dmuth's blog

Dorsai Thing 2014 Report and Pictures

One of the volunteer groups I am involved with is a group called The Dorsai Irregulars. We provide security services for "fannish" conventions including (but not limited to) science fiction conventions, furry conventions, and anime conventions. The convention committees like it because security is being handled by fellow fans who understand the attendees. Hotels like it because we deal with any issues that come up instead of forcing the hotel to deal with said issues.

While it's great to help out, since some of us are on duty at any given time (security usually a 24-hour operation), those of us in the group usually don't have a chance to hang out and socialize much. Instead, we hold our own event each year which we call "Dorsai Thing" wherein as many people from the group (and additional people who work contracts with us, referred to as "folk") get together for a weekend at a hotel and have our own get-together in which none of us are working. Dorsai Thing consists of a breakfast on Saturday and Sunday morning and a banquet dinner on Saturday evening. Aside from that, there may be "field trips" or local tourism on Friday or Saturday afternoons.

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A Script to Backup Evernote to Dropbox

In the previous post I made on this topic, I talked about how to use Git to backup your Evernotes into Dropbox.

In this post, I wanted to share the script that I created to automate doing those backups:


# Evernote directory. Season to taste.
DIR="$HOME/Library/Containers/com.evernote.Evernote/Data/Library/Application Support/Evernote/accounts/Evernote"

# Errors are fatal
set -e 

# Check to see if Evernote is running
PIDS=`ps ax |grep -i evernote |grep -v grep |grep -v backup-evernote` || true
#echo $PIDS # Debugging

if test "$PIDS"
        echo "Evernote is still running!  Please exit Evernote before trying to back up."
        exit 1

cd "$DIR"
git add .
git status
COMMENT="Backup on `date`"
git commit -m "$COMMENT" . || true
git push -u origin master

A few notes about the previous script:

  • Checking to see if Evernote is running first is just a good idea. Trying to back up files which are being actively used is asking for trouble.
  • Wherever you see || true that means "if the previous command exited with non-zero, run the 'true' command". This has the effect of ignoring errors from specific commands.
  • The assumption is made that you set up your origin, as outlined in the previous post.

This script (and other related utilities) are available for download in my GitHub repo at Enjoy!

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Setsucon 2014 Report

I went to Setsucon, an Anime convention which was held January 25th and 26th, 2014 in State College, PA.

It was my first anime con in a few years so I wasn't sure what to expect. I ended up rather enjoying the convention. While I like anime, I'm not very active in the community so a lot of the programming didn't appeal to me. I went there mostly to catch up with friends:

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Backing up Evernote with Git and Dropbox

What's Evernote?

Imagine a lightweight word processor. Like Microsoft Word but 50 times faster. Then abstract out the concept of a file system so that instead of having to keep track of hundreds of files around your hard drive, you only have "notebooks" and "notes" to deal with all in one application. Now make them searchable. And finally, put the whole thing in the cloud so that you can access your notes on your computer, through the web, or on an iPhone. That's Evernote. It's as amazing as it sounds.

Why back up your notes?

Because sometimes cloud-based systems have issues. Or maybe you accidentally nuke an entire notebook. Or perhaps you want all your notebooks to be "local notebooks", and not replicated to Evernote's cloud. No matter the reason, it's your data, and you have a right to have backup copies.

Skill Level: Advanced

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The Importance of Having More Than One Backup

Many years ago, I wanted to make sure my data was secure, so I purchased a fireproof safe from a (now defunct) company called FireCooler. I thought it would be a good idea to have a UL 125-rated safe which could keep an internal temperature of less than 125 degrees over an hour long fire. I regularly made backups to DVD and stored them in the safe.

Well, sometimes the best laid plans can go awry, and that was the case the other day when I went to put something in my safe, and found that it was flooded with water:

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How did this happen? Did something in the safe suck in tons of moisture? Did the basement somehow flood and not cause water damage elsewhere? To this day, I am still not sure. I did not see any evidence of flooding in my storage area--nothing else was damaged.

The takeaway here is that I had backups stored elsewhere so no actual data was lost. I recommend that everyone reading this, if they care about their data, to do the exact same thing. Here are a few resources for backups:

  • DropBox
  • Amazon S3
  • Amazon EC2 (Bonus: You can take the instance offline when you're not backing up to it, and an instasnce that is not online cannot be broken into. )
  • Carbonite

Happy Backups!

