Meeting room geek lights

I have been giving more thought to the meeting room occupancy display. Right now I am considering what would be a minimal presentation. There are 2 reasons for this. The first is that the problem is not about showing details of who has reserved the room, but, instead, is the room free for squatting and, if so, for how long? The second problem is a technical one and that is the display device should run for weeks on a single battery charge. (I am assuming no mains electricity.)

So here is the new display.


Each light, red and green, represents 10 minutes of time. The display shows a total of 2 hours of time. The above display indicates that the room is reserved for another 40 minutes, free for the following 60 minutes. and then occupied for at least 20 minutes -- it could be more, but the display can't indicate for how much more.


Here the room is free for another 20 minutes, then reserved for 30 minutes, and the free again for at last 70 minutes.

The more I look at this the more I think that this is the solution.

The spotter stood still ...

The spotter stood still bracing himself against in the swirling sands of the desert winds. It was not sight but sound that caught his attention first. Once again, the people of the Rough needed to defend themselves against the Coppers. The Rough had only a ruined city and salvaged armaments to defend with. The Coppers had everything else ... except the will to never give up.

A setting for an Horizon Wars miniatures wargame.

Meeting room occupancy project

We have an issue with staff not reserving meeting rooms. You know the situation, team High-Strung did reserve the room, but when they arrive they find that team Anarchist has squatted and are well into their arguments discussions. I don't include myself in the "we," by the way. I am happy to meet sitting on the floor with a big pad of paper between the participants. Anyway, it got me thinking about how technology can be used to exasperate this problem. For example, a display at the door to each meeting room that told folks if the room was reserved, for how much longer, who was using the room next, and lastly a list of reservations for today and tomorrow. Or, better yet, some ambient situation awareness device like Illumigami.

Before reinventing the wheel I did look around for a tool like this. What I found was a market of crazy, obese, gold plated implementations that actually cost money and often often lots of it. I don't object to making money from software, but not from something so simple as this, that is something that requires hardly more than a single web page. And so the development began.

The webapp is in its very early stages of development. I have just touched the surface of the Google Calendar API and its use within a HTML/JS page. At this point I am only concerned with the mechanics and so have made little attempt to make the UI useable. My goal with the UI is to have a tablet by each meeting room running a browser in "kiosk" mode and only showing the meeting room page. The page will show the events for a user who has authorized and selected a calendar.

If you want a side project and are interested in working on this with me to complete it the project is at A live version is running at

An unfortunate choice of title

There is a new dark ages set of wargame rules out called Blood Eagle. While I know that I play a game that represents an immoral, cruel, and bloody human activity, but to name a game after one of its more heinous acts were the warrior
would have their spine column exposed and then their ribs severed from the spine and pulled open (to resemble wings). Finally the lungs were exposed (and in some instances covered in salt) to complete the torture and lead to the death of the prisoner. (source)
is too much for me. I won't be playing that game.

DNS records for site split between Blogger and colocation server

This posting is mostly here to remind me how to configure the DNS records for a site where the www subdomain's content is hosted by Blogger and other subdomains are hosted by my colocation server.

DNS A record

Host Points To TTL
@ 111.222.333.444 1 hour

DNS CNAME records

Host Points To TTL
* @ 1 hour
www 1 hour
X 1 hour

Where X and Y are given by Google/Blogger.

When I figure out the MX records I will update this page!


In a previous posting I wrote about using "splinters" to represent the kind of deadfall you find in the woods and bogs. I spent more energy that I care to admit settling on a source for the splinters: block planer shavings, chainsaw chunks, drill bit waste, ... In the end I used the dried up branches one drives over time and again on the driveway. A hand full of this material will spread out to a square foot of forest floor. Just split off a chunk, flatten it a few times with a hammer, and then pull it apart.

Preparing two more tables for May's Great Swamp Wargamers game night

Preparing two more tables tops for May's Great Swamp Wargamers game night. The table tops are 4'×3' hardboard glued and nailed on a framework made from 2"×1" pine boards. The edges are blue-taped to keep them clean until the terraforming is done. The terraforming is a simple process of

