Posts in Category "tech"

Surprising behavior in GNU tar

Here's a fun game for you: what do you expect to be the state of the filesystem after running the following commands in an empty directory on a Linux system?

$ touch foo:bar
$ tar -cpf foo:bar.tar foo:bar
$ rm foo:bar
$ tar -xpf foo:bar.tar

Do you expect the directory to contain the files foo:bar and foo:bar.tar?

What if I told you that instead the directory would only contain foo:bar.tar and stderr would say

tar (child): Cannot connect to foo: resolve failed

Yep! It turns out that GNU tar, if passed a …

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Etcd, or, why modern software makes me sad

etcd icon

Once upon a time in 2013, there was a tool called etcd which was a really lightweight database written around the Raft consensus algorithm. This tool was originally written in 2013 for a bullshit unsuccessful project called CoreOS Container Linux that was EOL'd several years ago, but that doesn't really matter — etcd was greater than its original use-case. Etcd provided a convenient and simple set of primitives (set a key, get a key, set-only-if-unchanged, watch-for-changes) with a drop-dead simple HTTP API on top of them. I have built a number of tools using etcd as a lightweight consensus store behind …

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It's been about ten years since I've regularly used that most quintessential of post-1984 computer peripherals, the mouse. The last mouse I had was pretty exclusively used for a gaming PC in college and was a Logitech MX5181; since then I've used a variety of input devices. It's been a while since I did any brief reviews of technology on this ostensibly-technology blog, so what the hey, let's do it! In brief, we're going to talk about:

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2020 MacBook Air Impressions

For the past few years, I've been using a one-port 2016 MacBook1 as my personal laptop that I carry with me whenever I am traveling or need to work outside the house. It's been a mixed bag – the size was pretty much perfect and very similar to a thin version of my old 12" PowerBook G4, but the CPU performance was absolutely awful and the battery only lasted about two hours. Also, I was finally bitten by the infamous Butterfly Keyboard Issue and was getting double-entries from my spacebar.

In March, when Apple released the new MacBook Air with …

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I've had this sitting on my desktop for months and figured I'd post it. No idea where it originally came from.


Unicode via Alfred

Something I miss a lot on macOS is a fast way to enter Unicode characters. macOS does a pretty good job of handling combining keys so that you can type é and ö, and it's got a fancy emoji picker, but if you want to enter ∫ or ⚠, you're stuck using the terrible character picker window1:

screenshot of the character picker

Well, no longer. If you, like me, use Alfred 4 on your Mac, you can download the following Alfred Workflow to get a new "unicode" Alfred command. This uses a fast index2 to look up unicode characters by name. The first time you …

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