After nearly 22 years together, I had to let my roommate Monk go.

At 12:45pm today, April 13th 2021, my long-time buddy Monk, my roommate for the last 22 years and many relocations, had to be put down. It was a really rough last couple of days, much more difficult than letting Dart go almost 10 years earlier.

His condition over his last days, really degraded quickly. He went from being a bit ‘stiff’ and difficult to walk over the last few months, to no longer being able to control the entire rear half of his body in his last day.

His last, full night together with us consisted of me picking him up to help him stagger to the litterbox only a few feet away in the bathroom, and holding him up while he urinated and defecated all over himself, and then cleaning him up in the tub right after.

I woke up a couple of hours later, to see him trying to drag himself by his front paws back into his padded bed on the floor, with urine leading back from there to the litterbox. He couldn’t muster enough energy to lift his head much, or even to chew his food or drink water.

His body was so limp, frail, it was hard to hold his weight up while he ate or went to the litterbox, without causing him pain, because he had no real muscle tone left to keep his own bones straight.

It was time, I couldn’t wait any longer, without causing him to really suffer even more than he was already suffering. He was in fantastic health for those 22 years, with the exception of those last few months. Many tests and prescription diet changes later, I couldn’t stop the slide of his health failures.

My life with Monk was a long, amazing life. I will remember every moment with razor sharp clarity. From his sharing baskets next to Dart through laying on my back while I slept, or curling up under my arm while I read.

His name was a perfect choice from the start of his life, straight through to the end. He was always watching, inspecting, learning, waiting his turn at the food, water or the window to watch the birds and big world outside.

I couldn’t quite get him to play fetch like Dart, or chase the laser dot as much as other cats, but he had his own, deeply introspective appeal. We’d spend hours together each week in our own “Zen”, just listening to the sounds of nothing, taking in the world, being active observers and participants.

He was the only cat that Seryn had known for her entire life, there before she was born, and there to the end of his days. He would watch her in the crib, curl up around her head when she would sleep, and make sure she was safe, much like a trusted family canine.

He spent some years with Dart, Cooper Coombs, Ashe and Tink. He’s been a friend to all who have met him. He was nothing short of the smartest, most introspective, calm, patient, Buddhist of cats I’ve ever owned.

As an albino cat, he had his share of weird health difficulties starting from the first day we adopted him. He was found by a coworker of my girlfriend at the time drinking antifreeze out of the driveway in the middle of winter. He was treated for frostbite and ever since then would never, ever allow anyone to touch his paws, because they were super-sensitive to touch. He suffered from cat acne later in life, weight gain and loss, gingivitis and several teeth surgically removed, many diet challenges and food allergies, several unexpected surgeries and many tests.

His lack of one of his canine teeth caused a unique “yarr! Pirate Face” as his lips got stuck on his teefs.

He was one-of-a-kind, unique, and the most intelligent, sweetest, friendly, cuddler of a roommate I could have ever asked for.

Monk, you will be missed. I can only hope, if there’s ever another place after this life, that you’ve found Dart in that place, and you’re happily playing Meow-co-Polo with him like you did for so many years.

HOWTO: Run Proxmox 6.3 under VMware ESXi with networked guest instances

One of my machines in my production homelab is an ESXi server, a long-toothed upgrade from the 5.x days.

I keep a lot of legacy VMs and copies of every version of Ubuntu, Fedora, Slackware, Debian, CentOS and hundreds of other VMs on it. It’s invaluable to be able to spin up a test machine on any OS, any capacity, within seconds.

Recently, the need to ramp up fast on Proxmox has come to the front of my priority list for work and specific customer needs. I don’t have spare, baremetal hardware to install Proxmox natively, so I have to spin it up under my existing VMware environment as a guest.

The problem here, is that running one hypervisor under another hypervisor as a guest, requires some specific preparations, so that the networking of the nested guest, will have its packets correctly and cleanly routed through the parent host’s physical network interfaces.

Read on for how to configure this in your own environment!

VMware ESXi

In VMware ESXi, there are a few settings that you need to adjust, to enable “Promiscuous Mode”, “Forged Transmits” and “MAC Changes”. These are found under the “VM Network” section of your ESXi web-ui:

Once you’ve made these changes, you need to restart your VMware host in order to enable them for newly-created VMs under that host.

