Caveat: rootless

Sometimes I work on my server. I have been trying to automate the map-rendering job for the geofiction site I built, that until now I’ve had to run manually. The problem I ran into comes down to permissions. Who knew that even the infamous Linux ‘root’ user is sometimes not the right person for the job? Emphasis added to the excerpt of the log file, below.

INFO: Total execution time: 16621 milliseconds.
Stopping renderd (via systemctl): renderd.service.
osm2pgsql version 0.95.0-dev (64 bit id space)

Using lua based tag processing pipeline with script ~/src/openstreetmap-carto/openstreetmap-carto.lua
Using projection SRS 3857 (Spherical Mercator)
Osm2pgsql failed due to ERROR: Connection to database failed: FATAL:  role "root" does not exist

It took me all day to figure this out. Not that I was working on it, exactly. Art and I went to town, did our shopping, came home, ate dinner. All the while, I was cogitating on this problem, and how it matched up with the results I was(n’t) seeing. And then, sitting there, it clicked.

These are the more pleasing moments of computer work – when a seemingly intractable problem presents itself and you work it through in your mind and you solve it. After it clicked, I came and opened the log file and saw the error, above, and it was an easy fix to the bash script.

Caveat: debate-o-matic

One of the subjects that I taught to my students in Korea that I considered most valuable, both for the English skills it engendered as well as for general thinking ability, was debate.

I was the “debate teacher,” and I was well-known for even turning lessons otherwise structured into impromptu debates. The kids mostly seemed to get something out of it.

So now… they’re trying to make an AI (artificial intelligence) that can do debate – in the same way that we have machines now that play chess or baduk (“go”), that diagnose medical conditions or explore other planets. This is just another small step.

I watched this video.

I am both disappointed and impressed. This is often the case when confronting these odd black boxes that computer engineers are constructing these days. They can seem preternaturally smart and eerily stupid at the same time. The AI participating in this debate clearly had a lot of facts to hand, and was reasonably competent at marshaling them in a well-structured argument. But it missed the key thrust of its human opponent’s argument, and thus its rebuttal almost failed to make sense. I was somewhat annoyed that the moderators, who spent time afterward discussing what they’d just done, failed to bring this up.

Caveat: Tree #259

I had a frustrating day, trying to repair my map server. I’m not sure if I’ve repaired it, now, but I got into one of those obsessive mindsets that made me recall that in fact, Arthur and I behave quite similarly around computers. Although I think I don’t cuss quite as much as he does. It seems to kind of work. Something amiss with the database.

In darkness, in rain, trees still lurk.


picture[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: Tree #257

It has been one of those rainy days that just demotivates a person. I have been spending some time installing some programming tools on my desktop and server, while I wait for my enrollment process to move forward for the University of Alaska Southeast Teacher Certification program. I suppose I’m more and more feeling that in the long run, I may end up doing computer work, and it would be smart to keep my skills up. Frustrated with the Eclipse IDE, I decided to try out VSCode, which is Microsoft’s entry to the Open Source IDE market. It’s a kind of weird reversal, running Microsoft software on a Linux machine. But so far it seems to work better than the buggy Eclipse.

A tree I saw the other day. Not very well focused.


picture[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: There, in the calm of some Platonic dream

This poem, below, was not written by a human being, as best I understand. It was written by one of those new “learning algorithm” AIs (Artificial Intelligences), where you give the AI a large pile of “training data” (i.e. in this case, a vast corpus of human-written poetry) and then say, more or less, “OK, give me a new one like that.” It works similarly to the way google-translate manages to make sense out of changing one language to another, without actually understanding a damn thing. It’s statistics, writ large.

Methinks I see her in her blissful dreams:
Or, fancy-like, in some mirage she lies,
Majestic yet majestic, and of seems
The image of the unconquerable skies.

Methinks I see her in her blissful dreams:
—Or, fancy-like, in some majestic cell,
Where lordly seraphs strew their balmy dreams
On the still night, or in their golden shell.

There, in the calm of some Platonic dream,
Sits she, and views the unclouded moon arise
Like a fair lady full of realms divine;

And, all at once, a stony face and bright
Glittering in moonlight, like the noon-tints of a night.

I found it, and other AI-generated poetry, on the slatestarcodex blog.

All very interesting.


Caveat: Backend changes

I’ve been a bit anti-social lately – more so than usual. I’m struggling with the feeling that my life is “on hold.”

So I’ve retreated into some computer stuff I probably could have done quite a while ago.

