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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

2411 Articles
99 Comments

5 days Ago

A dynamically generated Groovy foot-gun

Published on in Programming

Groovy is a dynamically typed programming language that executes on the Java Runtime. It mixes its own highly dynamic syntax with islands of Java code. The Android ecosystem and its IDE use Gradle for its build scripts. Gradle uses the Groovy programming language.

The Problem Code

A large project I’m working on contains quite a bit of custom Gradle code for integrating framework libraries, making obfuscated builds, configuring publication, and, finally, creating signed builds.

The signed... [More]

1 week Ago

Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2020.8

Published on in 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 around 1400 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.

After Life S02 (2020)... [More]

Planet of the Humans (2019)

Published on in Movies

This is a pretty sloppily made and slipshod documentary about a very important topic. It relies too much on hot takes, visual clickbait, and gotcha editing. The first 12 minutes are boring as hell, completely light on information, and don’t really advance anything of note. You can read into this film what you want, which means it doesn’t serve very well as a documentary.

Some will see it as a wake-up call telling us to beware of green hucksters shilling for large corporate interests and... [More]

iOS COVID-tracking and battery life

Published on in Technology

Install the COVID app, they said.

It’s for the good of the nation, they said.

It won’t drain your battery, they said.

Bollocks.

 COVID takes 60% just sitting there

The yellow color indicates that I had the phone in low-power mode.

The phone was on my desk all day long. I used it twice for 2FA. I looked at a few messages.

I’d last charged it sometime yesterday evening.

I wonder how much battery it needs when it’s actually doing something?

 

2 weeks Ago

iOS still has a problem with “background activity”

Published on in Technology

iOS has long had a setting that lets you decide whether “Background Refresh” is enabled. I have always had it disabled because I don’t need any of my apps doing things when I’m not using them. I’m more interested in my phone being there for me to look up something useful than I am in looking for a charger or carrying a power brick wherever I go.

This does not mean that apps are not doing things in the background, though. The article Background App Refresh Explained by David Johnson on Dec 6, 2019 (Techzillo) explains that the... [More]

Guardian Signup Form

Published on in Design

The Guardian doesn’t have a paywall, but they now have a registration requirement. This is fine with me. I don’t browse their site regularly, but I do occasionally get links from bloggers I follow. I appreciate the job the Guardian does and am fine with being registered with them.

 Guardian sign-in/sign-up formTheir signup form is somewhat odd and unpleasant-looking, but it’s the functionality that’s the most offputting.

I was unable to sign up with my preferred email address. I was notified of this by validation that... [More]

Combat Hegemony Holistically (The Blood is still Flowing)

Published on in Public Policy & Politics

The following interview is excellent. I like the discussion between Taibbi and Halper at the beginning (I find them to be entertaining, insightful, and informative, but YMMV), but if you want to skip it, the interview starts at about 31 minutes or so. Or you can watch just the interview as a separate video.

Dr. Cornel West on Protests, Bernie's Campaign, His New Podcast, and Much More | Useful Idiots (YouTube)

Dr. Cornel West is absolutely on fire in this interview. Here he is offering a nuanced and absolutely correct take on voting for the lesser evil. Emphasis is mine.

Cornel West: I was not... [More]”

3 weeks Ago

I Can’t Breathe by Matt Taibbi (2017; read in 2020)

Published on in Books

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]

La Peste by Albert Camus (1947; fr, read in 2020)

Published on in Books

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]

1 month Ago

The WHO on Facemasks and Pre-symptomatic Contagion

Published on in Science & Nature

Facemasks

The article Here’s what WHO says your mask should have to prevent COVID-19 spread by Beth Mole (Ars Technica) details the technical specifications for making your own facemask.

tl;dr: “you’re probably doing it wrong, guidance suggests.”