VMware Workstation

If you’re running VMware Workstation instead of ESXi, you need to make sure your ‘vmnet’ devices in /dev/ have the correct permissions to permit enabling promiscuous mode. You can do that with a quick chmod 0777 /dev/vmnet* or you can adjust the VMware init script that creates these nodes. Normally these would be adjusted in ‘udev’ rules, but those rules are run before the VMware startup, so changes are overwritten by VMware’s own automation.

In /etc/init.d/vmware, make the following adjustment:

vmwareStartVmnet() {
   vmwareLoadModule $vnet
   "$BINDIR"/vmware-networks --start >> $VNETLIB_LOG 2>&1
   chmod 666 /dev/vmnet* # Add this line
}

Now that you have your host hypervisor configured to support nested guest hypervisors, let’s proceed with the Proxmox installation.

Download the most-recent Proxmox ISO image and create a new VM in your VMware environment (ESXi or Workstation). Make sure to give your newly created VM enough resources to be able to launch its own VMs. I created a VM with 32GB RAM and 2TB of storage, configured as a ZFS RAIDZ-3 array (5 x 400GB disks). That configuration looks like this:

Read the rest of this entry »

Thoughts about cheating on Zwift

Tags: , ,

Let’s talk about cheating for a moment. There, I’ve said it. Throw the tomatoes, the Park wrench or the AppleTV remote at me. Save the criticism for the comment section!

I’m a huge data nerd. Many of you already know that. Having clean and correct data on Zwift, only helps us improve as athletes and riders.

I’ve put a LOT of thought into this over the last few years, and have had personal conversations with Eric, Steve Beckett., Jon and others about it, including sharing some of the ideas I’ve had to mitigate it. I’ve read the rants, the promoters, the detractors, all of it from all sides. So has Zwift HQ.

Forget streaming video of riders, or putting trainers on a platform with integrated scales or integrating weight-in equipment into the bikes themselves. When you do that, you kill the enjoyment for others who can’t reach that echelon, but still want to “race” on Zwift. You’d be excluding people who might have the ability, but not the means.

So here’s my proposal, a draft that I’ve been cooking up for a few years, which hopes to not only help curb cheating, but also increase the adoption of Zwift in local centers, the LBS, as well as make sure you don’t constrain race events to KICKR or TacX Neo only events.

  1. Begin the distribution of Certified Zwift Engineers (aka “ZCE”). These would initially probably be the bike mechanic at your LBS to start with. They’re already there, they have the gear and they’re probably fixing your bike or adding equipment each season already. The ZCE would be able to train up on all aspects of Zwift, including app/game configuration, optimizing the experience for the end user. Oh, you have a Dell laptop with an integrated video card? Here’s some settings you can apply to make that work for you during crowded group events.They’d also be trained in how to configure and validate bike fit, power meters and sensors that tie back to the machine/device used to run Zwift. Having drop-outs? Here’s the tools to identify drop-outs and some workarounds that can help.

    This engages the LBS mechanics and the LBS itself to be a part of the growing Zwift ecosystem, not only just as an endpoint for bike upgrades and repair, but a full, end-to-end solution for building out a Zwift environment for the riders.

    Incentivizing those LBS mechanics to become ZCE then has the potential to ensure that more people come into the shop for bike fit, possible recommendations, upgrades, etc. I haven’t met a single bike mechanic who hates cycling. They do it because they have a passion for it, and they, like others, want to grow that passion. Who wouldn’t turn down the ability to learn something new and exciting about your passion?

  2. Those same LBS that have their mechanics certified as ZCE, can now brand their shop as “Zwift Certified Training Center”, and teach riders how to use Zwift (ala spin class? LBS Fondo?). Tactics, when to drain your power-up so you can pull the next one over that hill. Buying a trainer at Best Buy won’t have the same overall value as buying it at your Zwift Certified LBS, even if Best Buy has them for 10% cheaper.
  3. Those same LBS + ZCE, can now perform equipment certification and qualification. They can properly calibrate your Power Meter + trainer combination, regardless of what you’re using. Forget trusting Qalvin on your iOS device to calibrate your Quarq PM or trusting your Garmin Vector pedals to be accurate out of the box, let the ZCE at your LBS (ZBS?) handle that for you.

Trust, but verify, as we say in my field.

They can also do the weigh-in right there at the shop, after calibrating your gear. The output of that now-calibrated Zwift setup and weigh in, is a printed certificate of authenticity of your bike, trainer, gear and your own fitness.

A piece of paper, so what you say? But wait, there’s more. What can you do with that?

