Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thankful

I have plenty, and I'm surely thankful for it.  I also surely wish everybody had what I have.

I'm thankful that my home's water and heat and preposterous amounts of computational power are all available anytime I want them.  I'm thankful for shelves full of books, for anytime I need to unwind and/or sharpen up my brain.  I'm thankful for a garage full of tools and scraps, for anytime I decide I need to create or augment or fix something.  Things!  So many things.  Perhaps too many.  But I'm thankful for having so much literally at my fingertips.  Kim wanted to remove an unusual-shaped security screw recently, and I didn't even need to leave my desk to hand her the tool and bit she needed.  Everybody deserves agency like that.

I'm thankful that I went to school before Columbine and all the shootings since.  Anybody who complains about the cushy lives of modern children callously ignores the truth that a generation has now attended school on a goddamn battlefield.  Kids get interviewed on the news after each of these commonplace tragedies, saying things like "it always felt like if, not when", and I'm at a loss to imagine something more heartbreaking.  I'm thankful that I still have a voice and a vote, I have a set of elected officials to harass, I have fists to clench and feet to march.  I'm thankful that I, that we, still have the chance to reverse insane mistakes and oversights that have been made.

I'm thankful that even as the macro scale of human society is thrashing around in chaos, cracks are forming in the corrupt disorder, and daylight is reaching some of the layers of dirty lies and secrets.  Whether or not we can figure out how to sustainably live in mega-societies, we may at least be fumbling our way through to exposing and removing toxins, both literal and figurative.  Hope is sometimes reduced to a terrifyingly small flicker, but I'm thankful that it feels as though it may be growing brighter.

I'm thankful that I have not gone numb; there is a paralyzing amount of worry to take on, and my wife and I each find it challenging to keep anxiety at bay.  But we've got each other, we've got supportive friends and family, we've got laughter, and sarcasm, and enough disposable income to drink the good liquor.  I truly am thankful for all the bright spots.  I married one, we've adopted some fluffy ones, and we're friends with and related to plenty more.  Speaking of which...

I'm thankful that this year, Kim and I got a new niece and a new nephew!  I'm thankful that they have committed and loving parents and grandparents, good stable homes and everything a person could want by way of family.  Right from the start, these children have all doors open to them, just as I did, and just as all children should have.

Clearly I'm ill at peace with the state my home planet and nation are in, but that takes nothing away from the things I am truly glad of and the real gifts that I have been given.  I am thankful.  As we all deserve to be.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween

Sure, we live in an upside-down surreal hellscape.  We inhabit the darkest and dumbest timeline, where my collection of H. P. Lovecraft stories has been rendered unreadable since they describe such idyllic worlds.  In this so-called reality, even the most gruesome and psychologically-scarring Halloween celebrations are nowhere near as frightening as reading the news.

...But I'll be damned if I'm not going to craft decorations and carve jack-o-lanterns!  These are joyous moments, not to be surrendered!  We will not cede agency over the spooky and/or cute stuff that surrounds our tiny corner of this planet.


Tonight, we fight to reclaim fiction.  Our myths, our ghost stories, our haunted houses deserve better than to be novel distractions from a heartless dominion.
On November 6th, we fight to reclaim non-fiction.  Our streets, our states, our nation deserve better than to be further befouled by power-hungry and hate-fueled madmen.

Happy Halloween, may it bring you glimpses of a more idyllic world, and may we claw our way there together.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Late Late Thirties

So, the last of the thirties is upon me.  In hex, that's "27".  In binary, no new bits are needed, so really by all accounts except for base-10, there's nothing scary going on numerically.  Anyway, here's a brief post to celebrate that another trip around the sun has gone by and I'm still here.

Firstly, a dad joke.  I'm not a dad, unless cats count, but still.  I'm middle-aged and appreciate cheesy humor.
My family got together recently and celebrated a bunch of fall birthdays.  I made the amateur mistake of giving others gifts I myself wanted to receive -- I didn't bring anything.
(That's an entirely true story, but I still want to sincerely thank my various relatives!)

Secondly, something the aforementioned cats gave me today.  I saw a magic trick!