The WHO says:

  • “[…] masks should only ever be used as part of a comprehensive strategy in the fight against COVID.”
  • “WHO now recommends that healthy members of the public wear homemade or commercially-available fabric masks in places where the new coronavirus is circulating... [More]

Fixing the Police Problem (AKA defining “defund”)

Published on in Public Policy & Politics

A Messaging Failure

The phrase “defund the police” is spectacularly terrible optics and messaging. It’s muddled, can be interpreted six ways from Sunday, and can be easily weaponized by an almost overwhelmingly powerful opposition that is utterly uninterested in a generous, or even honest, interpretation.

The phrase “Living Wage” also seems quite innocuous and obvious, but has suffered from decades of picking nits. What does a person really need? What’s the bare minimum someone needs to live?... [More]

American Reactions to Revolution 2020

Published on in Public Policy & Politics

A good part of America is mad as hell and not going to take it anymore and a good part of America couldn’t care less.

That’s not accurate; let me rephrase. The other part of America is mad at hell at the part of America that thinks that America isn’t perfect like it is.

They think protesters are, at best, annoying snowflake leeches and, at worst, criminals who should be executed on the spot in the streets for stealing.

Then vs. Now

It’s amazing to think what the echo chamber of the Internet... [More]

John Oliver on Police (w/coda by Kimberly Jones)

Published on in Public Policy & Politics

John Oliver has put together 33:32 that are 100% worth watching. The video is linked below and it is titled, simply, “Police”.

Police: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) (YouTube)

He mixes some humor—mostly dark, with very little of his usual wackiness or memes—with an exceedingly well-researched and -written video essay on racism and policing in the U.S.

He starts with a quick run-down of the peaceful protests and the violent reaction of the state against it. He plays, in full, a 30-second message delivered by a pissed-off citizen to LA... [More]

The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster (1909, read in 2020)

Published on in Books

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]

Thermal imaging is the next “facial recognition”

Published on in Technology

In the aftermath of 9-11, biometrics and, in particular, bio-imaging software companies enjoyed a huge surge in valuation. Most of these products were shoddy and didn’t deliver on even a reasonable fraction of their promise.

That didn’t stop legislators from passing laws requiring their use—and probably getting giant kickbacks from companies newly flush with cash derived from their increased valuations caused, at least in part, by these same laws. Life is quite easy for some... [More]

Dean Baker breaks down Remdesivir

Published on in Finance & Economy

The article A Gilead-Remdesivir Fix: The Ten Percent Solution by Dean Baker (Beat the Press) points out that it is absolutely not difficult to fix the so-called problem with remdesivir. It’s a short article, so I’ll just cite it in full, highlighting the most salient bits for those who need a tl;dr for a four-paragraph article.

“The Washington Post had an excellent piece documenting how the government put up most of the money for developing remdesivir, a drug that now offers the hope of being the first effective treatment... [More]”

George Floyd: The Class War’s Latest Victim

Published on in Public Policy & Politics

A man named George Floyd was murdered by four police officers in Minneapolis last week. One kneeled on his neck for over eight minutes, while two others kneeled on his torso and one stood by and watched. They seemed more-or-less unperturbed that they were being filmed by witnesses. The video picked up George’s pathetic pleas to let him up.

The police had been called by a shopkeeper who suspected Floyd of having passed a counterfeit $20 bill. Floyd was in his car nearby when the officers... [More]

German virologist Christian Drosten

Published on in Science & Nature

Professor Christian Drosten is a virologist working at the Charité University Hospital in Berlin. Since the beginning of March, he’s been doing an informative podcast in German called Coronavirus-Update. I’ve found him to be highly informative and factual in a world filled with propaganda, conspiracy theory and shoddy science.

The following interview with Drosten was one I found in English, which he also speaks fluently. I thought the 30 minutes, in particular, were very enlightening... [More]

2 months Ago

Amazon can’t validate phone numbers

Published on in Design

I almost never use Amazon. I almost never buy things. Recently, I had the pleasure of discovering that Amazon—a trillion-dollar company that delivers stuff all over the world—cannot properly validate phone numbers when you add an address.[1]

I entered a phone number[2] for an address to “help with delivery”. No matter how I entered the number, I got the error message,

Please remove invalid characters from phone number field (sic)[3]

I started with copy/pasting the phone number straight out of... [More]

C# 9: finally, covariant returns

Published on in Programming

The article Welcome to C# 9.0 by Mads Torgersen (Microsoft Dev Blogs) (May 2020) introduces several nifty new features that I am really looking forward to using.

