Diary

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This is both a wiki (a website editable by all) and a blog (an online diary about the stuff Alex Schroeder reads and does). If you’re a friend or relative, you might be interested in reading Life instead of this page. If you’ve come here from an RPG blog, you might want to head over to RPG. There are other similar categories to be found on the SiteMap.

Für Rollenspieler gibt es ebenfalls eine eigene RSP Kategorie.

2017-03-24 New Faces

A few days ago I started wondering whether there was an efficient way to draw new face elements for my face generator on a tablet. I used the iPad, the Apple Pencil, and Procreate, started a new image based on the empty grid I always use, used a separate layer for every kind of element (one layer each for eyes, nose, ears, mouth, chin, hair, and extra), exported the image as a PSD file, used ImageMagick to get at the separate PNG layers, split the PNG layers into the various tiles, made sure the naming conventions were good to go, and here we are.

A few things to note: no effort at categorisation was made. For now, the generator mixes all the elements even if later the long ears will be used for elves only, for example. It’s just a first stab at things. I also feel that there ought to be no gender differences as far as eyes or mouth are concerned because I’m assuming no makeup (or equal use of makeup, I guess). I’d like to see how far I can get with sticking to just the chin and baldness as far as sexual dimorphism goes. I think it might work even though we’re pretty used to makeup and hairdo these days.

Anyway, this is the first time I’m seeing some random faces assembled from my PSD file. The proportions still seem to be off. What’s wrong with these heads. Too small, too round? Need more hair? Men need stronger jaws? Something is still wrong.

Feel free to use my template and give it a try!

If you do it, I’d love to get your PSD file to add to the web app. And I’m hoping you’re as willing as I am to dedicate it to the public domain. That makes it easier for everybody else to just use the generated faces for their character sheets, booklets, or whatever they’re doing.

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2017-03-18 Email is the New Snail Mail

A while ago I wrote about using Reddit as a blogging platform. This is good for people wanting another layer of indirection in order to obfuscate their identity. The person that introduced me to this idea does just that.

Today I argued that there is no point in investing too much into email.

Mail is now but the medium of bills and spam. Messengers are the new mail and some people write very long messages indeed. The need to trust your provider remains but at least the cryptography seems to be solved, I hope? Or close to? I use Threema because it is not tied to a phone number, or WhatsApp as my fallback. Not ideal, but better than email.

Email is fundamentally insecure. And yet for a while I thought that if only I ran my own email server, I’d be a lot safer because the NSA would have to intercept my emails instead of being able to siphon them off a Google server. Remember SSL added and removed here? Well, now I think they probably do intercept most Internet mail traffic.

I ran an email server on a Raspberry Pi for a while and decided to abandon this. The setup of Sendmail or Postfix, Dovecot, SPF1, DKIM, Greylisting, TLS, Spam Assassin, the updates, the issues around certificates, it was a lot of work and in the end I wondered what I was defending against. I feared that my most likely enemy would be common criminals and in that case, relying on Gmail is definitely safer.

You could say that snail mail just the same: bills and spam. And you’d be making my point. I write about two handwritten letters a year to my sister. Everything else is bills and spam. All the banks and insurances and other services I know want to move their billing online, that is to say, to email. Little do they know that half their bills are classified as spam. Not only does my email account get sent bills I don’t want to read, the bills I need fetch the bills I need to pay from the garbage dump of humanity, the Junk and Spam folder. Sad!

In short, email is the new snail mail. And messaging is the new mail. How do I write love messages to my wife? How do people congratulate her on her birthday? How are pictures shared with the family? It’s all messengers. Some are on Threema, some on WhatsApp, some on Facebook Messenger, maybe some are on Signal, but I definitely know that my wife only reads her email once a week or less. Too much spam. Too many newsletters. To much noise. Nobody she cares about reads email.

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What is the difference between Email and a messenger except for the content? Isn’t Email much more versatile? Isn’t it just like being able to send a WhatsApp to Threema and vice versa?

– Stefan 2017-03-19 16:16 UTC


Email is insecure in transit unless you use end to end encryption. The popular messengers all added end to end encryption.

