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Name Marco Von Ballmoos
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Home page http://earthli.com/users/marco
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The (only) developer at earthli.com.

Contents

2679 Articles
104 Comments

2 weeks Ago

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (2021) (read in 2022)

Published on in Books

Standard disclaimer[1]

Andy Weir manages to comes up with consistently interesting science-fiction ideas and entertaining yarns (even if it’s rather obvious in some places where he’s almost writing a screenplay). I really wish he would find a co-author to help him smooth out some of the more YA aspects of his writing. Still, this was a fun book to read—after the first third.

As with The Martian, it took me about that long to either get used to the writing style or for Weir to settle in and... [More]

The state of streaming media

Published on in Design

I wanted to watch a Swiss TV show that broadcast last Tuesday. I have a wealth of choices available to me.

UPC media box?

I have a “media box” from UPC, but it’s not connected because it draws too much power, even in standby mode. We (almost) never need its features, so we leave it off almost all the time. Maybe during the Olympics, we’ll hook it back up. We’ll see.

Anyway, I didn’t want to mess about with hooking up the media box—It’s not that difficult; I’d just have to connect the cable... [More]

Links and Notes for December 31st, 2021

Published on in Notes

Below are links to articles, highlighted passages[1], and occasional annotations[2] for the week ending on the date in the title, enriching the raw data from Instapaper Likes and Twitter. They are intentionally succinct, else they’d be articles and probably end up in the gigantic backlog of unpublished drafts. YMMV.

[1] Emphases are added, unless otherwise noted.
[2] Annotations are only lightly edited.

Table of Contents

Getting our priorities straight

Published on in Public Policy & Politics

It’s January 6th, so half of the U.S. media has its panties in a bunch again about the B&E that happened a year ago at the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. It’s not just the usual suspects either—everyone is getting in on the hyperbole. For example, the article What Do You Call a Failed Insurrection? PRACTICE by Greg Palast is by a great investigative journalist. He’s done great work. He’s still rehashing and republishing details that were disavowed nearly a year ago.

“Forget the whack-jobs who invaded... [More]”

Lockdown in Xi’an

Published on in Miscellaneous

The article China: Xi’an residents in lockdown trade goods for food amid shortage by Robin Brant (BBC) suggests that the BBC’s standards are perhaps not what they used to be. I read through the article, but it contains nothing but unsourced conjecture and anecdotes. There’s “Social posts show”, “numerous complaints on social media”, and “One video showed a resident appearing to […]”

It’s not that I don’t believe that this is happening to at least some degree. Of course not. In a city of 13 million, anything and... [More]

The Churn by James S.A. Corey (2014) (read in 2021)

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]

3 weeks Ago

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (2011) (read in 2021)

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]

The Butcher of Anderson Station by James S.A. Corey (2011) (read in 2021)

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]

Listen. Pause. Think. Pause. Pause more. Respond.

Published on in Miscellaneous

Hot takes are not a good thing for online discourse. They’re occasionally funny, but they tend to kill thought as people start to one-up each other with more hot takes. Or, even worse, “takedowns” of what were obviously meant as hot takes.

Is Anything on the Internet Real? by minutephysics (YouTube)

Listen first. Or read. Ingest.

Pause to think about what you’ve just read or heard. Try to sort out where it might go in your existing knowledge. Does it fit? No? Why not?

Try to imagine why the other person might have written or communicated the thought... [More]

Spoiled and blind or just moral and predictive?

Published on in Miscellaneous

Are people who say “this year sucked” necessarily spoiled and blind to their own privilege? Or are they extending their moral obligation to mean that, even though they personally benefitted, “this year sucked”—and that things will continue to suck—for a lot of other people?

The article ‘Wow, What A Terrible Year!’ Say People Living At The Absolute Peak Of Human Civilization (Babylon Bee) is intended as satire, but as with all satire, there is supposed to be an underlying truth to it. That’s what... [More]

Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2021.8

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 1600 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.

Big Mouth S05 (2021)... [More]

UPC ID Checker

Published on in Design

Hoo-boy, no wonder this app has a two-out-of-five-star rating on the App Store. It’s absolutely terrible.