I’ve created a new host-space for my blog-photos, which doesn’t affect the blog’s appearance but which solves a problem that I’ve had since last fall, when I was forced to migrate from my prior blog hosting provider (Typepad) to my own wordpress platform, due to the former’s technical intransigence and poor support.

So all new photos are at my new host-space (also self-hosted on my own server, now). Unfortunately, there is no fast way (that I’ve figured out, yet), to update all the old photos. So that will be a slow migration. There are 1000s of photos on this blog, given its more than 6000 entries. They are about 60-70% on the new host-space, but most of the “URL pointers” still point to the old host-space. So I need a fast find-replace for those URLs. I’m working on that. And for the third or so that are still in limbo on the Typepad version of the blog, it’ll be an even slower slog – they need to be “rescued” from there, hopefully before I’m forced to pay another year’s membership to prevent them from being lost forever. Typepad, being a for-profit business, provides no easy way to get these photos in bulk – you must open each one and save it, one-by-one.

I’m also working on learning (re-learning? did I ever know it?) some basics of Ruby on Rails programming, so that I can move forward on some web platforms I’d been messing with before leaving with Korea, and that have been on hold for the last year or so. I’m trying to get Eclipse IDE to work with the remote server, but it seems very buggy. I need to maybe find a different IDE.

What I’m listening to right now.

Joan Baez, “Silver Dagger.”


Don’t sing love songs, you’ll wake my mother
She’s sleeping here right by my side
And in her right hand a silver dagger
She says that I can’t be your bride

“All men are false”, says my mother
“They’ll tell you wicked, lovin’ lies
The very next evening, they’ll court another
Leave you alone to pine and sigh”

My daddy is a handsome devil
He’s got a chain five miles long
And on every link a heart does dangle
Of another maid he’s loved and wronged

Go court another tender maiden
And hope that she will be your wife
For I’ve been warned, and I’ve decided
To sleep alone all of my life

Caveat: W(h)ither the blogs?

I had a horrible panic today. My blog(s) disappeared. My whole server disappeared. I couldn’t even access the “back end” via SSH, nor could I reboot it on the hosting website.


I’ve been lazy, the past few months. I had no current backup files. The most recent backup was what I had made before leaving on the huge road trip, in November. That would be 4 months of blogging disappeared, if the server was trashed.

I opened a help ticket with the hosting provider.

After several hours, it turned out to be a problem at the provider. The host machine, where my virtual server lives, had some technical issue, I guess. Maybe a guy tripped on an extension cord. Who knows.

Anyway, nothing was lost. But it was a stressful panic.

I have subsequently created up-to-date backups for both blogs, and some other data on my server. I also decided to invest in a $5 / month backup plan. Who knows, maybe my server host arranged this crash to drive business to the backup plan business? *Shrug*

Such is life.

Caveat: Typepad broke my heart (and, not incidentally, broke my blog) today.

I found out today that my blog host, Typepad, has altered a functionality upon which I have relied heavily. I have, for the last 4 years, been hosting all my pictures "off-site" relative to the blog. This helps me keep them organized, helps me keep control of them from an "intellectual property" standpoint, and makes it easier to be "disaster resistant" in the event of problems with data integrity at the blog hosting server. 

It relies, however, on the blog host software respecting the integrity of the out-linking URLs for all those pictures.

If you scan through my blog today, you will see that all my picture links are broken. ALL OF THEM. Typepad doesn't approve of the link protocol of my picture-hosting server (i.e. it's "h t t p" rather than "https"). [And holy crap! – it's using some kludgey rewrite on the actual text of my blog entries – I can't even MENTION "h t t p" without it being "corrected" – hence the spaces in the mentions, here. So it's not only bad policy, it's bad programming, too!]

I have two possible solutions.

1) Migrate my photos to a different server, so that the links will work again (the current picture server doesn't accommodate the new, supposedly "more secure" URLs that Typepad is forcing on me)

2) Migrate my blog to a different host. All of it.

Both of these represent a lot of work.

I feel I can no longer trust my blog host with my data, however.

So much for the "lifetime guarantee." I have been with Typepad for 14 years. I had some intuition that it would come to a bad end, but I had hoped against hope it wouldn't. Such hopes were unfounded, as we can see.

I guess I have a new project to work on, to procrastinate on my taxes.

[daily log: walking, 4km]

Caveat: Oh windows registry, how I missed thee!

