Monthly Archives: March 2015

Margot Wallström is Heroic for Speaking the Truth

I came across this article tonight on Reddit.  It’s worth a read, I was unaware of the story.

The Spectator: Sweden’s feminist foreign minister has dared to tell the truth about Saudi Arabia. What happens now concerns us all

It’s a long headline but it certainly doesn’t bury the lede.  I only wish that Canada’s Foreign Minister was of Margot Wallström’s calibre.

Wings of Russia

If you’re like me and you have an obsession with aircraft then this series is a bit of a treat. Wings of Russia is sort of a Russian equivalent to the Great Planes/Wings series produced in the United States but focused almost exclusively on the history of Russian and Soviet aircraft.

Check it out!  It’s fairly in depth and it’s great to watch a series that doesn’t treat Soviet and Russian aerospace development as simply a reaction to Western aircraft.  From what I know about the topic it’s a fairly well balanced presentation.

Stevey’s Google Platforms Rant

I was having a conversation today with a colleague about API usage and why it’s a key to success when building complex systems.  I tried to track down the original post from Steve Yegge regarding his thoughts from his time at Amazon and how they applied to the Google context and was a bit surprised that I couldn’t actually track down the original any longer.

For the sake of posterity I want to make sure I keep a copy rather than rely on G+, so with all credit to Mr. Yegge, here it is. Continue reading

WordPress Child Themes

I’ve been using WordPress for this site for about 6 years and am generally quite happy with the fact that it “just works”.  I’ve been using a simple default theme (Twenty Twelve) for much of that time as well.  Recently I’ve been trying to be a bit more active on the blog and there are few (very minor) issues and personal taste differences I have with the theme which I’ve hacked out it of it.

I was doing some reading on how best to integrate SmugMug with the site since I’m on the verge of switching from Flickr for my personal photos and while I was doing this reading I discovered that there is a correct way of modifying themes for WP!  It’s actually quite elegant and avoids several potential problems.

I give you WordPress Child Themes.

World of Warships

A while back I joined the World of Warships alpha test.  Unfortunately part of the deal is that I can’t say anything about the testing prior the the beta phase that recently started, but now that the NDA is lifted, I just wanted to say that it’s been pretty fun so far.  The game itself seems to be in fairly good shape considering that it’s still under heavy development.

One of the best things about closed testing games is that the community tends to be much more pleasant than the average players in most online games these days.

I’m not as much of a gamer as I once was, but these semi-realistic shooters (Wargaming also makes the popular World of Tanks game as well as the sadly less popular Warplanes game as well) are good fun and a pretty decent mix of realism and playability.  This means there are plenty of departures from historical accuracy, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a certain sense of immersion that you get.  The last time I had this much fun in a naval game was probably during one of the first few Silent Hunter games.

So far there are ships from the Japanese and US navies implemented in the game and eventually all of the major WWII navies are supposed to be implemented.  Maybe I’ll see you in-game!

My Favourite Thing About Spring

I woke up this morning and looked out the window and it struck me that the weather is finally nice enough that I can wear my favourite sneakers on my walk to work. Time to put the winter clogs away and be a 7 year old for a little while.

Whee! I get to wear my favourite sneakers!

Modifying the login text on Debian (or Ubuntu)

I’m getting back into the Debian world after years of being pretty much a RHEL guy and I’ve bee dealing with an annoying “feature” which I was at a loss to resolve. Every time I log into the EC2 instance that this server runs on, I get a “No mail.” message which clutters up my login scripts and shouldn’t be there since I’m not receiving mail on this instance in the first place.

Today I finally decided I’d get to the bottom of it since it clearly wasn’t coming from a login script and even though it’s a minor thing it bugs me and I find it somewhat distracting!

It turns out that Debian and it’s derivatives have what is a rather elegant, if initially opaque, way of setting up the login info: it’s managed in a PAM module for the SSHD which can be found at /etc/pam.d/sshd.

Not only does PAM load a module that checks mail by default, it also does a couple of cool things with the MOTD info (this is where the kernel version info comes from when you login).

Here’s the relevant section:

# Print the message of the day upon successful login.
# This includes a dynamically generated part from /run/motd.dynamic
# and a static (admin-editable) part from /etc/motd.
session    optional  motd=/run/motd.dynamic noupdate
session    optional # [1]

# Print the status of the user's mailbox upon successful login.
#session    optional standard noenv # [1]

As you can see I’ve commented out the mail check, I’ve decided to leave the MOTD piece, I think I’m going to play around with it.  It’s the first time I’ve ever encountered the pam_motd module and I’m curious what I can do with it.

Hopefully somebody else finds this helpful, there seems to be little information about this available when I did a quick Google search.

A Blast From the Past

So this is a bit of a take 2 (3?)…  I recently recovered the database for the old community forum that used to be hosted on  I had thought that it was completely lost due to a bad backup and crappy hard drive, but it turned out that I had a copy of the backups stored on my old laptop!

I don’t know if it’s something worthy of full resurrection yet, but at the very least I thought I’d migrate the data to BB software that was supportable and put the old content back up in case people would like to get at their old posts.

For the time being at least it can be found over here.

I’ll likely share this with people via some social media as well once I figure out what to do with the data.  If you’re returning, I’d encourage you to take a look at this post.