Printed ON that certificate, is a unique code, generated by Zwift itself (this service does not yet exist, and would have to be created, more on that in a moment). You would then be responsible for making sure that your gear is not “altered” before or during a race. Alterations like that can be detected (ZwiftPower + formerly ZADA have tools to do this already).

This unique code would be entered before you join a race event, either at the time you sign up, or right as the event starts. It would be entered much like we do for jersey promo codes today. This is your “Zwift Race Number” (ZRN? Too many TLAs yet?).

If your gear is found to be ‘suspect’, you are unable to qualify until you remediate your gear. Your ZRN is now locked, and you can’t use it to enter any ‘official’ race events until address it. To do so, you get one free re-calibration at the ZBS, and they can unlock your ZRN for you, before further re-calibrations come at a cost.

So, what’s missing from this approach?

For starters, Zwift does not have the ability to generate these unique codes, nor any way to manage them in your user account record. Yet.

But the scaffolding to enter codes to unlock capabilities is already there. They’d have to design and build that frame work, and work with partners to make sure fits the needs of their own roadmap. It’s not something to be taken lightly, but neither is eSports or the growing community of cheaters who are going undetected.

They also don’t have a ‘Certification’ program, defined criteria, training modules or anything like that. That curriculum would have to be developed, tested and disseminated amongst the interested LBS/ZBS, training centers, bike mechanics and anyone else who wants to open up their own Zwift Certified Training Center.

But having the certification program begins to create a standard, that all trainers and eSports athletes have to begin to adhere to. It’s a great position for Zwift to be in right now, helping to define the standards and at the same time, increasing their market share by pushing eSports and ZCEs/ZRNs into the LBS.

You, as a potential eSports athlete, would now be held accountable for making sure your own gear is calibrated, your weight accurate and true, and that you manage that ZRN with all the power that comes with it.

As eSports moves up the ladder and starts adding purses for winning, and actual financial incentives, sponsorships, team selection criteria, it becomes more and more important to take steps like this.

So sure, throw your streaming camera up there, show people you’re really the 70kg your profile says you are, that’s fine. But if you want to compete in a race that has value, actual impact, financial incentives to win, then grab your trainer, bike and head to your local LBS, get weighed in, certified, and enter that ZRN the next time you want to join those events.

At some regular interval, or when you upgrade gear, bike, power meter, or the start of a new season, you go back to the LBS/ZBS, schedule an appointment for a bike tune-up, equipment review and re-certify with your new ZRN, ready to smash those Zwift Racing Event records online!

I think this has some real potential, by engaging the participating LBS’ to get onboard with certifying Zwift equipment, trainers, power meters, but also bringing them into the fold of eSports.

It’s very unlikely someone who has the intent to cheat, is going to take all the effort to get their ZRN at their local ZBS, take that gear home, and alter it to gain an advantage. If they do, there are checks-and-balances in place to DQ them, invalidate their ZRN until they go back and re-certify, and keep those events clean.

It also helps validate those riders who TRULY want to compete, and will make sure their gear is dialed in.

So let the cheaters can go ahead and tinker with their gear, take the effort to certify and then falsify their gear and get DQ’d. They only do that to the embarrassment of themselves, not Zwift as a growing eSports platform.

Your thoughts? Let’s discuss.

HOWTO: Backup your Android device over WiFi with rsync (NO root needed)

I stumbled upon this recently and wanted to add it to the list of other HOWTOs I have on using rsync to back up your device or machine. I’m a BIG fan of rsync, and use it all the time for backing up Linux, BSD, Windows machines, tablets and pretty much everything.

Now, it’s drop-dead simple to back up your Android device over wireless, using an rsync app on the device, and talking to any rsyncd you’ve got set up to receive that data. The setup isn’t terribly intuitive using this specific app, but it does work really well.

I found an app called “Syncopoli” through F-Droid (a free alternative to the Google Play Store), and installed it as a means to try to back up my non-rooted Android device. On my rooted Android devices, I use Titanium Backup Pro, which works fabulously. Without root, you’re very limited in the permissions you have available to read and copy data onto and off of the device.

So, install Syncopoli, and then click the 3 dot menu in the upper-right corner of the app to access the “Settings” pane. In here, you’ll want to set your rsync username, password, any relevant keys or other data you need, and also the IP address of the rsync server. Since my rsync server resides on the same side of the LAN, I also checked the box to back up over WiFi only.

I’ll play with setting up a secure tunnel later, so I can back up to my rsync server over the live Internet.