One thing I did when I was in Portland two weeks ago was I bought a new laptop computer. I wanted to buy in the US because I could get a laptop with the Windows operating system in English – if you buy a laptop in Korea, it will speak Korean to you (meaning all the system error messages, all the setup and config, etc.), and Microsoft has a ridiculous policy whereby if you want to change an operating system's language, you have to buy the operating system again!

The reason to buy in Oregon, specifically, is that Oregon has no sales tax. So I bought the computer there. And now I have it here in Korea.

After more or less being content with my Linux-based resurrection of my old Korean desktop, it's a bit rough transitioning my computer habits back to Windows. Of course, I use Korean-speaking Windows at work, but I won't be taking my desktop back to the US, so I needed a new laptop for all my home-based stuff, especially my geofictioning and server-development hobby, such as it is. 

Windows 10 is smooth and professional, of course, but it really gets on my nerves. It makes assumptions about the way a person might want to work, which run counter to how I prefer to work.

I have hacked the registry numerous times, already, to get it to behave the way I want. In each case, the steps are as follows: 1) hack the registry to make visible some system option that is already built into the system, 2) set the option the way I want. Why do they hide these options? 

First and foremost, I had to kill off the deeply annoying Cortana. What is this, Clippy on opioids? Smooth but insidious, I was compelled to kill it off during my first hours of ownership. I have since had to find ways to prevent the system from insisting on connecting to my Microsoft account (if I want to share things with Microsoft, I'll do so on a case by case basis, right?), to prevent it from going to screen saver when I leave my computer unattended (how is this not a default-accessible option?), and to better manage how it behaves with respect to its power-management options. 

Sigh. I'll get used to it. 

Meanwhile, just for the heck of it, I got it running dual monitors, by hooking the laptop up to my desktop monitor as well as the laptop's. Thus, in the picture below, I can do email and websurfing on one monitor, while I hack around on my server on the other monitor.


[daily log: walking, 7.5km]

Caveat: Gitsoft

Microsoft is buying GitHub. If you've never worked in the field of software development or systems administration, this is meaningless to you. GitHub, however, is a remarkable and important website if you do things with computers at the level development. In my recent adventures with setting up my own fully functional Ubuntu server running the "OSM stack", GitHub was nigh indispensable.

My take on this acquisition can be simplified as follows:

  1. Good for Microsoft: looks like I won't be selling my Microsoft stock anytime soon. Like the company's other gestures toward the Linux ecosystem (e.g. SQL Server for Linux, the bash shell for Windows), it shows that the bigwigs at MS "get" where the best devs are at. Devs appear to be in the driver's seat in Redmond, and it shows in many of their decisions.
  2. Bad for me: in my role as a free software consumer, I'm preemptively depressed. At some point, gates are likely to appear on this once-upon-a-time opensource Mecca. Should I close my GitHub account now, or wait for Microsoft to send me a notification about my "free upgrade to a paid account" in the uncertain future?

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: maybe just stroll in the spring drizzle

I suppose I always have a bit of doldrums around the equinox.

This past weekend was singularly frustrating. I was trying do computer things, with my little server. Trying to port an application I was playing with to a different database. And I just failed to figure it out. I guess I'm doing this computer stuff partly to challenge myself, because I've grown frustrated with my other "hobbies," such as they are (e.g. learning Korean, the geofiction thing, writing). So then I feel frustrated with this, too. So I have to just back off and let myself be "unproductive" I guess.

I'll go out and stroll in the spring drizzle.

[daily log: walking, 7.5km]

Caveat: In the mud

[This is cross-posted from my other blog.]

This isn't exactly geofiction, but I was messing around with a new project on my server.

Way back in the day (I am somewhat old), I used to play MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons). These are text-based computer games of various kinds – no graphics at all. They're a kind interactive "choose your own adventure" text, you might say. But the game mechanics in them are the ancestors of modern MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft, and there are even conceptual connections to Grand Theft Auto or Minecraft.

MUDs are quite old – they existed on mainframes at businesses and universities before PCs were even a thing, starting in the 1960s. Because of my family's connection to the local university, I was a rare child of the 1970s who actually played computer games before PCs were invented! These were MUDs and other text-based games.

When I noticed I had my own server up and running, it occured to me that I could build a MUD. Possibly, it's not even that hard. Sure enough, there is open-source software that will run a MUD on a server for you.

I chose a package called CoffeeMud. I'm still messing with it. It's very unlikely I'll ever do anything with it. But I had this domain-name, "", lying around, so I thought, sure, make a MUD.