I was feisting with Autumn using a flyswatter (we buy them actual cat toys; it's not our fault they prefer mundane objects and trash) and she ran around the corner.  Immediately she came back around and pounced the flyswatter again, except she had magically turned into Book!  I had to do a double-take and everything, it was pretty spectacular.

Magic trick not pictured, since I didn't know it was coming.

These two mostly get along now, but for a good while there was no chance whatsoever that one of them could magically turn into the other without at least a big hiss giving it away.  Little Autumn's big temper has come a long way, and her bigger-but-younger brother is comfortable enough to do silly things like this now.

Life around here is pretty nice.  One could drive himself crazy thinking about politics or even his own age, but taking it easy and maybe having a nice drink later seems like a much better plan.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

BIOS Cheat Code: SVM on Lenovo Legion Y720T

Occasionally I post things so specific I wonder if anybody but a future me will ever find them helpful or even mildly interesting.  This is perhaps the most esoteric one yet.

I recently got a nice new desktop computer.  Normally I wouldn't bother mentioning the make and model but it's relevant: this is a Lenovo Legion Y720T-34ASU.  It's a big beefy machine with much more plentiful and faster CPUs and GPUs than I've ever owned.  It's ridiculous how much computing power this thing has.

Also ridiculous is that the BIOS disables (and doesn't even surface an option for) virtualization.  KVM, SVM, AMD-V, whatever you call it, the tech is present in the CPUs but unable to be tapped due to an embarrassing and idiotic oversight by Lenovo.  For Lenovo's part, they claim that with Windows 10 Pro, virtualization can be enabled anyway.  I wouldn't know; the first thing I did with this computer was to put Linux on it so that it would actually be useful.  Regardless, omitting this BIOS setting in any modern computer borders on criminal neglect.

Now, I don't need to run VMs very often, so it took me a while to run into and trip over this oversight.  A flurry of posts and attempted support calls later, I had resigned to running VMs remotely on my old beater computer, and doing the old-fashioned X11 remote display routine.  Made me shake my head, but in a pinch, if I needed a virtual machine, I could deal with it.

Then, this morning, there was a reply on a BIOS hacking forum I'd posted to.  Some very clever and kind person figured out, somehow, a way to bypass the limited BIOS interface and enable SVM by force.  They'd done this sort of thing before, enabling locked-away features on various hardware.  I'm hoping this person can teach me to fish, so to speak, because I'd really love to know how they figured this out.

Here is the discussion where all this took place:
https://www.bios-mods.com/forum/Thread-Request-Bios-unlock-for-Lenovo-Legion-Y720T-34ASU

For the sake of multi-basket egg distribution, here are the steps:
  • use a Lenovo Legion Y720T-34ASU (AMD)!  (any other model is a risk I would not take!)
  • extract genius239's rar file to a FAT-formatted USB stick (most are already formatted this way)
    • verify the USB drive contains EFI/BOOT/BOOTX64.EFI folders and file
    • (if that rar becomes unavailable, search for how to make a GRUB EFI Shell bootdisk)
  • reboot and hit f12 at the Lenovo splash screen to enter the boot menu
  • choose your USB drive, UEFI mode (not legacy)
  • at the prompt, enter "setup_var 0x145 0x01" (no quotes, zeroes)
  • that's it!  ctrl+alt+del and boot normally.
And just like that, I could run 64-bit VMs at full speed.  (Or, you know, at all, in VirtualBox's case.)

It's still on Lenovo to deliver a BIOS update that fixes this properly.  Changing any BIOS setting or popping the CMOS battery will clear this change and it will have to be re-applied (which is actually good news to anyone who messes up and gets into trouble, but still).

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Smell

Chunky Milk Productions strikes again!  We made a movie in a weekend, our fourth in as many years.  And this time, we made the "best of" screening, and even won Best Use of Line.   :^)



For way more behind-the-scenes rambling than any sane person would ever read, and for various downloads etc, visit my personal website:
https://penduin.net/48hfp/2018

Our drawn category was "silent film", and the required elements this year were:
  • An illustrator named Sonny or Sunny
  • The line "I wish I knew"
  • A tie (of any sort)
...We won Best Use of Line with a silent movie.  That's exactly the weird sort of thing I love about these projects, and it felt pretty sweet to pick up an award, even such a minor one.