This is one of the first pages I saw:

 Cut-off options

I had used my Swiss ID card as my proof of identity during the purchase. Now, I was supposed to actually send a photo of it to UPC so that they could verify it.[1] Unfortunately, I couldn’t see my option in this list. I was not encouraged that the second button was labeled “Passp”. I clicked that first, thinking that maybe the app just thought that all... [More]

What’s next? Oh, it’s UFOs, I guess

Published on in Miscellaneous

Hot off the presses of the conspiracy-theory pressure-cooker is the idea that the new movie Don’t Look Up—which is about a world that ignores the dire warnings of scientists about an incoming comet—is “predictive programming”. I suppose that means that it’s not just entertainment, but material intended to train people into acquiescence when something does arrive? Like aliens? The article Looks like that global UFO “attack” may be impending after all by Mark Crispin Miller (News from Underground) includes this quote from a reader,

“I... [More]”

Accessibility is important

Published on in Programming

 I recently read through the a11y myths. They’re quite interesting and should be required reading for managers running projects that develop web sites.

From it, I learned about the evils of overlays (see the Overlay Fact Sheet) and that there are really good resources out there, like Understanding Conformance (W3C) with WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).

“All WCAG 2.0 Success Criteria are written as testable criteria for objectively determining if content satisfies them. Testing the... [More]”

Links and Notes for December 24th, 2021

Published on in Notes

Below are links to articles, highlighted passages[1], and occasional annotations[2] for the week ending on the date in the title, enriching the raw data from Instapaper Likes and Twitter. They are intentionally succinct, else they’d be articles and probably end up in the gigantic backlog of unpublished drafts. YMMV.

[1] Emphases are added, unless otherwise noted.
[2] Annotations are only lightly edited.

Table of Contents

Links and Notes for December 17th, 2021

Published on in Notes

Below are links to articles, highlighted passages[1], and occasional annotations[2] for the week ending on the date in the title, enriching the raw data from Instapaper Likes and Twitter. They are intentionally succinct, else they’d be articles and probably end up in the gigantic backlog of unpublished drafts. YMMV.

[1] Emphases are added, unless otherwise noted.
[2] Annotations are only lightly edited.

Table of Contents

1 month Ago

Links and Notes for December 10th, 2021

Published on in Notes

Below are links to articles, highlighted passages[1], and occasional annotations[2] for the week ending on the date in the title, enriching the raw data from Instapaper Likes and Twitter. They are intentionally succinct, else they’d be articles and probably end up in the gigantic backlog of unpublished drafts. YMMV.

[1] Emphases are added, unless otherwise noted.
[2] Annotations are only lightly edited.

Table of Contents

TIL CSS border-radius lets you define ellipses

Published on in Programming

I hadn’t ever really thought about it because I don’t use the API very much, but it turns out that the border-radius property is not only a shorthand for setting all four corners at once, but also sets the horizontal and vertical lengths simultaneously. To set them individually, use a / between two values.

The corner radii are then calculated using ellipses as shown in the following visualization,

 Border-Radius with ellipses

The article CSS Border-Radius Can Do That? by Nils Binder on October 9, 2018 (9 elements) has many more examples. It also introduces a Fancy-Border-Radius... [More]

White Noise by Don DeLillo (1985) (read in 2021)

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]

Skip the Paywall?

Published on in Technology

I recently stumbled across a recommendation on Reddit from /u/schoschi1337 for reading articles that are behind paywalls (without paying for the subscription, of course). I recommend paying for the content that you read online. I pay for a lot of stuff I read online.

Paying for content honestly the only way to combat low-quality, high-engagement tripe that is otherwise the lowest common denominator of 95% of the Internet, where everyone’s hustling for the increasingly fragmented and... [More]

Dilbert is getting darker

Published on in Fun

I dunno, Dilbert has always been dark, but I thought these three recent cartoons were even more cynical than usual.

 Dilbert: Burrow Into A Team (14.12.2021)

 Dilbert: Guy With No Talents (15.12.2021)

 Dilbert: Lower The Quality (17.12.2021)

I feel like they come at it from opposite angles, but Dilbert and Existential Comics have a lot of overlap in critiquing the existing system.

A recent one about anarchism was great.

 Existential Comics: Anarchy on the Street

What Should Have Happened at the Cryptocurrency Hearings

Published on in Fun

I think Austin Bragg and Andrew Heaton (of Reason Magazine) make pretty funny videos.[1] Their latest is about the recent the congressional cryptocurrency hearings. These are a good idea—you can’t just hand your economy over to a world of unregulated scamming without asking a few questions[2]—but some of the people seemed…unprepared, to be charitable.

