Going Retro

After talking with a friend who had commented about my two NES cartridges on my bookshelf, I decided to get in touch with my childhood roots. Playing Zelda.

I started off with OpenEMU, an open source multi system video game emulator for Mac OSX. It was pretty easy to get going on my Mac Mini that powers my TV. I loaded it up with some Zroms from CoolROM.com and paired a Wii remote I had lying around and got busy with The Legend of Zelda.

Map created by http://nesmaps.com

I was able to run though the game pretty quickly once I enabled the cheat codes on OpenEMU. The game got insanely tough near the end and my thumbs were getting tired of walking and farming rupees.

But I still wanted more! OpenEMU doesn’t support Nintendo 64 roms, yet. Some quick searching lead me to Mupen64plus, a open source Nintendo 64 emulator. The application is a bit unconventional, and extracts two shell scripts and an .App file which does nothing by itself, into a folder. Place the folder in your /Applications directory and open a terminal. cd to the folder, /Applications/mupen64plus/ and run the ./rice.sh or ./glide.sh then the /path/to/your/rom.n64 and enter.
The two configs are written for different video plugins and work differently for each Rom. See a full list of game compatibility here.

Playing n64 roms on a Mac keyboard can be pretty tough and the Wii controller isn’t any better. After some looking around Mupen64plus supports Xbox controllers, and I so happened to have one with a cable. However their documentation is a bit vague for Mac and external link to support for mac is dead with no cache. A little digging around you can find the config file in your /Applications/mupen64plus/Contents/Resources/InputAutoCfg.ini. Paste the config from this recent bug issue here, which proposes they update the config files to support his controller mappings for Xbox controllers on Mac. Install the Xbox 360 controller drivers from here. The maintainer hasn’t updated in several years, but the drivers still work on OSX 10.9.5 for me.

Load up your favorite rom, learn the wacky key mappings, or alter them yourself and remember the glory days.

rm -rf / time

Such a terrifying but beautiful command. So short and simple and it will destroy a whole system. I have never experienced it myself before, but many people who are friends have had their systems hacked and compromised have had this done to them.

It is my last week at my current position before I get laid off, and I wont be needing this dev VM anymore, why not? I had a Ubuntu 14 server running Logstash and some other misc tools. The time server is obviously wrong, but it wont matter much soon.

I wanted to login via SSH and run top just to see how much actual usage goes into the data removal.

Here goes nothing.

Ubuntu has some fail-safes built in. So lets just bypass those.

Let it run!
busy and denied

It only took about 1 min for my Ubuntu machine to finish running thought everything.

So what now?

I read this article a while back about what CAN you do with a machine that has been rm -rf’d. He shows some quick and neat bash tricks to rebuild some basic commands like ls, cat, and curl. But for the most part, your machines toast except for whats in RAM.

I built his ls command ls() { printf '%s\n' ${1:+${1%/}/}*; } and jumped around the server a bit. mySQLd and sshd daemons still pop to the top of the process list and the system is still running stable considering it wasn’t running anything special. But it wont be fine after reboot.

So much for my dev machine.
grub error

We were meant to do great things

Photo borrowed from: http://simplewyrdings.com/2013/04/are-hospital-designers-sadists/lax-hallway/
We weren’t meant to do cool things, but GREAT THINGS!

This talk has been given so many times, but sometimes it never hurts to read it again.

As I wrap up the past 6 months of my life I wanted to leave it with something to look back on. I worked a contract with a government contractor. Something that was very new to me and very challenging for me. Not much in the tech frame of mind, but working with different types of people. People can be really tough sometimes. What has been a resonating factor over the past year of my life is communication is the key to any successful relationship. Whether it is a relationship with your boss, or your spouse, without it, life becomes a blundering ball of confusion.

I digress, I have done some pretty spectacular things here at Raytheon. I have fixed some things that no one ever knew was broken. And I will not get a single ounce of credit for it. So when I tell people that I am moving on, they get frustrated or upset. But I tell them I will be OK. At the end of the day, I smile because I did some pretty cool stuff here, but I will leave here and I will go and do great things.

When you can’t convince anyone of anything.

I’m not normally one to bitch about things in such a public forum. As the saying goes, once its on the internet, its on the internet FOREVER.

I read this amazing article today that really touched me.
Opinion: The unspoken truth about managing geeks.
by Jeff Ello, September 8, 2009 (Computerworld).

It’s all about respect

Few people notice this, but for IT groups respect is the currency of the realm. IT pros do not squander this currency. Those whom they do not believe are worthy of their respect might instead be treated to professional courtesy, a friendly demeanor or the acceptance of authority. Gaining respect is not a matter of being the boss and has nothing to do with being likeable or sociable; whether you talk, eat or smell right; or any measure that isn’t directly related to the work. The amount of respect an IT pro pays someone is a measure of how tolerable that person is when it comes to getting things done, including the elegance and practicality of his solutions and suggestions. IT pros always and without fail, quietly self-organize around those who make the work easier, while shunning those who make the work harder, independent of the organizational chart.