  1. Glue down any surface features. In this case, I am using "splinters" to give the appearance of deadfall found in a bog or forest floor.
  2. Paint the whole surface with an earth brown.
  3. Paint the surface features as needed. In this case a "wet" brown.
The remaining surface features are added in reverse order. That is, if you want daisies then put down the yellow flowers first, then add the grass, and finally add the dirt. The goal is that the items added first will absorb most of the glue so that when you get to step 8 what is on top will fall off.
  1. Using a spray bottle coat the entire surface with watered-down white glue -- about 1 part glue to 3 parts water. Use a spray bottle rather than a brush as it will apply a more even coating. A brush tends to leave ridges.
  2. Using a sieve apply a pattern of grass. When using Woodland Scenics's fine turf add some coarse turf to the sieve to slow the casting of the fine turf. If you don't do this then you tend to get mounds of turf rather than an even application. 
  3. Using a sieve apply to the remaining (non-grass) areas dirt. I use dirt from my yard that has been baked for an hour at 400° F to kill off the microbes. 
  4. When dry, turn the tabletop upside down and tap to remove excess grass and dirt.
  5. Finish with several applications of watered-down white glue or spray clear coat to fix the grass and dirt and make it resilient to playing on. I use a pressurized hand sprayer that is normally used for spraying insecticide. It can apply an even coat of the glue. The tabletop is noticeably wet after each spraying, but I do this outside on a warm day so that the glue drys before penetrating the hardboard.

Java 8 is not Java

Java 8 is not Java. Java 8 is a good tool. Java's shift towards being a functional language is unstoppable. Java, however, as a principled, strongly typed, object-oriented, imperative programing language is no more. I have heard the argument that as a developer I can stick with Java 7 syntax using -source 7, but this is not practical. Libraries will evolve to use use functional practices. Old bugs will only be fixed in these evolved libraries. As functional practices becomes ever more rooted in the libraries their use from Java 7's syntax will become ever more cumbersome and perhaps impossible. If you want to continue developing in Java then you and your team will have to evolve with it.

So these days I am thinking ever more about what language to move to. I think the perspective of my employer would be to remain with a language targeting the JVM. I haven't asked, but I know well enough its conservative approach to solutions. The software architect in me would like to pick a language that is more aligned with a fail fast approach to service runtime and its corollary of needing to start fast.

Lots of folks at this week's O'Reilly Software Architecture conference in NYC are favoring Go (commonly called "golang" to make the conversation clearer and searchable). That it compiles to a binary (and even a statically linked binary) for direct execution on the host is a significant boost to start fast. Starting slow would be your architect's fault: Too much in-process preparation and not enough just in time initialization or not enough externalization of functionality into a service. I will look at Go and its libraries. I do worry that is the new black, like Ruby was several years ago.

Its handheld not handsheld, people.

Finally, a sane design for a handheld device! The Kindle Oasis. Hopefully it rotates for lefties and for righties when writing notes on paper.

2D6 percentage dice

Sometime ago I found online a discussion about using D6 dice to simulate percentage dice. Unfortunately, I did not keep a link to the discussion. Anyway, I wanted to add my 2 cents and so here it is. You can use 2 D6 to compute a value over the 1 to 100 percentage range. The two dice, A and B, are treated as base 6 1st and 2nd place values. The range is 0 to 35, ie, ( A - 1 ) * 6 + ( B - 1 ), and so the percentage step is roughly 2.7%. This seems like enough granularity for most games using percentage dice. The lookup table is

Source code.

Fuck you Wizards of the Coast! Let me play Magic!

I want to practice Magic the Gathering and so using one of Wizards of the Coast's applications seems like a good way to proceed. Now remember that Magic is a card game, let me spell that out C A R D G A M E, and so one would presume that the software is not too hard to write and it would have minimal requirements of the host machine. "No fucking way," says Wizards of the Coast (aka Hasbro) 'cause we are all about you buying more stuff. So, to be clear, ...

"No, you can't use that 2012 Windows 7 machine because you don't have enough graphics RAM."

"No, you can't use that 2014 MacBook Pro because we don't support Steam for OS X."

"No, you can't use that same 2014 MacBook Pro with a Windows virtual machine either you looser."

"No, you can't use that iPad Mini 1 because, well, we hate you."

Dear Wizards of the Coast, I want to play your game. I want to buy your cards. I will even buy your card sleeves. And buy them all again every 3 months. But I am not buying another computer to play a fucking card game!

The Internet is composed of unspoken inner thoughts

When will people figure out that the Internet is composed mostly of the unspoken inner thoughts of the ignorant, confused, bigoted, depressed, bored troublemakers? Evidence? See Boaty McBoatface and Tay.

