of memories.

“Every September or October, my father took me to the State Fair of Texas in Dallas, and, later, he took me and my daughter. He always followed the same route, from the entrance to Big Tex, to Fletcher’s Corn Dogs, then onto the automobile building and the food building[1], on and on,... [More]”

A brace of videos from Oxford (Varoufakis, Piketty & Žižek)

Published on in Miscellaneous

I watched a brace of pretty rewarding videos from the Oxford Union.

Yanis Varoufakis

Yanis Varoufakis | Full Address and Q&A | Oxford Union (YouTube)

Yanis talks about the Euro: “It’s like taking the shock absorbers out of your car and then driving into a pothole. […] This is designer idiocy.”

He talks about RussiaGate:

“In the United States, you have the ridiculous situation where the Democratic party is going to the people and saying ‘you were duped by Putin. Putin stole the election through Facebook.’

“My goodness! I mean, what an insult!

“To people... [More]”

True Nobility

Published on in Quotes

“There’s nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.[1]
W.L. Sheldon


[1] The citation is often mis-credited to Ernest Hemingway, but the article at Quote Investigatoroffers quite a bit of clarification.

1 year Ago

A discussion about RussiaGate

Published on in Public Policy & Politics

Is RussiaGate a giant pile of smoke? Just listen to two defenders of it, James Risen and Jane Bradley[1] in this video CIJ Logan 2018: Collusion or the New McCarthyism? by CIJ (Vimeo).

Risen circumlocutes into a summation that says that the Russians almost certainly didn’t do anything worthwhile, but that they tried real hard to do something, even if that something can’t be proved. He backs off considerably on the main RussiaGate accusations, although he is a stickler for terminology. It’s just that this... [More]

Human vs. machine categorization

Published on in Technology

Humans are currently better at detecting patterns than machines—this may change in the near future.[1]

However, machines are massively better at sorting detected patterns than humans. Humans can’t stick to a regime.

For example, a site like Reddit amounts to a vast sorting algorithm with posts, pictures, videos and articles as input and the subreddits as buckets.

Myriad users upvote and downvote these items to determine whether an item belongs in a given subreddit. If an item in one subreddit... [More]

Hacking your Voice Mail

Published on in Technology

tl;dr: If you don’t use your voice mail for your phone, then you should disable it. It is ridiculously insecure and can or will be used by hackers to gain access to other services you use (e.g. Whatsapp or PayPal).

On Sunrise, you can deactivate your voice mail by “calling” #145#. To re-activate, call *145#. You’ll get a confirmation message.

The CCC annual conference (Chaos Computer Club) took place last weekend, in Leipzig, Germany. There were several interesting talks, but this one stood... [More]

Vocabulary Words

Published on in Books & Movies

This is a running list of vocabulary words I’ve encountered in my reading over the last several years. I use the vocabulary-list feature on my Kindle to collect words, then export them from the Sqlite database with a simple SQL. From there, I have a text file with words that I combine with my existing list, deduplicate and then re-apply formatting to generate the text below.

I will occasionally update this list.

Where a word (e.g. “reef”) has a common definition, I’ve left it off, preferring... [More]

Why do we need Jobs?

Published on in Public Policy & Politics

You’ll very often hear politicians, pundits and pretty much everyone talk about “jobs” as the be-all, end-all of the economy.

But why do we all need jobs? To stay busy?

Jobs are a means whereby the needs of a society are provided by its members. People have certain needs in order to survive—food and shelter being two of them. We’ll get to others later. A society is filled with people, each of whom need food and shelter.

Let’s imagine the beginning: each member fending for itself. There is... [More]

On Sounding British

Published on in Miscellaneous

In the article From Bizarre Rage Against James Joyce to MI5 Phone-Bugging: Why I Collect Snippets of Strangers’ Conversations by Patrick Cockburn (CounterPunch), the illustrious journalist takes a break from writing about the tragedies arising from near-constant, western meddling in the Middle East to relate more uplifting stories on this first day of 2019.

Near the end, there’s a bit that—to my admittedly tinhorn American ears—is one of the most British things I’ve ever read:

“Earlier this month we went for a drink and a... [More]”

Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2018.8

Published on in Books & Movies

These are my notes to remember what I watched and kinda what I thought about it. I’ve recently transferred my reviews to IMDb and made the list of almost 1200 ratings publicly available. I’ve included the individual ratings with my notes for each movie. These ratings are not absolutely comparable to each other—I rate the film on how well it suited me for the genre and my mood and. let’s be honest, level of intoxication. YMMV. Also, I make no attempt to avoid spoilers.

Shoah: Four Sisters... [More]

Dean Baker tries, once more, to explain things

Published on in Finance & Economy

Poor Dean Baker often writes about the same problems—topics that he’s discussed in detail and for which he’s provided solutions in his book Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich Richer. He’s a national treasure.