He goes on to talk about five other major stereotypes about IT admins, and for the most part, he’s right. Well at least about me. I respect a lot of people at work, but as soon as they make my life difficult. But more so lately, people have been moving in the opposite direction. I am finding myself losing respect for the people I respected the most. Mostly because of the way they think, maybe because of the way the organization I am in is built.

Last week I attended DEFCON and of all the IT conferences, DEFCON has to have the most stereotypes. There are countless stories on the forums of people getting drunk and doing totally unacceptable things, stealing golf carts, throwing Red Bull’s off the penthouse suite, and sticking fingers where they totally don’t belong. But all these stories are dramatised to make DEFCON look like this crazy hacker conference where the dark lords of their mothers basements come to play DnD and party. 99% of the people that attended this year, from what I felt, were genuine hard working IT people that had normal day jobs just like everyone else. Not only that, the talks were stunning, from hacking EoL hardware via the UART, from GTV Hackers to how to the politicains see hackers, and how we need to change the way we talk from Christopher Soghoian ‏@csoghoian. It wasn’t about how to cause chaos, or a fuck the government party. It was a genuine conference, and it was a blast.

The company I work for would pretty much care less about innovation from the IT department, they are still arguing over which is the superior Hypervisor.

If I have learned anything in this year its that there are some battles you’re going to win, and some that you are going to loose. For now, I haven’t given up on teach people things. But I’m done talking about the new stuff I saw at DEFCON at work.

Think Tank, you’re underselling yourself.

My old bag, notice the broken strap.

My old bag, notice the broken strap.

During Christmas my wonderful girlfriend got me new, and long overdue, camera bag for my gear. My old bag came inherited from my uncle who had put it though hell. After owning it for a year the left backpack strap finally broke. She did some pretty extensive research on her own and came to the Case Logic Laptop Backpack SLRC-206-BLACK as my x-mas pressent. After a few weeks of looking at it and playing with configuration. I decided this bag just isn’t for me… And so with that, we put it back in the box and returned it to Amazon. We were back on the hunt for another bag.

Over the next few weeks I did some pretty heavy reviewing of bags. But one thing really stood out for me with the Case Logic she had got me was that it was a great bag, but it just didn’t support big glass and big cameras. The camera I shoot with is a Canon 5D mk II with a battery grip, imitating the size of a Canon 1D, which without a lens is pretty big. A really popular bag which came close was the AmazonBasics-Backpack. Amazons knows best when it comes to knowing what their customers want. But it really isn’t suited for big glass. So I figured thats where I would start. With a little Google searches I stumbled across Ron Martinsen Blog reviewing two Think Tank bags. Understandably, Ron is a pro photographer. What really got sold me in his post was that the Glass Taxi was too small for all of his glass. If your bag is too small for all of your glass, you have a seriously first world problems. Personally, I only own a few pieces of glass, and therefore the Glass Taxi would suit me well, for now and the future.

Its TINY!!!Heres the thing with the Glass Taxi. The online reviews, Think Tanks website and specs, Rons Blog, nothing prepared me for getting this bag in the mail, because its TINY! I couldn’t fit a 15″ Macbook in this bag, but it will fit a 1D with a 70-200 with the hood, and lots lots more.

AccessoriesUpon opening it there are accessories falling out of the thing, and your thinking, “I didn’t sign up for this, assembly required?”. Oh yeah, you betcha. Remember in highschool when we had to carry backpack around with a ton of straps hanging off each side? Well Glass Taxi has them too, and you only put them on if you want them. So you can go from simple 2 strap, 1 strap, cargo bag 1 strap, or you can make it a hiking bag. But lastly, whats this blue thing? Its a rain cover, and its made so you can put your straps though it too. Its like it was made just for me.

Bag OpenOnce you get it all open and the accessories removed, its actually quite chic. I went from the bright orange of the Case Logic to a mild gray that isn’t soft or gruff, but the perfect amount of texture to keep your gear from sliding around and won’t keep the dirt from showing through. Oh did I mention, slots galore! On Think Tanks website, in the photos it shows the bag full of gear. They give you 5 big and 3 medium separators, and a center to off center the bag for the big f/2.8 70-200. U Strap for large lensesThe last separators are a custom U-shaped with a strap on top, also a bottom foam ring to lock in a f/2.8 400mm and f/4.0 500mm lens’ without a camera body. Those are seriously big lenses, and if you have ever used them, you know they are a pain to get around in their standard hard cases. (Note: According to Think Tank’s pamphlet, the only lens that will fit with the camera body attached is f/2.8 300mm. But I will try the f/2.8 400mm next time I borrow my uncles and update this post.) However you would need to remove all the other separators to use the bag like that.