Once the global settings are correctly configured for your environment, click the (+) sign in the lower-right corner to set up a sync profile. Here, you’ll specify what and where you want your data backed up.

Here’s where things get a little tricky. Initially, I thought it was looking for the IP of the Origin and Destination, but it’s actually looking for a path on the Origin side, and an rsync module on the Destination side. It’s not terribly intuitive, but after I figured that out and reconfigured my rsync server with a specific module (stanza) in rsyncd.conf to allow the Android to back up to, it started working.

To go back in and edit your profile, long-press the profile name and choose “Edit Profile” from the popup dialog.

I also went back into the global Settings and set some optimized rsync options (-avP –inplace –partial), and then clicked the “|>” play button in the upper-right to kick off the rsync job. Tapping on the profile after starting the job, I could then see the log on the client end of my Android device. It was these logs which helped me debug the errors initially with the connection and Origin/Destination paths being incorrect.

So my Origin ended up being /storage/extSdCard (my external media card in my Android device) and the destination was my “Android” module on the server. As I type this blog post, it’s pulled over 1,277 files and counting.

Quick, easy, fantastic and you don’t need root!

The Enormous Dating Fraud: Match.com, Plenty of Fish, Tinder and OkCupid

The Top 4 dating sites out there; Match.com, Plenty of Fish, Tinder and OkCupid are so completely overrun with fraud now, it’s appalling.

Note: Match.com, Plenty of Fish, Tinder and OkCupid are all owned by the same parent company, along with roughly 40 other dating site properties.

I’ve been a free and paid member of these sites for 8 years (with 3 years off in the middle as I was dating someone). I have spent hundreds of hours pouring through profiles, code, APIs, mobile apps and other interactions with these specific sites.

Right from the top, I’m going to stronly suggest you do not give any of these sites your money! Do not subscribe, do not give them a credit card, do not let them bill you, do not give them a single dollar. None.

I’ll break down exactly why below..

Let’s start with the biggest and worst offender: Match.com:

Read the rest of this entry »

HOWTO: Back up your Android device with native rsync

Android
Recently, one of my Android devices stopped reading the memory card. Opening the device, the microSD card was so hot I couldn’t hold it in my hand. The battery on that corner of the device had started to swell slightly. I’ve used this device every day for 3+ years without any issues. Until this week.

I also use TitaniumBackup to back up my Android to this external memory card, but since the device can’t read the card, I can’t back it up to the card.

The card is fine, and works in my other devices, as well as being seen from the desktop. Other, blank microSD card can’t be read in the device and similarly overheat within seconds. It’s bad.

Enter rsync, the Swiss-Army Knife of power, to back up my Android device!

Here’s how:

Read the rest of this entry »

HOWTO: Fix missing mouse clicks in VMware with Linux guests

This was a bugger to find out, and required installing and reinstalling Linux a dozen times in different ways, to narrow down on the actual cause.

If you run VMware Workstation on your Linux host, and are also trying to run Linux guests, you may run into a situation where your mouse cursor in the guest moves and tracks as you would expect, but any attempt to right-click or left-click is ignored entirely.

During my tests, I noticed that this happens 100% of the time with Ubuntu 14.04.4, does not happen with Ubuntu 14.04.2, and does not happen with Ubuntu 16.04.

But it is reproducible.

Originally, I thought this was due to having the wrong “mouse” vs. “vmmouse” driver in my Xorg configuration. That didn’t prove to be true.

Next, I tried doing some VMX file hacks, which also failed. I also tried disabling the “Drag and Drop” and “Cut and Paste” options in the VMware options. That also, did not solve the problem.

To fix the problem, go into your Guest settings and under the Processor sub-section, you want to uncheck the “Virtualize CPU performance counters” option. You can leave the rest as-is.

The option should look like this:

VMware disable CPU counters

That’s it! Hopefully that helps someone else out there running into the same problem!

HOWTO: Purge Amazon Echo History with iMacros

Amazon Echo IoT Companion

This one is quick and easy… Have you ever wanted to go back into your Amazon Echo device and delete the history of all commands you asked Alexa to do for you? All the searches? All the weather requests?

Well, you can… manually from the mobile app, or from the Amazon Alexa Configuration page, but that can take hours, because each card you wan to remove is a minimum of two taps or clicks.

But there’s an even easier way… iMacros!

