That Time I Became A 76-Year-Old New Yorker

By · Published · security

Or, what happens when you send an email to the wrong place.

Note, for the time being, I have redacted the names of the company and doctor involved as I am attempting to follow through with a responsible disclosure process for this security issue.

I had something very strange happen to me today.

It all began with a random email to an address that I don't use much anymore, but still have in Mail. It's an email account I've had for over 13 years, so it still gets the occasional stray email. The subject read as follows:

Followed in quick succession by another one:

Wait, what?


The Brilliance of Linux

By · Published · linux

I've been a Linux user for many, many years. Going all the way back to Red Hat 5.2, which I picked up to install on an ancient Packard Bell 486 in the late 90s. Since then there's always been at least one Linux machine in my dorm, apartment or house somewhere. At various times I've even run it for my desktop OS, although these days I use macOS for that.

For much of that time, Linux was the choice of hackers, but was definitely not a choice for everyday users and required a significant amount of technical knowledge to run. That's not true so much anymore, but growing in that environment I learned a lot about how computers and operating systems work.


Using the DS3231 RTC (Real Time Clock) with Raspberry Pi

By · Published · raspberry pi, hardware

In my last post about building the pet feeders, I alluded to one of the limitations of the Raspberry Pi has: it lacks a real time clock. This is an understandable omission. They take up extra space and cost, are not needed for a lot of applications and can be pretty easily added if they are.

One of the limitations I found is that, if there is a power outage that lasts a significant amount of time - long enough for the UPS batteries that keep the wireless up go dead, for instance - that the Raspberry Pi's may "lose" track of time if they can't reconnect to wifi and, thus, sync up by NTP.


Rob's Raspberry Pi Powered Pet Feeders

By · Published · python, raspberry pi, bootstrap, vuejs, javascript, diy

Or, how to massively over-engineer dumping cat food into a bowl.

As with many of my projects, it started with something that made me angry. In this case, it was this: The Petmate Le Bistro Pet Feeder.

Okay, let's back up a little bit. Back to about 8 or so years ago. We had a cat at the time, Pumpkin, who as objectively not a good cat. She was foul tempered on the best of days and very difficult to love. But she was my wife and I's first pet, so we did love her all the same.

She had a habit of wanting food precisely on time. And if it was late, she would raise all manner of noise until she was fed. Often this came at some ungodly early time in the morning. So I bought a Petmate Le Bistro Pet Feeder.


Using Pipenv with Systemd

By · Published · python, systemd, pipenv

So I've been doing a bit of Python recently for a project I'm working on on a Raspberry Pi. There will be a longer blog post about that in the next few weeks. But one thing I ran up against was that I wanted to start my daemon, written in Python, using a systemd service on Raspbian.

Normally, you would just shove a script invocation into a systemd unit and call it good, but in my case I had made use of Pipenv, which is a bit like Bundler in the Ruby world and Composer in the PHP world, to manage my project's dependencies.


The 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

By · Published · space, eclipses

Sometime in the mid 90s, I downloaded an astronomy program for my computer. I don't even remember what it was called. In poking around on it, I discovered that it could plot future total solar eclipses and that one would pass, from the resolution of the map, very close to where I then lived in eastern Tennessee. The date was August 21st, 2017.


Options Have Meanings, or, How I Made an rsync Seven Times Faster

By · Published · linux, networking

Warning: Doing this is making a clear tradeoff between security and speed. Do not do this on the public Internet or across a network you do not trust.

rsync is one of those tools that is in every computer user's toolkit. It's fantastic for moving large amounts of data around and for migrating data from one system to another.

rsync also has a ton of options and, after awhile, you get to where muscle memory means you just type the same few options over and over again. With me, that was -avz, archive, verbose, compression.

Recently, I was migrating several terabytes of data from a NAS to a computer. As is often the case, I fired up an rsync job and watched it.

It maxed out at about 35 megabit. Across a gigabit switched internal network.


Harvesting Nest Thermostat Data For Fun And Profit

By · Published · nest, influxdb, php, collectd

Okay, no profit in this, but it certainly is fun!

I have two Nest thermostats in my house and, after some teething pains (yay the life of an early adopter) they have been pretty solid. But they're also black boxes that I know little about. I know they're collecting mountains of data and sending it back to the Google mothership. Wouldn't it be nice to get at some of that data and build my own reports?