Monday, June 11, 2018

End of Another Era

Today the internet as we know it begins its official retirement from being a powerful tool of individual voices.  It is being actively repurposed to serve instead as a tool of late-capitalist and autocratic forces.

Not that the internet hasn't been in decline as it is.  Not that long ago, nobody could even take a stab at how many significant entities there were on the internet.  Every university, every business, every city, every artist, every enthusiast.  Protocols kept springing up - telnet, email, usenet, FTP, gopher, IRC, HTTP -- there were many ways to use the internet.  Now, you can count off a small handful of for-profit companies and account for an enormous percentage of the internet, both in terms of traffic and ownership.  Non-HTTP (well, HTTPS now) traffic is actively blocked as some kind of scary unknown.  Where there was once a young and curious power widely distributed to anybody with some basic technical chops, there are now giant silos of control, a select few in charge of nearly everything.

Today, the (ill-gotten, illegitimate, incompetent) US government has made the situation much, much worse.

ISPs, gatekeepers of the final mile of the internet, are now free to return to the corrupt practices they were dabbling in before the FCC's Net Neutrality rules were enacted just a few years ago.  Comcast (or any internet service provider, but they are the ones who bought the current, illegitimate FCC) can now treat any internet traffic any way they like.  Somebody tries using a competing service like Amazon Prime or Netflix?  Maybe slow those streams down, unless somebody pays a little extra.  Somebody's going to a site which compares service across various providers?  It's legal now to send them a censored or altered version of the site.  Somebody's accessing a blog which points out the devious practices ISPs are now allowed to employ?  Maybe just return a 404 Not Found instead.  All legal as of today.

ISPs will tell you people like me are chicken little, crying about a non-falling sky.  We had years of no Net Neutrality rules before and everything was fine!  (Well, during those years, the diversity and distribution of information and leverage on the internet dried up, consolidating into the few giants we have now...)  If I was crying wolf about Citizens United, saying a great deal of money will now be spent lying to us, then I'm doing it again now.  Nah, we don't need regulations protecting citizens from greedy monopolies.  How silly!


I've become less and less convinced that even sweeping electoral victories will be able to wrest democracy back from the GOP - authoritarians do not play by the rules, and we've seen over and again the willingness to lie, cheat, and steal every seat, every gerrymandered district, every judicial appointment, every drop of power to the point where there are essentially no legitimate positions or institutions left.  I'm not sure how that can be repaired.  "Money is speech" really did a number on this nation; I'm an optimist at heart but I have a hard time imagining a full recovery.  One thing that hadn't been systematically corrupted was the internet; damaged though it may have been, there was still technically a level playing field, some small venue in life where money did not have a direct exchange rate with power.  Until today.

The US House of Representatives could still put the kibosh on all this and restore Net Neutrality.  86% of the US population is in favor of those protections.  It's not even partisan.  In this day and age!  86%.  But, that would require several Republicans to do their job, and represent the will of their constituents.  I've called mine, and I hope you'll call yours, begging to restore Title II protections and Net Neutrality, but I'm not going to hold my breath.  We know what we're dealing with here.  An irredeemably-corrupt party at the apex of their hostile takeover of what once resembled a republic.  Even with the most inept leadership imaginable, they've managed to chop up and sell off the entire government to the top bidders.  The internet, though a big deal to me, was just one tiny part of all this.

Of some small consolation is that when the United States is officially over, when every last drop of jingoist marketing value has been squeezed from its corpse, I'll at least still live in Minnseota, which is a beautiful place.  We've got our troubles too, but I think we might pull through, more or less intact.  My also-beautiful home state of Wisconsin has got an uphill battle, as it was the testing grounds for the national GOP takeover, but we're already starting to see the rats flee the sinking ship there.  Wisconsinites are no slouches, and you can't fool all of the people all of the time.  It will be tough, and there is a huge amount of damage to be undone, but I hope and think they'll figure things out too.

Things are likely to get worse before they get better, but my hope is that in that time, as more of the voting public will have grown up having active gunman drills in school where I had tornado drills, as the racists and the homophobes and the other piles of fear and ignorance die off, maybe we can overwhelmingly and legitimately get rid of the currently-invincible, infinite-money-wielding autocratic fascists after all.  I just hope there's something left to save.