Mycroft Mark 1 Extendable for sale

I’m selling a Mycroft Mark 1 Extendable. In a fit of enthusiasm back in 2015 I ordered a 3-pack and, now they’ve arrived, I realise that’s rather overkill, and I just need one to start developing. So I’m selling one of my spares. It’s totally as-new, never been opened except to take the listing photos. It’s the Extendable version, so it has all the ports on the back, unlike the Basic.

Please spread the word to anyone you think might have fun with one :-)

Reasonable Discussion

When I went to Bible college, I learned two things about engaging in debate which struck me as very wise, and have stuck with me since. While I learned them in the context of theology, I’d argue that they apply universally.

The first is that you become properly qualified to critique someone’s position only when you can summarize it in a way which would have that person, were they looking over your shoulder as you write, saying “yes, that’s exactly what I was trying to say”. Ideally, you need to understand their position and rationale for holding it as well as, or even better, than they do themselves. Being able to summarize it well before interacting with it is proof that you have done the work to do this. It will not only make your arguments better, but it will make it much more likely that those who disagree with you might consider and even accept them. Anyone can attack a straw man; however, doing so may lead to cheers from your own side, but is unlikely to win any converts. Attacking straw men is always much easier than interacting with people’s actual nuanced positions and therefore might be said to be a form of virtue signalling.

The second is that you should always engage with a person’s strongest arguments and points, not their weakest ones. If someone writes a piece where 50% of the arguments are, in your view, so weak that they barely require refutation, then you can either refute them anyway, or you can engage with their better arguments and points. We were strongly encouraged to do the latter, for much the same reasons. Refuting bad arguments is much easier than refuting better arguments, but is far less likely to convince anyone who holds the opposing view.

In the context of recent Internet debates, this Medium post was recommended to me as “excellent”. However, it is hard to agree with this assessment given that the first paragraph spectacularly fails the first of the two above tests. (I’d argue much of the rest of the post does as well, but the first paragraph is the clearest example.) And I’d say most of the Internet has joined in that failure, including, shamefully, many reporters who should be able to do better. A rather insightful Twitter commenter (yes, I know, wow) noted that the debate around this document had mostly been a complete waste of time as it involved a version of it which existed only in the imagination of the debaters. I’ve certainly seen many instances where people have claimed the document says things it either does not say, or even explicitly denies.

As for the second test, the difficulty is that the Internet hate machine’s lack of nuance means that if you pull out one or two points and say “these are worthy of further discussion”, it is assumed that you are therefore a wholehearted supporter of everything written, and are treated accordingly. This is not how debate works in a sane society. Still, in ever-present hope that this won’t happen, I think the following two parts of the memo deserve careful consideration:

Viewpoint diversity is arguably the most important type of diversity and political orientation is one of the most fundamental and significant ways in which people view things differently. In highly progressive environments, conservatives are a minority that feel like they need to stay in the closet to avoid open hostility. We should empower those with different ideologies to be able to express themselves. Alienating conservatives is … non-inclusive.

Just as some on the Right deny science that runs counter to the “God > humans > environment” hierarchy (e.g., evolution and climate change) the Left tends to deny science concerning biological differences between people.

Note for the hard of thinking: this post in no way endorses any bits of the memo I did not quote, and the bits I did quote I endorse only so far as to say that they deserve careful consideration.

Spend, Save, Give

We are planning to teach our eldest son, now 5, about the wise use of money using a system called “Spend, Save, Give”.

The child has 3 jars, one with each label. Each week, they get given an amount of money in conveniently-sized coins. They have to put at least a tenth of it into the Give jar. The New Testament does not mandate that Christians give away a specific proportion of their income, but 10%, corresponding to the Old Testament tithe, is widely considered “a good starting point”. They can distribute the rest across the 3 jars as they choose. “Spend” money can be taken out and spent at any time. “Save” money has to be used on a named item of significant price. (We plan to add a feature here – they have to name the item, we write it down, and they can buy it two weeks later if they still want it at that point. This prevents impulse purchases.) “Give” money must be given away – to church or a charity of the child’s choice.