– Alex Schroeder 2017-03-19 16:37 UTC


So it’s a security issue? I’d say that the vast majority of the users of a messenger do not care about security. Otherwise WhatsApp would never have become that popular.

My guess is rather that messengers have become so popular because of the way conversations are displayed. While mails are displayed more or less chronologically, messengers achieve a more natural feeling to a conversation. Furthermore, mails still feel more letter like. This demands a more formal style than the short messenger messages.

– Stefan 2017-03-19 18:40 UTC


Oh, absolutely. My only argument is that there is no point adding encryption to mail anymore because nobody wants to read it anyway.

– AlexSchroeder 2017-03-19 21:30 UTC


Oh, and another link needs to be here: WhatsApp cofounder: Sorry developers, no API for you. He’s trying to avoid the “WhatsApp is full of spam and bills” trap. Yay!

Perhaps that means companies wanting to send secure email might want to invest in encryption. But what they are doing instead is sending emails and telling you that you can pick up the actual “mail” in your “inbox” which lives on their website. Thus, they are in fact leveraging HTTPS to secure their “email” in transit.

– Alex Schroeder 2017-03-20 07:45 UTC


xkcd: Chat Systems

– Alex Schroeder 2017-03-20 08:02 UTC


There is also the property of the email system that it’s the internet’s ultimate method of authentication/identification. If I can access your email, I can reset all of your passwords, use 2FA, etc. I’ve got a feeling, as time goes on, email accounts will turn into largely unused “master accounts” and providers will have a lot of responsibility to maintain a secure service. You could argue we’re at this point already.

– Tom 2017-03-22 18:12 UTC


Indeed. “My 2FA is the forgot my password link.”

– Alex Schroeder 2017-03-23 12:14 UTC

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2017-03-17 Fiber

Yay!

  • March 10, I get an email telling my that our building is now connected to the city’s glass fibre network
  • March 10, I confirmed the order with Init7
  • March 16, a technician inspected the setup
  • March 16, the new modem arrived (FRITZBox 5490)
  • March 17, I’m writing the cancellation for UPC’s copper

Why leave UPC?

  • UPC cooperated with the NSA spying on customers in Austria. (Der Standard, German)
  • I was super annoyed to discover that in addition to the regular service fee of CHF 59.–/mo I have to pay an extra 359.40/yr for the cable itself. Fuuuuuhh! 😠

Total: 1067.40/yr for something called “Internet 100” (the speed test says 82.53 Mbps download, 10.71 Mbps upload)

Why pick Init7?

Total: 777.–/yr for something called “Fiber7” (which supposedly will give me 1 Gbit/sec download and 1 Gbit/sec upload)

Vote with your wallet. Also, 1GB symmetric. Even if you don’t need it, I want to return to a world with decentralized Internet. Having symmetric connections is the first step in the right direction.

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2017-03-13 Swans

Spent two nights in Lugano and saw some swans. The birds are huge.

My favorites:

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New procedure to upload pictures:

rsync --progress --recursive -e 'ssh -p 882' 2017-swans alexschroeder.ch:alexschroeder.ch/gallery/

– Alex Schroeder 2017-03-13 20:54 UTC

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2017-03-10 Google Plus RPG

For the last few years Google+ has been my platform of choice for conversation about role-playing games. But over the recent months I’ve seen a lot of people unhappy with redesign choices made by the G+ team. I don’t know whether this is just people resisting change or whether G+ is in fact going downhill, but I still enjoy the conversation.

One big element for Google+ usage is finding new people to circle. Sadly, circle sharing is no longer supported. Luckily, Claytonian JP made huge list. Sadly, I didn’t make it onto the list. Oh well, can’t be on all the lists. But then I though to myself, I should make my own list. So here goes.

This list includes people that also post about other stuff, but either they use collections (yay!) or because it seemed related enough (video games, movies).

This list does not include people that only post in communities, because circling them will not help you: you need to follow the communities instead. I also skipped people that haven’t posted in a long time with a few rare exceptions.