  _    _        _  _  _            _      _
| |  | |      | || || |          (_)    | |
| |__| |  ___ | || || |__   _ __  _   __| |  __ _   ___
|  __  | / _ \| || || '_ \ | '__|| | / _` | / _` | / _ \
| |  | ||  __/| || || |_) || |   | || (_| || (_| ||  __/
|_|  |_| \___||_||_||_.__/ |_|   |_| \__,_| \__, | \___|
__/ |                   |___/
Powered by CoffeeMud v5.9

I originally acquired the "" domain for a quite different purpose: It was intended to be a "satire-website" for a place where I once worked, which had a name where "Hellbridge" was a similar sound but darker connotation. But looking at it now, I thought it would make a great name for a MUD. So there it is.

I liked the CoffeeMud package because the admin and config of the site is mostly done from within the game. That's cool. So I create an "Archon" character, who is like God. I walk around the MUD and type "Create chair" and a chair falls from the sky. Likewise with any other object, room, monster, or character class. That's fun.

The Archon character is created in the empty, default "Fresh Install" room, by reading a book that is placed there. I read the book and I became a God.

Nice book. Note the stats jump in the prompt.

<20Hp 100m 100mv> read book
The manual glows softly, enveloping you in its magical energy.
The book vanishes out of your hands.
<1403Hp 571m 595mv>

It's not live yet. It may never be. But meanwhile, I thought it was interesting to try it out.

It's a little bit like geofiction – you're creating an imaginary world, after all.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: rich in entropy

We live in a weird era. Entropy has become a kind of commodity in and of itself.

In all this messing around with my new server… with trying out new things and tinkering with it all… well, of course I have to educate myself a bit about server security. It's a big, bad world out there, and if I'm going to be running a server that's publicly visible on the internet (offering up webpages, etc.) the little machine will be lonely and vulnerable, and I have to think about how to protect it from bots and blackhats.

In the field of network security, one thing that comes up is that you have to have some fundamental understanding of the types of cryptography used these days to secure systems. There's a whole infrastructure around generating "secure" public and private keys that computers hoard and exchange with one another to authenticate themselves. I really DON'T understand this, but I wade through the documentation as I e.g. try to set up a certificate authority on my server, because some of the things I'm running there apparently require it. I run the commands they tell me to, and hopefully my little server is sorta secure. But who knows.

I was fascinated to learn, however, about a thing that is used in crypto key generation on computers: system "entropy."

On one site I was looking at, there was a discussion about the fact that virtual machines (the sorts you rent from big companies to run cheap little servers, as I have done) have extremely low "available entropy" while your typical crummy desktop has very high "available entropy" – therefore when I generate my keys, I should do so on my desktop, not my server – I can upload the generated keys to my server later.

I think it's kind of a funny concept. The mass-produced, cookie-cutter, high quality, reliable servers found on the giant server farms are lacking in a certain commodity that they desperately need for their security: entropy. So the admins have to go out to their desktops to get the entropy they need. I sit here and I listen to my cruddy, 7 year old Jooyontech Korean PC-clone desktop, with its perpetually failing CPU fan groaning intermittently and the weird system noises filtering though the sound channel onto my speakers, and I can rest assured that that's all part and parcel of having lots and lots of good, tasty entropy that I can feed to my server in the form of so many sweet, generated security keys.

One site I was reading said that typical desktop entropy should be around 2000 (in whatever units entropy is measured with…).

Out of curiosity, I plugged in the Linux command that would tell me my system's entropy. I got 3770. Wow! I'm rich! … in entropy, anyway.

Meanwhile, my server, a virtual machine in some well-air-conditioned server farm facility across the Pacific in California, manages only 325 units of entropy. So sad. The chaos-poor, withered fruits of conformity.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: A more technical summary of how I built my tileserver – part 2 (cross-post)

[The following is a direct cross-post from my other blog – just so you don't think I'm doing nothing with my free time, these days.]

The objective

I started discussing the coastline shapefile problem in first post.

Early on, I found the tool called QGIS Browser and installed it on my desktop. I used this to examine the shapefiles I was creating.

The first step was to look at the "real Earth" OpenStreetMap-provided shapefiles I was trying to emulate – the two mentioned in my previous post:

Here are screenshots of each one.

First, land_polygons.shp

And here is simplified_land_polygons.shp

The structure is pretty straightforward, but – how do I make these? Where do they come from? – aside from the non-useful explanation found most places, which is that "OpenStreetMap generates them from the data".