This called for a small making project. You need:

* 3 mason jars with the standard-size neck
* A pack of slotted lids (which I couldn’t find from a UK source – better sources welcome)
* A copy of this handy PDF of labels, wih thanks to “Three Little Monkeys Studio
* A colour printer
* Craft knife, cutting mat, tape etc.

Assembly instructions would be superfluous; here’s the result:

My phone camera is a little distorting; the jars are all the same size :-)

Turns Out, Custom T-Shirts Are Cheap

The final party at the recent Mozilla All Hands, organized by the ever-awesome Brianna Mark, had a “Your Favourite Scientist” theme. I’ve always been incredibly impressed by Charles Babbage, the English father of the digital programmable computer. And he was a Christian, as well. However, I didn’t really want to drag formal evening wear all the way to San Francisco.

Instead, I made some PDFs in 30 minutes and had a Babbage-themed t-shirt made up by VistaPrint, for the surprising and very reasonable sum of around £11, with delivery inside a week. I had no idea one-off custom t-shirts were so cheap. I must think of other uses for this information. Anyway, here’s the front:

and the back:

The diagram is, of course, part of his original plans for his Difference Engline. Terrible joke, but there you go. The font is Tangerine. Sadly, the theme was not as popular as the Steampunk one we did a couple of All Hands ago, and there weren’t that many people in costume. And the Academy of Sciences was cold enough that I had my hoodie on most of the time…

My Addons (2)

My last post on this topic aroused some interest. Here’s the current status of my addons, according to my research.

Name

u

Legacy?

No-e10s?

Solution

Adblock Plus

Y

N

They seem to be working on it. Install from here but you need to disable addon signing.

Bookmarklets Context Menu

N

N

Works

Cleanest Addon
Manager

Y

N

Emailed author, but port very unlikely to be possible due to lack of API to alter chrome

HTTPS
Everywhere

Y

N

They seem to be working on it

JSONView

Y

N

Enable Firefox’s built-in JSON viewer

Mailman-admin-helper

N

N

Works


Qotter Copy & Show

N

N

Works

Send to
Kodi

Y

N

Bug filed, author says he’s planning to do it, but no progress; port should be possible


Vidyo Replay Download

N

N

Works

Wayback Machine

N

N

Works

1-Click YouTube Video
Downloader

Y

Y

Switch to YouTube Video and Audio Downloader

About
Startup

Y

Y

Emailed author: not possible to port to WebExtensions

Activity
Stream

N

N

Works

Advertising Cookie Opt-Out

Y

Y

Replaced by this addon, but that one is still legacy. Asked my Google contact to file a bug.

AutoAuth

Y

Y

Addon has ceased development due to the changes :-(; Chrome option “has a plan for Firefox”.

AutoHiDPI

Y

Y

Bug filed, author will look into it but no progress; port may not be possible due to lack of arbitrary pref API

Expiry
Canary

Y

Y

My addon; I believe it’s not possible to update due to lack of SSL APIs in WebExtensions

geckoprofiler

Y

N

New version available from here

Google
Translator for Firefox

Y

Y

Switch to Google Translator (webextension)

HTTP
Logout

Y

Y

Perhaps some interest; emailed author, who says he has little time

Jidesha

Y

Y

Enables screensharing; not needed since Firefox 52

LinkChecker

Y

Y

Original website gone away; can’t find non-legacy alternative

Live HTTP
Headers

Y

Y

Use Firefox’s dev tools

Mass Password Reset

Y

Y

Abandoned by authors; doesn’t seem like there are password APIs

Min
Vid

N

N

Works

MoCo
Authorizer

Y

Y

Emailed author; seems like some function may be portable but not all

MoCo SSO Tweaks

Y

N

Mozilla is moving away from Okta

No Flash

Y

Y

Bug filed; it may be that the extension is no longer needed

RESTClient

Y

Y

Switch to RESTED

Tab Center

N

N

Works

Test Pilot

N

N

Works

TiddlyWiki for Firefox

Y

Y

Bug filed on e10s work but no progress; porting would be a very big job

UAControl

Y

Y

Switch to User Agent Switcher (revived) and Custom UserAgent String

Ubuntu Modifications

Y

Y

Ignore; doesn’t do anything useful

User Agent Switcher

Y

Y

Switch to User Agent Switcher (revived) and Custom UserAgent String

User Agent JS Fixer

Y

Y

Switch to User Agent Switcher (revived) and Custom UserAgent String

YouTube Downloader – 4K Download

Y

Y

Switch to YouTube Video and Audio Downloader

So the situation is not terrible, but it’s not awesome either. Several useful extensions, particularly those that modify the chrome or the browser behaviour, or which tweak prefs, are simply not replaceable in the new world.