Load up the iMacros browser extension (Chrome version) (Firefox version) and create a new macro. You can edit it ‘raw’, if you wish, but you want only these lines in your macro:

VERSION BUILD=8970419 RECORDER=FX
TAB T=1
URL GOTO=http://alexa.amazon.com/spa/index.html#cards
TAG POS=1 TYPE=BUTTON ATTR=TXT:More
TAG POS=1 TYPE=SPAN ATTR=TXT:Removecard

Now when you load up the Amazon Alexa Configuration page, you can just launch your macro from iMacros and play it in a loop to progressively delete each and every one of those cards in seconds.

I personally wiped out over 5,000 cards in under 2 minutes with this approach. It works great!

Comment below if you have any luck with it, or modify it in a way that becomes more useful to others.

2015: The Christmas I received nothing, but gained everything!

Christmas is typically a dark time for me, and is usually spent alone, even when I’m in the company of others. I’ve never felt at-ease during the Christmas holiday and I never quite know how others receive me in their lives this time of year. I have no real family here to speak of, no cousins, no uncles, no sisters or brothers. It’s just me and my daughter and friends that pop in and out around the holidays.

But this year, a week before Christmas, my employer decided to let me go, after 8 years of dedication to the company, citing “location and budget” as the primary reasons. They assured me that the reasons were not Personal or Performance related. I can’t publicly say any more about this at the moment, but their decision was very unexpected, and drastically truncated my intended plans for the holiday break.

Three days after I was released from my employment, I came down with a very rapid and unexpected bout of nausea. It had me emptying my stomach every hour for the next 18 hours that Thursday. I lost 10 pounds vomiting and making dozens of trips to the bathroom. At one point I got up to vomit, blacked out and fell to the floor in the bathroom in my very weakened state. I woke up about 20 minutes later sprawled on the floor of the bathroom with the contents of the bathroom garbage scattered all around me on the floor. My lip was swollen and bloody, my head hurt and it felt like Bruce Lee punched me in the shoulder.

The New England weather over this holiday is unseasonably warm, peaking all the way up to 70-degrees. In my 4 decades on this orbiting rock, I can never remember a single Christmas where it’s been this warm, with no snow. There have been Christmas’ where we’ve not had snow, and others where we had snow and it warmed up over freezing to melt off the snow, but never, ever has it been in the upper 60’s for a solid week.

This year, the week prior to Christmas, Seryn was with her mother for the week, while our schedule this year rotates and she’ll be with me the week following, starting on Christmas Day. This meant that I was left in a house full of echoes and silence.

This is nothing out of the norm, just an unexpected series of events that all conspired together to make the week before Christmas and leading up to Christmas to be a bit of a heavy burden this year over previous years.

This year, I received no Christmas cards in the mail, no gifts, no calls and no greetings from others in my close and extended circle of friends. It was remarkably quiet, serene, peaceful… and alone. I lost my job, I lost a chunk of my health and I seem to have lost everything that Christmas was supposed to stand for: friends, family, tasty foods and in the company of great and dear loved ones.

It allowed me to mentally reset where I wanted to be in my life, as a father, as a contributor to the community, as an engineer, and as a friend to others. I was able to release a lot of negative energy about the unexpected termination, and while the fall in the bathroom took months to recover from, it was worth it to set me on a new path.

I wouldn’t give up these choices for the world, and it was one of the best, most-serene, life-changing Christmas holidays of many that I can remember.

No more criminals for president. Not this time. Never again.

No more Hillary Clinton - no more fraudI rarely speak out on specific presidential candidates, but I’ve pretty much had enough of this comedy unfolding that we call our political process. With Trump making a complete arse of himself, Ted Cruz saying “we need another war president” and other candidates flat-out lying, making up facts and paying third-party companies to create false campaigns and disinformation on their competition, I’ve had it.

The worst offender? That’s right… Hillary Rodham Clinton. A felon, admittedly breaking dozens of federal laws, and trying to use her fame to erase the legality of those laws. Her campaign continues to build on its own corruption, greed and malice.

Now, after openly admitting she had classified information in the form of emails and attachments, on her own private email server in her home, the State Department is trying to delay the release of those emails until after the Iowa caucus, because the release would be so utterly damaging to her campaign, that she would lose that caucus and have to forego the general election.

But we’re not talking about a few classified emails, we’re talking about 50,000 classified emails. The first wave is to release 9,000 of them, but her campaign wants a 1-month extension, until just after the Iowa numbers are counted, before releasing them. They have the emails now, they’re not going anywhere, so why the delay?

Read the rest of this entry »

Bad Behavior has blocked 791 access attempts in the last 7 days.