Once more, though, from the top. His brief post Thomas Friedman Shows Us Why Democracy is Facing Huge Problems by Dean Baker (CEPR) makes the following points (all emphases added).[1]

Patents

“Bill Gates is not incredibly rich because of rapid... [More]”

Ray-tracing on postcards

Published on in Programming

The article Deciphering The Postcard Sized Raytracer by Fabien Sanglard is a wonderfully presented breakdown of how the path tracer found on a postcard does its magic. It’s not super-fast (it takes 3 minutes to produce a much rougher version on the author’s machine). He includes his final cleaned-up source code.

It comes from the same person who made the business card ray-tracer discussed in the article Decyphering The Business Card Raytracer by Fabien Sanglard.

The problem with slow development tools

Published on in Programming

The article ”Modern” C++ Lamentations by Aras Pranckeviciusis a wide-ranging rant about the inefficiency of C++ template programming and the degree to which it’s inappropriate for many of the areas where C++ is used. Aras is one of the developers for the Unity game engine

In particular, he highlights the disastrous compilation and execution speeds when using a lot of the STL. Not only that, but the debugging time is extremely slow, due to the inordinate amount of extra symbol information associated with hundreds of... [More]

On not seeing or understanding context

Published on in Philosophy

Here are some features of modern discourse that I’ve noted.

  • It’s very easy to express an opinion publicly.
  • This is the default mode for many.
  • Entire conversations are carried out in public.
  • Speed is of the essence to get attention.
  • Distribution is the same for insipid thoughts as for pithy
  • There is no undo.
  • People writing or saying stupid things is funny
  • Market penetration and remuneration is overarchingly important
  • Learning is not rewarded
  • Neither is apology or correction

Taken together,... [More]

.NET Tips and Resources

Published on in Programming

If you’re a .NET developer, this is video you’ve been looking for:

S107 − Build great libraries using .NET Standard by Immo Landwerth (YouTube)

Immo tells you everything you need to know about Nuget, using Package References, switching to .NET Core, and using Assembly-Binding Redirects in .NET Framework (they’re not necessary in .NET Core). He also includes an effusive apology for the nightmare of compatibility issues that accompanied the purported interoperability between .NET 4.6.1 and .NET Core.

If you want to be compatible with .NET Core 1.5 or lower, then you... [More]

65. Zürcher Wein-Austellung (Weinschiff)

Published on in Shared

Kath, Max and I went to the 65th Zürich wine expo in November. It’s held every year on the lake of Zürich on several ships (eight, I think, but don’t hold me to it).

Along the way, we learned about two wine events:

Wines we tried (and liked)

Obviously, we’re moderate noobs and we tried a ton of wines and we failed to cleanse our palettes and sometimes we liked wines... [More]

Books read in 2018

Published on in Books & Movies

American Gods (2002)

by Neil Gaiman

This is a fantasy novel about gods. It is less about the nature of faith and more about the gods themselves: on how they are called into being by the myriad flickers of belief of humans, gaining power as this belief hardens to nigh-fanaticism. All gods have power, but many have faded as their believers have faded.

There are the old gods of early man, the gods of the Native Americans, the all-but-forgotten gods of even their precursors, the Egyptian... [More]

The Two-Bear Mambo (a Hap and Leonard ...Joe R. Lansdale (1995) (read in 2018)

Published on in Books & Movies

Disclaimer: these are notes I took while reading this book. They include citations I found interesting or enlightening or particularly well-written. In some cases, I’ve pointed out which of these applies to which citation; in others, I have not. Any benefit you gain from reading these notes is purely incidental to the purpose they serve of reminding me what I once read. Please see Wikipedia for a summary if I’ve failed to provide one sufficient for your purposes. If my notes serve to trigger an... [More]

Mucho Mojo (a Hap and Leonard Novel) b...Joe R. Lansdale (1994) (read in 2018)

Published on in Books & Movies

Disclaimer: these are notes I took while reading this book. They include citations I found interesting or enlightening or particularly well-written. In some cases, I’ve pointed out which of these applies to which citation; in others, I have not. Any benefit you gain from reading these notes is purely incidental to the purpose they serve of reminding me what I once read. Please see Wikipedia for a summary if I’ve failed to provide one sufficient for your purposes. If my notes serve to trigger an... [More]

Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2018.7

Published on in Books & Movies

These are my notes to remember what I watched and kinda what I thought about it. I’ve recently transferred my reviews to IMDb and made the list of almost 1200 ratings publicly available. I’ve included the individual ratings with my notes for each movie. These ratings are not absolutely comparable to each other—I rate the film on how well it suited me for the genre and my mood and. let’s be honest, level of intoxication. YMMV. Also, I make no attempt to avoid spoilers.

Hap and Leonard... [More]