I got my gear all packed in and sealed it up. The only thing I wasn’t able to fit was my flash diffuser, but If I flipped the lens hood around I am sure I could squeeze it in. My only qualm with the bag is that is has no real “pockets”. It has a single internal pocket with a small single velcro in the center holding it shut, where smaller items could easily fall out the sides going up and down opening and closing the bag. And that could be fixed with another small pouch inside. Also, this bag is not built for accessories. If thats what you want they have add on modules.

Altogether this bag is wonderfully designed. Its quite sturdy for the overall empty weight of the bag. The padding is top notch as I mentioned before, its not super soft, but it your gear would be safe in an accidental drop. When its all zipped up, the bag is quite snug with my 5D & battery pack and 70-200 attached, and the zipper isn’t hard to pull. It really is all the small things that bring this bag together to make it one of the most awesome bags I have ever played with. And I used to work at a camera store.

If you like the compact style and only travel with a few lens’ then this bag is for you. But if you own all of Canons or Nikons catalogue and travel with it also. You might want to consider something far bigger. But the great thing is that this bag is built to do anything, rain or shine. Lets just see if it will stand up to my level of wear and tear. Check out the bag here: Glass Taxi

My new bag, all snug and happy.

My new bag, all snug and happy.

CSS and jQuery

I took my own advice and logged back into GA’s Dash system.
(dash.ga.co). The first tutorial on the site is pretty straight forward. And their system for doing the tutorials is pretty rock solid.

RobotAfter a few hours of running through the course, they outline some pretty new and cool things with CSS3. Like the new border features, like the border-radius, a property which allows you to skew your photo from a square border to a completely round one. There are all sorts of new things you can do now in CSS that I never knew. Much more since I learned in high school.

After you run though a few assignments, one of the final projects is making a CSS robot. It’s not really practical, which they explain in the course, but building it helped me learn about how you can use DIV’s and other CSS switches and techniques I had previously never thought about. After the robot is built, they do a really great job at breaking down some JavaScript commands. What each part of the commands do, to make the robots eyes blink, and make the background rotate colors, then how they all link together, HTML, CSS, and jQuery.

The free tutorials are pretty awesome, and you get a CSS robot out of it.Oh and here’s my CSS Robot!

HTML and CSS are pretty fun, but now it is time for something a little different. I think it is time to make the backend work.

Let’s Review

After much reading and talking amongst my peers, I realized that I should be investing some time into coding more. There seems to be no reason why I haven’t stayed with coding. After all, I did sort of start in high school when I was running the school website.

Code SampleSo let’s review. Yesterday I attended a 90min web app class in Santa Monica with General Assembly (@GA). Even though the class wasn’t what I had expected, and we landed far from making a web app, I got to review a lot of familiar HTML and CSS basics, and some Java and a short introduction to jQuery. General Assembly is pretty great for this kind of stuff. They are always throwing intro classes or mixers to get people to come take their full schedule classes, which can be pretty pricey. You can also check out their online step-by-step tutorials at dash.generalassemb.ly for free.

I didn’t get to make anything fancy, but it works, and I am proud of that much.
Here is my simple color switcher and the Javascript code.

Over the next 30 days, weekends excluded, I want to see how far I can get. From covering HTML to advanced scripting. And after all that, see where I end up.

Now onto something a bit more advanced…

I’ve Always Wanted to Cross that Bridge

Hyperion-Glendale Bridge

Hyperion-Glendale Bridge

Map Overview

Map Overview

There is this bridge that crosses the 5 freeway here in Los Angeles. I drive under it every time I go to the valley to visit my brother and once again on the way back. Last weekend I said why not, and I walked across it. The bridge is the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. Built in 1927 and used more than ever today, it spans quite a bit, from the LA River, the 5 Freeway, Riverside Drive, and then up the hill to go under Waverly Drive.

You can park atop Waverly Drive and walk down to the pathway on Hyperion. There is a well traveled pathway on the north side of the bridge and I crossed due north-east. On the other end of the bridge there is an old set of stairs that you can walk down to get to street level and then enter the Los Angeles River Bike Path, where I headed to the Sunnynook Footbridge. Some pretty amazing views and quite a lot of waterfowl; A few great egrets, great blue heron, and several cormorants among lots of ducks and geese.

North Sunnynook Bridge Crossing the 5

North Sunnynook Bridge

Right in line with the Sunnynook Footbridge is another pedestrian bridge that crosses back over the 5 freeway completely covered in ivy and shrubbery.