The Wrong Currency

The Labour party have objected strongly to the government “buying” stability in the form of a majority by sending money to Northern Ireland at the request of the 10 DUP MPs, who will now support them.

But it seems their objection is not to the principle, but to the currency. The newly-approved currency for the purchasing of government stability is the blood of unborn children.

Lord, have mercy.

My Addons

Firefox Nightly (will be 56) already no longer supports addons which are not multiprocess-compatible. And Firefox 57 will not support “Legacy” addons – those which use XUL, XPCOM or the Addons SDK. I just started using Nightly instead of Aurora as my main browser, at Mark Mayo’s request :-), and this is what I found (after doing “Update Addons”):

  • Addons installed: 37
  • Non-multiprocess-compatible addons (may also be marked Legacy): 21 (57%)
  • Legacy addons: 5 (14%)
  • Addons which will work in 57, if nothing changes: 11 (29%)

Useful addons which no longer work as of now are: 1-Click YouTube Video Downloader, Advertising Cookie Opt-Out, AutoAuth, Expiry Canary (OK, I wrote that one, that’s my fault), Google Translator, Live HTTP Headers, Mass Password Reset, RESTClient, and User Agent Switcher.

Useful addons which will also no longer work in 57 (if nothing changes) include: Adblock Plus, HTTPS Everywhere, JSONView, and Send to Kodi.

I’m sure Adblock Plus is being updated, because it would be sheer madness if we went ahead and it was not being. As for the rest – who knows? There doesn’t seem to be a way of finding out other than researching each one individually.

In the Firefox (I think it was) Town Hall, there was a question asked about addons and whether we felt that we were in a good place in terms of people not having a bad experience with their addons stopping working. The answer came back that we were. I fully admit I may not be a typical user, but it seems like this will not be my experience… :-(

Root Store Policy 2.5 Published

Version 2.5 of Mozilla’s Root Store Policy has now been published. This document incorporates by reference the Common CCADB Policy 1.0.1.

With this update, we have mostly worked through the backlog of modernization proposals, and I’d call this a policy fit for a transparent, openly-run root program in 2017. That doesn’t mean that there’s not more that could be done, but we’ve come a long way from policy 2.2, which we were using until six months ago, and which hadn’t been substantively updated since 2012.

We also hope that, very soon, more root store operators will join the CCADB, which will reduce everyone’s costs and administrative burdens on all sides, and hopefully allow root programs to be more responsive to changing circumstances and requests for inclusion or change.

Caddy Webserver and MOSS

The team behind the Caddy secure-by-default webserver have written a blog post on their experience with MOSS:

The MOSS program kickstarted a new era for Caddy: turning it from a fairly casual (but promising!) open source project into something that is growing more than we would have hoped otherwise. Caddy is seeing more contributions, community engagement, and development than it ever has before! Our experience with MOSS was positive, and we believe in Mozilla’s mission. If you do too, consider submitting your project to MOSS and help make the Internet a better place.

Always nice to find out one’s work makes a difference. :-)

Eurovision Bingo (chorus)

Some people say that all Eurovision songs are the same. (And some say all blog posts on this topic are the same…) That’s probably not quite true, but there is perhaps a hint of truth in the suggestion that some themes tend to recur from year to year. Hence, I thought, Eurovision Bingo.

I wrote some code to analyse a directory full of lyrics, normally those from the previous year of the competition, and work out the frequency of occurrence of each word. It will then generate Bingo cards, with sets of words of different levels of commonness. You can then use them to play Bingo while watching this year’s competition (which is on Saturday).

There’s a Github repo, or if you want to go straight to pre-generated cards for this year, they are here.