Weekend Workbench 2016-03-19

This weekend's workbench was moving the workbench. Well, what I was using was not a workbench but the end of a large table that is also used for gaming, the kids homework, boardgames, and other activities that need to spread out. I had intended to move to a small table that I bought at Ikea a few months ago, but decided it would require that I add a back and sides and shelves and ... well it was beginning to become a bureau. I not did want to put that much time into that kind of project right now.

Next to my computer desk is a second computer desk. This had an old Mac Mini that the kids used to play on and do some homework with. Since they got Chromebooks, however, they really have not touched it. Its last use was for Minecraft, but even that obsession has past. So, I decided to repurpose the desk for modeling.

I packed up all the computer equipment, including two ancient x86 towers, added overhead lighting, and moved over the modeling stuff. I am glad I made this choice. The table is 6' x 2.5'ish so there is plenty of width and just enough depth. I have a couple of Ikea flat files for holding my unpainted figure, modeling bits, and infrequently used tools so I have a good amount of storage. I will likely build something akin to Linn/Darbin Orvar's small parts organizer caddy in the coming months.

So, back to painting those 6mm Vikings and Anglo-Saxons. Which, I have to admit, I might never finish. They are just not that much fun to paint. At this point I am thinking that for 6mm figures I will send them out to be painted. At 30¢ to 80¢ per figure a few hundred would be $100 to $200. Well worth the cost.

Staples and large format prints

A reminder that Staples prints large format (eg 36"×48"), black and white, engineering drawings at a very reasonable cost. They is currently having a sale on printing 24"×36" engineering drawings for $3.59. So, the next time you want a map of your dungeon crawl, space combat40K coloring poster, or you have the need to Feel the Bern (source) get it printed at Staples Copy & Print.

Confirming my market socialism tendencies

Posted to confirm my market socialism tendencies.

A mostly disorganized and violent tennis match audience

I am going to say it. I hate the giant spaulders, that bulbous shoulder armor, that so many 40K and Warmachine figures & factions have. I like my fantasy armies to have some grounding in practicality. How can the fighter use peripheral vision to see anything to his or her left and right? Will fantasy combat newsreel footage look like a mostly disorganized and violent tennis match audience? Heads wildly swinging from left to right and back again as they attempt to keep aware of the battlefield! Or perhaps spaulders are just the result of retinitis pigmentosa becoming rampant along with other degenerative, inheritable DNA mutations -- like shoulders wide enough to hold up the damned things. I should pity them.

Ok, back to your normal work.

(And yes, I am well aware that the Cryx Bane Thralls I bought have them. And yes, I feel the hypocrisy.)

Slack, "Jump to conversation", and a global shortcut

Slack's "Jump to conversation" Cmd-K shortcut is really useful to quickly contact one of our burgeoning staff or channels. Unfortunately, Cmd-K only works when Slack is the front-most application. Further, since Slack does not provide a "Jump to conversation" menu item you can't use the Keyboard System Preferences to make a global shortcut. So I wrote a small Service, SlackCommandK.workflow [1], that when run sends a Command-K to Slack. I then assigned it the Ctr-Cmd-K global shortcut. (I need to add Ctr as Cmd-K is used in other applications and their use of Cmd-K trumps the global use.)

To use the service download it, unzip it, launch it, give permission [2], install it, and then go to the Keyboard System Preferences to add the Ctr-Cmd-K shortcut.

[1] This is how tiny it is
tell application "Slack" to activate
tell application "System Events"
    keystroke "k" using command down
end tell
[2] Since this Service is not signed you will also need to override the default restriction on unsigned applications using the Security & Privacy System Preference. Go to its General tab and press Open Anyway button next to the text
"SlackCommandK.workflow" was blocked from opening because it is not from an identified developer."

I needed a quick and dirty worker pool within bash. Easy parallelization with Bash in Linux worked well. In short,

create-a-stream-of-bash-commands | xargs --max-procs=3 -I CMD bash -c CMD
A friend observed that dogs don't know disappointment. They always try again with joyful expectation.

Where did that data come from?

I have several reporting scripts that send me email overnight. When receiving such an email it is useful to know its origins. Using something like Rundesk that centralizes a catalog of scripts to be run on machines would be best, but I am not yet prepared to install and support this tool. And so, for now, I am just adding a line at the end of each message with its origin using the command
echo -e "\nSource $USER@$HOSTNAME:$(readlink -f $0)" 
which, for the hypothetical script at $HOME/bin/reports/ on host42, outputs
Source ag@host42:/home/ag/bin/reports/