The coastline problem

The way that the shapefiles are generated for OpenStreetMap are not well documented. But after looking around, I found a tool on github (a software code-sharing site) developed by one of the OpenStreetMap gods, Jochen Topf. It is called osmcoastline, which seemed to be the right way to proceed. I imagined (though I don't actually know this) that this is what's being used on the OpenStreetMap website to generate these shapefiles.

The first thing I had to do was get the osmcoastline tool working, which was not trivial, because apparently a lot of its components and prerequisites are not in their most up-to-date or compatible versions in the Ubuntu default repositories.

So for many of the most important parts, I needed to download each chunk of source code and compile them, one by one. Here is the detailed breakdown (in case someone is trying to find how to do this).

Installing osmcoastline

I followed the instructions on the github site (, but had to compile my own version of things more than that site implied was necessary. Note that there are other prerequisites not listed below here, like git, which can be gotten via standard repositories, e.g. using apt-get on Ubuntu. What follows took about a day to figure out, with many false starts and incompatible installs, uninstalls, re-installs, as I figured out which things needed up-to-date versions and which could use the repository versions.

I have a directory called src on my user home directory on my server. So first I went there to do all this work.
cd ~/src

I added these utilities:
sudo apt-get install libboost-program-options-dev libboost-dev libprotobuf-dev protobuf-compiler libosmpbf-dev zlib1g-dev libexpat1-dev cmake libutfcpp-dev zlib1g-dev libgdal1-dev libgeos-dev sqlite3 pandoc

I got the most up-to-date version of libosmium (which did not require compile because it's just a collections of headers):
git clone

Then I had to install protozero (and the repository version seemed incompatible, so I had to go back, uninstall, and compile my own, like this):

Git the files…
git clone
Then compile it…
cd protozero

mkdir build

cd build

cmake ..



sudo make install

I had to do the same for the osmium toolset:

Git the files…
git clone
Then compile it…
cd osmium-tool

mkdir build

cd build

cmake ..


That takes care of the prerequisites. Installing in the tool itself is the same process, though:

Git the files…
git clone
Then compile it…
cd osmcoastline

mkdir build

cd build

cmake ..


I had to test the osmcoastline tool:

Using osmcoastline for OGF data

So now I had to try it out. Bear in mind that each command line below took several hours (even days!) of trial and error before I figured out what I was doing. So what you see looks simple, but it took me a long time to figure out. In each case, after making the shapefile, I would copy it over to my desktop and look at it, using the QGIS browser tool. This helped me get an in intuitive, visual feel of what it was I was creating, and helped me understand the processes better. I'll put in screenshots of the resulting QGIS Browser shapefile preview.

To start out, I decided to use the OGF (OpenGeofiction) planet file. This was because the shapefiles were clearly being successfully generated on the site, but I didn't have access to them – so it seemed the right level of challenge to try to replicate the process. It took me a few days to figure it out. Here's what I found.

Just running the osmcoastline tool in what you might call "regular" mode (but with the right projection!) got me a set of files that looked right. Here's the command line invocation I used:
YOUR-PATH/src/osmcoastline/build/src/osmcoastline --verbose --srs=3857 --overwrite --output-lines --output-polygons=both --output-rings --output-database "YOUR-PATH/data/ogf-coastlines-split.db" "YOUR-PATH/data/ogf-planet.osm.pbf"

Then you turn the mini self-contained database file into a shapefile set using a utility called ogr2ogr (I guess part of osmium?):
ogr2ogr -f "ESRI Shapefile" land_polygons.shp ogf-coastlines-split.db land_polygons

This gives a set of four files




Here is a view of the .shp file in the QGIS Browser. Looks good.

I copied these files into the /openstreetmap-carto/data/land-polygons-split-3857/ directory, and I tried to run renderd. This alone doesn't show the expected "ghost" of the OGF continenents, though. Clearly the simplified_land_polygons.shp are also needed.

So now I experimented, and finally got something "simplified" by running the following command line invocation (note setting of –max-points=0, which apparently prevents the fractal-like subdivision of complex shapes – technically this is not really "simplified" but the end result seemed to satisfy the osm-carto requirements):
YOUR-PATH/src/osmcoastline/build/src/osmcoastline --verbose --srs=3857 --overwrite --output-lines --output-rings --max-points=0 --output-database "YOUR-PATH/data/ogf-coastlines-unsplit.db" "YOUR-PATH/data/ogf-planet.osm.pbf"

Again, make the database file into shapefiles:
ogr2ogr -f "ESRI Shapefile" simplified_land_polygons.shp ogf-coastlines-unsplit.db land_polygons

This gives another set of four files




And this .shp looks like this:

Now when I copied these files to the /openstreetmap-carto/data/simplified-land-polygons-complete-3857/ directory, and re-ran renderd, I got a successful ghosting of the continents in the render (no screenshot, sorry, I forgot to take one).