Here’s a sample card from the 2014 lyrics:

fell cause rising gonna rain
world believe dancing hold once
every mean LOVE something chance
hey show or passed say
because light hard home heart

Have fun :-)

Thunderbird’s Future Home Decided

Here’s the announcement. Rather than moving to live somewhere else like The Document Foundation or the Software Freedom Conservancy, Thunderbird will stay with the Mozilla Foundation as its fiscal home, but will disentangle itself from Mozilla Corporation infrastructure. As someone who has been helping steward this exploration process, I’m glad to see it come to a successful outcome.

Also in the world of Thunderbird, the community is discussing the future of the product, in the face of significant upcoming changes to the Gecko platform. On the table is a “Thunderbird++” rewrite/transformation using web technologies. Interesting times…

Everything’s A Cut

In UK politics, at least, the language of “cuts” is common (most often preceded by the word “Tory”). There are to be cuts to this budget, and cuts to that service, and cuts to the other program. Cuts are almost universally seen as bad. But almost any change in any funding arrangement can be portrayed as a cut of some sort.

Let’s say the budget for activity X is £100,000 in 2015. In 2016, it’s £90,000. Is that a cut? Clearly. But what if it’s £100,000? Well, that’s a “real-terms cut” because of course inflation means that money this year is worth a bit less than money last year. OK, so let’s make it £102,000, to account for inflation. But the Retail Prices Index has gone up by more than that, so it’s still a “cut”. £105,000? Well, in fact, the costs of doing X have gone up significantly this year because of reasons, so that’s also an “effective cut”. More people using a service? An increase can be portrayed as a cut. More expensive and better treatment option becomes available? Even an increase can be portrayed as a “cut to that service”.

If you move resources from activity X to activity Y, then your opponents can focus on “cuts to activity X”. If you want to start doing a new activity Z, and don’t want to increase your budget, them something somewhere has to be “cut”. There’s always a cut somewhere you can find to complain about if you look hard enough.

If the previous administration was massively mis-spending their money and you have a big rearrangement of priorities, lots of things are going to be “cut”. If a particular client group such as the elderly has been doing extremely well for the past N years (triple lock, anyone?), and you change things to be more equitable, that’s a “cut”. And if that group is particularly photogenic or sympathy-worthy, no matter how much they were getting before, they can get the public on their side by objecting to the cruel “cuts”. Once a set of people has got access to a pot of government money, entitlement sets in extraordinarily quickly.

The difficulty for politicians, of course, is that it’s very difficult to say something like “well, pensioners have been coining it for the past 10 years, and it’s time we had a bit more equity”, because the press can always find a frail-looking pensioner who will be outraged on camera that they now apparently have to choose between food and heating.

The only way to avoid anything which seems like a cut is always to increase budgets for everything. And that normally means tax increases to pay for it (or, via borrowing, putting the bill on our children who can’t object, which is a sadly all-too-common move for politicians to avoid having to pay for what they are doing). But there are limits to how much you can increase tax, because taxation changes behaviour. It’s generally accepted when talking about carbon emissions, or cigarette smoking, or sugar consumption, that taxing something means you get less of it. But people shy away from applying this logic when it’s applied to incomes, or sales, or company profits (which are, absent a monopoly or criminal activity, the reward for hard work and entrepreneurship). Taxing those things means you get less of them too – less economic activity, smaller economy, poorer people.

So when someone tries to engender outrage by simply saying “something is being cut!”, remind them that pretty much everything’s a cut, and point them at this article. Just because something qualifies as a cut, and the group or activity receiving less money is deemed worthy of support, doesn’t make the change necessarily wrong.

Don’t Pin To A Single CA

If you do certificate pinning, either via HPKP, or in your mobile app, or your IoT device, or your desktop software, or anywhere… do not pin solely to a single certificate, whether it’s a leaf certificate, intermediate or root certificate, and do not pin solely to certificates from a single CA. This is the height of self-imposed Single Point of Failure foolishness, and has the potential to bite you in the ass. If your CA goes away or becomes untrusted and it causes you problems, no-one will be sympathetic.

This Has Been A Public Service Announcement.