What about C# 8?

I still haven’t moved Quino to C# 8, as the only feature I’d love to have there is the non-nullable types, which ReSharper Annotations provide with earlier versions of C#. Not only that, but the nullabilities are properly propagated to users of Quino. It’s understood that recent versions of Visual Studio and runtimes and compilers also do this but, until... [More]

Deeply ingrained American exceptionalism

Published on in Public Policy & Politics

Introspection is not easy. To really examine one’s own drives and implicit assumptions takes patience and, above all, humility. The first time you dive down, you may not like what you see. Who you think you are may be only a surface representation—something you’ve plastered over a bundle of atavistic core principles that you’ve never bothered to evaluate, question, or correct.

So it is with American hegemony, which has never not thought itself noble. People of all nations have a jingoistic... [More]

Earthli gets OpenGraph and Twitter metadata

Published on in earthli.com

Most tools that scrape web pages use the OpenGraph metadata embedded in web pages. Some fall back to using the more general and older metadata tags, like description or the <title> element, but this leads to a rather limited embedding. Almost no-one extracts pictures from pages unless explicitly requested to do so by metadata.

Until recently, earthli didn’t include this metadata, leading to somewhat substandard rendering of any links pasted to social media.

Sample Metadata

As an example, the... [More]

The Scarlet Plague by Jack London (1915, read in 2020)

Published on in Books

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]

NY Times Spelling Bee

Published on in Fun

I recently wrote that Kath and I have a one-year streak going in the NYT Crossword Puzzle. While that is still ongoing, we’ve also recently discovered a little gem called Spelling Bee (New York Times). The concept is elegant and simple:

  • You get seven letters arranged in a honeycomb.
  • You have to combine these letters to come up with as many words with four letters or more as you can.
  • The middle letter is required.
  • You can repeat letters as much as you like.
  • Answers can overlap one another. (E.g. “glad” and... [More]

The Long Emergency: Surviving the End ... Howard Kunstler (2005, read in 2020)

Published on in Books

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]

Contact-tracing and surveillance

Published on in Technology

Contact tracing, or just “tracing”, is a way of determining who’s been infected with a contagious disease in a community. Compared to self-isolation en-masse, it’s a finer instrument: instead of everyone staying away from each other, properly trained workers trace the path of the disease, using this information to isolate the ill from the still-healthy.

How it works

When someone tests positive for a contagious disease, tracers interview them to find out where they’ve been and who they’ve... [More]

Focused laser-like on the present

Published on in Quotes

“The most significant characteristic of modern civilization is the sacrifice of the future for the present, and all the power of science has been prostituted to this purpose.”
William James

Shit Rolls Downhill as Public Policy

Published on in Quotes

“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.[1]


[1] I can’t help but think that current U.S. President Donald J. Trump is only too aware of this stratagem—because it’s working for him like for nearly no other before him. People are not only emptying their pockets but are nearly sacrificing themselves on the altar of his reputation.

A side-scrolling adventure with the super-rich

Published on in Finance & Economy

The interactive side-scroller Wealth shown to scale by Matt Korostoff is an article that shows just how much money the 400 richest Americans (the .0001%) have—and what could be done with a relatively small fraction of it (e.g. use 6% to “refund all taxes for households earning under $80,000”).

Pro tip: Show the source of the page to read it without all of the scrolling.

You scroll horizontally along a nearly endlessly long page that discusses excessive wealth and the good it could do were it to be distributed.... [More]

Rising above the muck isn’t even that hard

Published on in Quotes

“[in America] the general average of intelligence, of knowledge, of competence, of integrity, of self-respect, of honor is so low that any man who knows his trade, does not fear ghosts, has read fifty good books, and practices the common decencies stands out as brilliantly as a wart on a bald head.”