Using osmcoastline for my own data

Now I simply repeated the above, in every respect, but substituing my own rahet-planet.osm.pbf file for the ogf-planet.osm.pbf file above. I got the following shapefiles:



And these, copied to the appropriate osm-carto data directory locations, gives me the beautiful render you see now.

[Unfortunately, the leaflet script kludge that I once had working before for this typepad-hosted blog doesn't seem to be working (not allowing me to add raw javascript to my entry), so I can't replicate the slippy-map window here. But the slippy-map shows up in the original blog post that this blog post is a copy of, and of course you can see the slippy map in all its glory at (this is a test instance and may be subject to link-rot, however).]

I actually suspect this way that I did it is not the completely "right" way to do things. My main objective was to give the osm-carto shapefiles it would find satisfactory – it was not to try to reverse-engineer the actual OSM or OGF "coastline" processes.

There may be something kludgey about using the output of the second coastline run in the above two instances as the "simplified" shapefile, and this kludge might break if the Rahet or OGF planet coastlines were more complex, as they are for "Real Earth." But I'll save that problem for a future day.

A more immediate shapefile-based project would be to build north and south pole icecaps for Rahet, in parallel with the "Real Earth" Antarctic icesheets that I disabled for the current set-up. You can see where the icecaps belong – they are both sea-basins for the planet Rahet, but they are filled with glacial ice, cf. Antarctica's probably below-sea-level central basin. And the planet Mahhal (my other planet) will require immense ice caps on both poles, down to about 45° latitude, since the planet is much colder than Earth or Rahet (tropical Mahhal has a climate similar to Alaska or Norway).

Happy mapping.

Music to map by: Café Tacuba, "El Borrego."

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Geofictician

I decided to start a separate blog on my new website.

There is a long history of me creating new "blogs" for one specific purpose or another. The longest-lived of my alternate blogs was the one I maintained for my job and students for several years. That blog still exists but it's largely dormant.

The reason for this new blog is that, although I don't mind sharing my geofiction activities here on this blog, I'm not sure how open I want to be about the rest of my life with fellow members of the geofiction community where I participate. That is, do they want to see or do they care to see my poetry, my ruminations of day-to-day classroom life, my oddball videos and proverb decipherments? 

Since I think it's better to keep those things separate, I decided to make a separate blog. I also did it just to support the "technical unity" (if you will) of the website I've been constructing. 

I may develop a habit of allowing the things I post on that other blog to appear here, but not vice versa. This blog would be the comprehensive "all Jared" blog, while that would be a kind of filtered version for the geofiction community. 

Anyway, here's the blog (, which currently has 4 posts, created over the weekend. Note that it seems like this blog will be fairly technical, representing the most abstruse aspects of my bizarre and embarrassing hobby, which might be termed "computational geofiction."

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Logofication

GF Logo

I designed a "logo" for my new website, this morning. The drawing is not really original – it's a free-hand consolidation of several images found online. For all that, I'm moderately pleased with the result, as a first draft.

I'm least happy with the vertical lettering – but the constraints of the drawn image, combined with fact that the logo needs to be square, made this the most reasonable approach, I thought. I'll work on it more, at some point.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: more hackings

Lately, I feel like I've been "on a roll" with respect to technical undertakings. And meanwhile, my creative efforts have been falling painfully flat. So I've shifted my efforts in my free time from creative work (writing, my geofictions, etc.) to computer tinkering. This is the sort of behavior that led to an entire somewhat-successful but ultimately stressful career in the 2000s.

I decided, in light of this, to go ahead and invest a few dollars a month in a hosted Linux Ubuntu Server. In fact, I already have another hosted server, but it's on Windows, which I'm less skilled at hacking, and mostly I use it as a ftp spot for backing up my data and as an image server for my blog.

Having an Ubuntu server allows me to deploy actual websites and apps rather than just have them running on my desktop. And, frankly, a hosted server is a lot more reliable than my desktop – assuming I don't blow it up through some hackerish ineptitude. 

So I clicked "Buy" early this morning and I made a server. 

I got one of my long-neglected domain names pointed to it: I hope to get other of my domains pointed there too, over time. I have a half-dozen domains that I basically barely use:, (my old business), (which points to this blog), etc.