What Should Have Happened at the Cryptocurrency Hearings by ReasonTV (YouTube)


[1] I will use a footnote as a parenthetical for the nigh-obligatory, “even though I don’t necessarily agree with all of their policy and... [More]

Community-based Medicine

Published on in Science & Nature

A not insignificant part of the community doesn’t want the COVID vaccine. So, they’re coming up with their own versions. I heard from one friend that he’s taking dandelion extract. He’s convinced it will help fend off COVID, so that means he thinks he’s developed a partial vaccine, at least. The picture below comes from an anti-vaxx blogger I follow,[1]

 Nyquil: just as good as the vaccine

The guy posted it without comment, other than to title it “A safe alternative to the “vaccine”“, so I have no idea whether he’s just kidding... [More]

Real Hacks are not easy

Published on in Programming

Most of us know “hackers” from the media—either the news media, television shows like Mr. Robot, or movies like Swordfish. But the fast and easy way of hacking presented in the media actually does a disservice to how incredibly clever these hacks really are.

Less-complex techniques—like guessing or brute-forcing passwords—still work super-well. And you’ve always got social engineering hacks, like just asking someone for their credentials in an official-sounding way. But real, technical... [More]

Strava does it again

Published on in Design

The Strava “your year in review” is back in 2021.[1]

 Strava Year In Review 2021

I just wanted to point out a couple of things:

  1. This overview is only available on the mobile app. Desktop users are out of luck.
  2. The overview and statistics is only available in animated form. You can’t stop the animation nor can you browse the pages in a normal fashion. The presentation is utterly and completely accessibility-unfriendly. You can only screenshot a page as it slides by.
  3. Although the version from 2020 suffered from the same... [More]

Kindle Books Written by AIs Vol.2021.4

Published on in Books

This is the latest roundup of book titles that my Kindle shows me when I’m not reading it. Long ago, I considered paying to turn off this advertising, but it’s proven to be so entertaining that I’m happy I never gave in.

This is a view into what people are reading or what Amazon would like people to be reading or … whatever. I simply observe and catalog. I also sometimes have to hide my Kindle in public places so that no-one calls the police for what they think I’m reading.

Bethlehem, NC... [More]

Your personal offer from UPC

Published on in Design

I’m in the market for a mobile plan, so my wife forwarded me a link to this page at UPC:

 Dein Persönliches Angebot

I’ve taken the liberty of adding some notes to the screenshot, but I’ll also list them here:

  • They write that this offer is for me, personally, but there is no identifying information in the URL or cookies. This page looks the same in a private window. Stop lying to me, UPC. This offer is for literally anyone who stumbles across this page.[1]
  • I was kind of shocked to see that WhatsApp is given preferential... [More]

State of CSS 2021

Published on in Programming

I just finished reading through the State of CSS 2021. It’s a well-presented[1] summary of a developer survey about CSS.

I liked the following sections:

Features
the sub-sections have a pretty fine-grained listing of CSS features, usage, caniuse and MDN links, if you’re interested in finding out what you might be missing…or want to be smug about all of the CSS features you know about and use.
Technologies
The rankings in the sub-sections are broken down by “Satisfaction”, “Interest”, “Usage”,... [More]

Setting Salomon S9 12 TI ski bindings

Published on in Sports

Every time I want to adjust my ski bindings, I (A) remember how easy it was to adjust them last time and (B) forget how it worked.

It is very easy to adjust the binding for boot length.

  1. Get a flathead screwdriver
  2. Place the screwdriver under the thick metal tab (found below the large flathead screw)
  3. Lever the screwdriver up to lift the tab
  4. Slide the binding assembly backward or forward to suit the boot size[1]
  5. Make sure that the assembly clicks back into place

 Setting Salomon S9 12 TI ski bindings − insert screwdriver

 Setting Salomon S9 12 TI ski bindings − lift screwdriver

Click either of the images to... [More]

earthli.com moves to HostFactory

Published on in earthli.com

After 16 years hosted at Encodo Systems, earthli has moved from an Ubuntu VM to Web Hosting at HostFactory.

The move went very smoothly, although there are always a bunch of things to remember, especially when you haven’t changed servers for a long time—and especially when changing from a dedicated VM/server to shared web hosting. Thankfully, web hosting is a great fit for earthli because a dedicated server is quite expensive, starting at about CHF35.-/month. I took a look at cloud-based... [More]