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Centralia Visit

A few weekends ago, I did a road trip with Kasi Frost and Cliff Husky. Our destination? Centralia, Pennsylvania!

For those who have not heard of Centralia, it is a town which was gutted by a mine fire back in the 1980s. The government moved all of the residents (save for a few holdouts) out of down, demolished their homes, and removed the debris. The town is now pretty much a criss-crossed network of vacant lots, utility structures, and just a few buildings left standing. In some places, you can even see smoke and steam coming out of the ground.

Highway 61 (Highway to Hell)

One of the casualties of the mine fire is a section of PA Highway 61. The heat from the fire caused the highway to buckle and warp. End result was that a new stretch of road was built around the smoking part, and it was left alone. Here are a few pictures:

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Note that this in the middle of winter. Yet the snow around the fissure is completely melted away.

The Cemetery on The Hill

Welcome to Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Cemetery. Living population: you

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Many of the headstones were from the 50s and 60s. As the general condition of this cemetery shows, it is still maintained.

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My MidWest FurFest 2013 Con Report and Pictures

I was back in Chicago again from November 22nd to 24th for MidWest FurFest.

Once again, I worked staff in Convention Operations, under Takaza. Con Ops went really well this year, as we had many experienced staff members and plenty of manpower to get things done. I actually got to do something new: walk around to other departments in the convention, check in with them, and see if they needed anything. It was a nice extra responsibility to have this year.

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Our charity this year was One Tail at a Time, and we were able to raise $8,000 for them and then gave them an additional $20,000 on top of that, bringing the total to $28,000.

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Tweaking Boxen on OS/X

What Is Boxen?

Boxen is a package which lets you automate the setup your Mac. You can install whatever packages you want, set up services, install config files for your favorite tools. It's pretty amazing, really.

On a more technical level, Boxen is based on Puppet, Homebrew, and a plethora of contributed modules.

Setting up Boxen

Full instructions can be found on the repo, but here's the TL;DR:

sudo mkdir -p /opt/boxen
sudo chown ${USER}:staff /opt/boxen
git clone /opt/boxen/repo
cd /opt/boxen/repo

Along the way you'll be asked to enter your GitHub username and password. Please do so, because your GitHub username plays a big part in the next section.

Setting up a Personal Manifest

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Git 101: How to Handle Merge Conflicts

In the last post, I talked about how to create a Git repository and upload it to GitHub. In this post, I'm going to talk about how to resolve Git conflicts.

Setting Up Our Environment

First, we're going to create a Git Repository for the user Doug. Since I already covered that in the last post, I'm bring to breeze through those steps below:

$ mkdir doug
$ cd doug
$ git init
Initialized empty Git repository in /path/to/doug/.git/
$ touch
$ git add 
$ git commit -m "First commit"
[master (root-commit) d86a7e2] First commit
 1 file changed, 0 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-)
 create mode 100644

At this point, we have a repository created for the user Doug. Now I'm going to clone that repository for the user Andrew:

$ cd ..
$ git clone doug andrew
$ ls -l
total 0
drwxr-xr-x  4 doug  staff  136 Nov 28 16:59 andrew
drwxr-xr-x  4 doug  staff  136 Nov 28 16:47 doug
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Git 101: Creating a Git Repo and Uploading It To GitHub

In this post, I'm going to discuss how to create a GitHub repo and upload (or "push") it to GitHub, a popular service for hosting Git repositories.

What is revision control and why do I need it?

The concept of revision control is a system which tracks changes to files. In programming, that is usually program code, but documents and text files can also be tracked. Using revision control will give the following benefits:

  • You will know what was changed, when it was changed, and who changed it
  • Multiple people can collaborate on a project without fear of overwriting each others' changes.
  • Protection against accidentally deleting a critical file. (revision history is usually read-only)

In GitHub, we store revisions in "repositories" or "repos" for short. As of this writing, the #1 service for storing Git repositories is GitHub. They offer free hosting for Git repositories.

Before you start

Make sure you have a copy of Git. If in doubt, go to the official Git website and download a copy.

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