So far, all that's installed is a skeleton of a mediawiki instance (i.e. an "empty" wikipedia, basically). That's because those things are really easy to install and give a very professional-looking result "out of the box." I'll see what else I can get installed, later.

Here's a link:

See? It's really there.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: No getting off this machine

I decided to spend the day making a backup file of this here blog thingy™. That's 14 MB of just text – not even counting the pictures, which should be backed up separately (and which I still need to work on, because there's no quick extract of those files, except in the case of the newer ones where I proactively adopted a more back-up-able storage method).

That's what I get for 13 years of blogging.

Then, just for the hell of it, since I happen to have a webserver (apache) and appropriate database (MySQL) running on my desktop at the moment, I hacked together a wordpress instance and "published" a clone of my blog on my desktop, just to prove I still have a few technical skills. It took me about 3 hours to get a passable instance (sans local pictures) up and running. Anyway, I can say that as long as I keep my backups up-to-date, my blog is fully recoverable even if my bloghosting company meets a bad end for whatever reason. Here's a screenshot of the CAVEATDVMPTRVCK doppelgänger I slapped together:


What I'm listening to right now.

Younger Brother, "Train."


The world flashing past
So many others moving so fast
I feel my heart slow
As we go under I don't bow down
Nothing left undecided
Upon steel on steel
Through these cuts in me I've
No question who was here first
Many dreams many lifetimes
Any of which could be me
Accept that I'm the one unable to move upon this machine
Upon this machine

On a caravan in motion
Alone in crowds just like me
I fell between the moments
I fell between the ideas
Cuz when it runs around the windows
Nothing here is still
All the patterns colliding
Through these villages and hills
So many dreams so many lifetimes
Any of which could be me
Accept that I'm the one unable to move upon this machine

There's no one else, no one else, no one else, no one else
There's no one else, no one else, no one else, no one else

There's no one else, no one else, no one else, no one can help me now
Help me I'm stuck in this moving thing
Nothing is what it seems
No getting off this machine

[daily log: walking, a little]

Caveat: At Cave…

Today is one of those typical middle-of-the-week one day holidays: Korean independence day (which is to say, on March 1, 1919, Koreans declared independence – but they didn't achieve it until 1945 when the Americans nuked Japan).

I celebrate my own potential for independence by sitting and lurking in my little 9th floor cave, spending far too much time "hacking" on my computer.

I guess I see the value in doing this, in that I keep up an alternative set of skills, should this current "career" as a teacher ever become unsustainable for whatever reason.

So… I have been installing some development and deployment tools: I have both PostgreSQL and MySQL databases running, I have the mediawiki instance running, and now I have the nice Ruby-based open-source GIS web package up and running: the OpenStreetMap architecture, with both presentation (website with google-style "slippy map", but just on my desktop so far) and back-end (map tile generation – very rough, but working), though I haven't yet figured out how to customize or personalize it in any way – I have literally NEVER done anything with Ruby (website development language) before today. But… well, a website is a website, right? How hard can it be to figure out?

I think the next step is to install some kind of IDE. So far, I've just been doing everything with the linux terminal and gedit (a text editor like Windows' notepad).  I have never been fond of IDEs, but I doubt it's possible to work with anything of this level of complexity in the old, "hacker" style. I did use IDEs for my SQL dev work in the 2000s (mostly Visual Studio).

[daily log: walking, from directory to directory on my too-small hard drive]

Caveat: en es ko

Well, it took me more than six months to get around to it, but over this past weekend I finally resurrected my Linux desktop. I had managed to break it while trying to expand the size of the linux OS partition on my hard drive, and had been too lazy to go in and rescue all the old files and resurrect it. Instead, all this time have been unhappily limping along with the Windows 7 "Korea" edition that was native to my home desktop PC. I guess from a day-to-day "surf the internet" functionality, it was fine, but lately I've been wanting to get back to doing something more productive with some programming (er…  really just hacking around with things) in support of my moribund geofiction hobby. As such, having a functional Ubuntu Linux desktop is pretty much indispensable.

In fact, once I'd backed up all my files to an external drive, which was merely tedious, the re-install was mostly painless. As before, the most painful thing for me with Linux is language and keyboard support issues. I cannot function, now, without having Korean and Spanish language keyboard options – I still do some writing in Spanish, of course, and although my Korean remains lousy in qualitative terms, it's nevertheless a ubiquitous aspect of my daily existence, and being able to type it comfortably is essential.