+John Harper +Oliver Palmer +Charlie Mason +Peter Ceee +Rafael Chandler +Brett Slocum +Logan Knight +Brendan S +Joel Priddy +Jason Lutes +Benjamin Eisenhofer +kirin robinson +Adam Dray +Olav Nygård +Svebor Midzic +Robert Fisher +Jürgen Mayer +Alex Chalk +Ian Wyckoff +Emily Dresner Thornber +Mateo Diaz Torres +Roger GS +Dungeon Contest +A. Miles Davis +Gus L +Arnold K +Martijn Vos +Stasis Engine +Michael Prescott +Reece Carter +Victor Raymond +ktrey parker +Jeff Call +Tim Hartin +Derek Badman

… Ugh, running out of time! I’ll have to finish this list another day.

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2017-03-04 Monster List

Remember the monster manual I’ve been working on? The current status is not so bad:

Ape, GiantBasiliskBearBee, GiantBeetle, Giant BoarBugbearCat, LargeCentaurCentipede, GiantChimeraCrab, GiantCreeperCrocodileDoppelgängerDragonDwarf (NPC)ElephantElf (NPC)EttinGargoyleGhoulGiantGnollGnomeGoblinGolemGorgonGryphonHalfling (NPC)HarpyHellhoundHobgoblinHorseHumanHydraIfritInvisible StalkerJinniLamprey, Giant PsychicLizard, GiantLizard, PeopleLycanthropeManticoreMaridMedusaMinotaurMummyWeasel, GiantWorm, Giant

Basically it’s good enough for me to take the booklet and use it at the table. I’ve already noticed a few things.

  1. The ghoul fear attack is weird and doesn’t work as intended. As I was using ghouls in a recent encounter, they just jumped the party and fought in melee.
  2. I need hags and shamans and other magic users with a bunch of interesting spells as monsters.
  3. While writing the book I’ve started to wonder whether I should just move away from the tricky calculation of monster XP back to the very old 100XP/HD. Sure, suddenly we’re back to gaining levels by killing 20 orcs. But is that such a problem? I don’t think so. Determining what counts as a special ability and what does not is boring.

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2017-03-02 Anonymous Blog

If you want to have a pseudonymous presence online, it can be tricky. One way to do this is to use Reddit. Reddit, you say? Yes. Just ignore almost everybody else on there.

I’ve been following Edward Morbius on Google+ and he has convinced me that Reddit might not be such a bad idea.

Basically what you do is set up an account like /u/kensanata and create your own subreddit like /r/kensanata, and in the subreddit settings you set its type to “restricted: anyone can view, but only some are approved to submit links”.

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2017-02-23 Numbers

I’ve been working on collecting some handwritten digits written by people that don’t write like Americans apparently do: their 1 looks like a single vertical stroke and their 7 has no short, horizontal stroke in the middle. Thus, I wondered how useful a neural network trained on handwritten digits written by Americans would be to me here in Switzerland. And so I started assembling a dataset of handwritten digits!

Now that we have more than 10,000 digits, I think we’re ready accept contributions from anywhere!

If you’re interested in handwritten digits and want an alternative to the MNIST dataset, check it out: Numbers, dedicated to the Public Domain.

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2017-02-22 Moderation

Anil Dash: If Your Website's full of Assholes, it's your fault. (2011)

Robert Niles: If you can't manage comments well, don't offer comments at all. Also: “If the author of an article isn’t willing or able to participate in the discussion about that article, no opportunity for discussion should be offered on the site.” (2010)

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2017-02-22 Facebook

Encouraging individual sovereignty and a healthy commons: «It is not the job of a corporation to “develop the social infrastructure for community” as Mark wants to do. Social infrastructure must belong to the commons, not to giant monopolistic corporations like Facebook. The reason we find ourselves in this mess with ubiquitous surveillance, filter bubbles, and fake news (propaganda) is precisely due to the utter and complete destruction of the public sphere by an oligopoly of private infrastructure that poses as public space. […] [T]he sum total of our various aspects as contained within our biological beings as well as the myriad of technologies that we use to extend our biological abilities. Once we understand this, it follows that we must extend the protections of the self beyond our biological borders to encompass those technologies by which we extend our selves.»

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