In just a short trip, there is a lot to see. Heading back, I think its lunch time.

We headed down Sunset Blvd, only to find it closed off due to a street fair only a block from our destination. But we made it around and the place was busy as ever. Sage Vegan Bistro. The website’s a little cumbersome and loads slowly, even on my fast connection, but where they lack in website design, they make up with food. #sageveganbistro

BBQ Tofu Steak

BBQ Tofu Steak

Biscuits and Gravy

Biscuits and Gravy

Gluten-Free Biscuits & Gravy served with walnut sausage and Barbecue Tofu Steak served over vegetables and quinoa topped with chipotle cream sauce and tortilla strips, pretty amazing and very filling.

Afterwards not to let up on the urban adventure, walk down the way to peek our heads in several boutiques including the notorious Origami Records. We wandered not too far from Sunset over to Chinatown, and into the LA’s Renegade Craft Fair. Too many people and way too much dust for a camera, so I opted to leave it in the car. After, we drove around for a tad looking and admiring the The North Broadway Bridge, another 1900 era bridge, that spanned the Metro rail yard. We decided to cross it and explore some more before the sun left for the day.

110 South Walkway

110 South Walkway

Cruising up into Elysian Park, which in the 80’s & 90’s was a major drug den for the the homeless and gang related activities. But today, I can say it’s quite nice now. We saw lots of people walking their dogs, jogging, and kids playing. I’m glad to see the city start to change in ways like this. We parked and took in the sights. I really wanted to try and get some good pictures of the Figueroa Street Tunnels, which are more widely known today as the 110 Northbound lanes before the 5 freeway. They were built as a lane for faster traffic that was using the North Boradway Brige, as it was one of the only connections from Pasadena into Downtown Los Angeles. After a bit we parked atop the Elysian Park Dr and walked down to the side of the 110 South Bound lanes. And well, there is a path all along the freeway. We walked it for a bit and came to a path that walked up to the mouth of one of the Street Tunnels. I didn’t know most of the paths were still accessible and easy to get at, you just have to look for them. I never knew there was so much history in how Los Angeles was built hidden right in front of us.

We wrapped it up, as it was getting dark. Today was a great day in LA.

See the full album here:

Goodnight LA

Goodnight LA

It’s Time to Pivot!

Left Below

Left Below

So I grew up in the SouthBay of the greater Los Angeles area, where tech was a privilege in my household. I remember our first computer was a Dell, p3, 128 megs of ram, that thing was fast! For the time it wasn’t bad. My brother and I slowly upgraded and maxed it out and it served as my mom’s solitaire machine up until a few years ago when I moved her from XP to windows 7.

For as long as I can remember we always ran Windows. Everyone had a Windows laptop up until a few years ago, and now all you see for miles at conferences are MacBooks after MacBook Airs. You also have to chuckle at the few people that that bring their honking 27″ iMacs to show their product. But even I drank the Kool-Aid a few years ago and I transitioned from PC to Mac, I Pivoted, if you will. Here in LA we have become obsessed with the BUZZwords. Like its no longer ‘Santa Monica, West LA“, but a much fancier, Silicon Beach! But I digress, a few years ago I remember getting my Mac, at the time being helpdesk tech support for an all-Windows consulting company. One day my boss came to me with a task. He really needed me to do this with the utmost detail. And he could only trust me to do it, since I was the only one on the team that, “Knew Mac”. He needed me to upgrade the OS on a client’s machine, they were like the number two at the company. So it was a big deal at the time. I went, I did the time machine backup and I pressed upgrade. Needless to say, if you have ever seen a Mac OS install, it’s pretty straight forward.

So here we are today, it’s been almost nine years since high school when I dove in and started working in the IT world. Back then it was irrational to be running all Linux environments within a company. But the word on the street today is Windows Servers are dead. You heard me, d-e-a-d, dead. Sure people still use Windows and will for years to come, but everyone has pivoted to newer and faster tech that just simply works. Developers can grab a MacBook Air off the shelf and be coding in 15 mins, and sure you can do that with a Windows PC, but Apple makes it so dang easy! So that is starting to be the way with servers also. Amazon Web Services has made setting up a development environment so fast, it would be stupid not to use CentOS or Ubuntu to grow your environment with all the Open Source apps that are available.

So what am I getting at? Well it has been a fun ride Windows, but I think it’s time we pivoted and all left you behind. My MCSA means pretty much nothing to employers now, but if I know AWS, node.js, heroku, mongoDB, hadoop, django, puppet, chef, and the list goes on of the new technologies startups are going goo-goo ga-ga for. So now until the new year, I am going to try and learn as much new tech as I can, and post about it, so others like myself don’t get left below.