Each time I try to get the Korean keyboard and language options to work on a Linux install, it goes differently. It feels like a kind of hit-or-miss affair, where I keep trying various gadgets and settings in all possible combinations until I get one that works. This inevitable confusion was not helped by the fact that unlike last time, where I used Ubuntu's native "Unity" desktop, I opted this time to try the so-called Cinnamon desktop (part of the "Mint" distro, a fork of Ubuntu). This was because I'd heard that Unity was not much longer for this world, and that Canonical (the creators of Ubuntu) intended to go out of the desktop-making biz.

Linux (at least these Ubuntu distros) make a distinction between "language setting" (which is fundamentally useless for controlling how the system reads the keyboard, as far as I can tell) and "input method" – which is what you need. But these two subsystems don't seem to talk to each other very well.

The peculiar result I achieved after a few hours of dinking around, this time, is possibly unique in the entire world. I have my Ubuntu 16.04 with Cinnamon desktop, where the "system language" is English, the "regionalization" is Korean, the "keyboard" is Spanish, and the "input method" is Korean. This is pretty weird, because my physical keyboard is, of course, Korean. So for my regular day-to-day typing, the keys (except the letters proper) don't match, since all the diacritics and symbols and such are arranged quite differently on a Spanish keyboard. But I've always been adept at touch typing, and I know the Spanish layout mostly by heart. Then when I want to type Korean, I hit the "hangul" key (which the "Spanish keyboard" can't "see" since Spanish keyboards don't have "hangul" keys) and that triggers the Korean part of the IBus input widget, and I can type Korean. It sounds bizarre, but it's the most comfortable arrangement of keyboard settings I've ever managed, since there's never any need to use a "super" shortcut of some kind to toggle between languages – they're all running more-or-less on top of each other in a big jumble instead of being segregated out.

I hate to say it, but I didn't take notes as to how I got here – so I can't even tell you. I just kept trying different combinations of settings until one worked. I messed with the "Language Support", the "IBus Preferences", the "Keyboard" (under "System Settings), and the System Tray.

Anyway, I took a screenshot of my system tray, where you can see the whole resultant mess in a single summary snapshot.


I now have a full-fledged Mediawiki instance up-and-running on the desktop (you can visualize a sort of "empty" wikipedia – all the software, but no information added into it). I've even configured the OGF-customized "slippy map" embeds for it (I managed that once on this here blog, too). I'm currently trying to get a PostgreSQL database instance working – MySQL is running but PostgreSQL has better GIS support, which is something I'm interested in having.

So there, you see a sometime hobby of mine, in action once again after a sort of winter hibernation, I guess.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Don’t tell God your plans

I finally got motivated to repair my linux desktop that I broke about 6 months ago. So… I'm obsessively messing around with config files and various arcana of Ubuntu Linux.

What I'm listening to right now.

David Bowie, "No Control."


Stay away from the future
Back away from the light
It's all deranged – no control

Sit tight in your corner
Don't tell God your plans
It's all deranged
No control

If I could control tomorrow's haze
The darkened shore wouldn't bother me
If I can't control the web we weave
My life will be lost in the fallen leaves

Every single move's uncertain
Don't tell God your plans
It's all deranged
No control

I should live my life on bended knee
If I can't control my destiny
You've gotta have a scheme
You've gotta have a plan
In the world of today, for tomorrow's man

No control

Stay away from the future
Don't tell God your plans
It's all deranged
No control

Forbidden words, deafen me
In memory, no control
See how far a sinful man
Burns his tracks, his bloody robes
You've gotta have a scheme
You've gotta have a plan
In the world of today, for tomorrow's man

I should live my life on bended knee
If I can't control my destiny
No control I can't believe I've no control
It's all deranged

I can't believe I've no control
It's all deranged

[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: Disassembly


One thing I spent some time on over my little holiday was in trying to cannibalize my old notebook computer.

I had this idea I could take out the hard drive and install it into my desktop. The notebook computer is the one I bought immediately prior to coming to Korea, in 2007, so it is 10 years old. The screen died a few years ago so I quit using it, but I had it lying around with this idea to salvage the hard drive, and I finally attempted it.

I succeeded in extracting it, and plugged it into my desktop (using the CD/DVD drive connectors – they're all standard connections, and plug together like legos). But the drive was unreadable. I guess it decayed or froze up or something.

Anyway it was fun taking the old notebook apart. In the picture: the hard drive on the lower right, the CPU is the little square thing in the middle right. It was a good computer, and served me well. At one point, I had it running three operating systems (triple boot: Linux, Windows 97, Windows Server). 

[daily log: walking, 7km]