Optical Camouflage


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Dear Lazyweb, tell me how to use Sonic's VPN properly

Since I'm a Sonic customer, I have access to their VPN and I'd like to use it with my iPhone and iPad. They recommend the "OpenVPN Connect" app, but it kind of sucks.

It's supposed to re-connect, but it never does. It's rare that the VPN stays up for longer than a couple of hours. If I'm lucky, I notice that there's no longer a tiny "VPN" logo at the top of the screen, and I have to launch the app manually and flick the "connect" checkbox again. You'd think that clicking the "VPN" checkbox in Settings would work. It doesn't. It tries to connect and fails. Often (maybe always?) with "authentication failed". The only thing that works is launching the OpenVPN app and clicking the checkbox there, multiple times a day. It happens so often that I might as well not have a VPN.

And it's unconscionable that when it drops my VPN connection, it does so silently. "Oh, we just downgraded your security! I'm sure that's totally what you wanted, and you don't need an alert about it!"

Second, there appears to be no host, network, or IP-based whitelist. I want my mobile devices to not use the VPN when they are attached to my home network. First so that I can access my home devices, but also because that would be redundant, as my home network's first hop is Sonic.

Is there an iOS VPN client that is compatible with ovpn.sonic.net that sucks less than "OpenVPN Connect"? Or is there some other pile of settings that I missed?

PLEASE NOTE: I am 100% uninterested in your rambling story about the VPN service that you used that is not ovpn.sonic.net.

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Gift-wrapped horse poop sends bomb squad to Steve Mnuchin's Bel Air mansion

It's a Christmas Miracle.

A suspicious package that appeared Saturday night in the swanky Los Angeles neighborhood of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin prompted lengthy street closures and a sizable response by local and federal authorities, including members of the Los Angeles Police Department's bomb squad.

But the bomb scare was a false alarm, police told local media, after the package was discovered to contain only horse manure.

A large box, covered in holiday wrapping paper and addressed to Mnuchin, was left outside the home of one of his Bel Air neighbors Saturday evening. The package was labeled as being from "the American people".

Takeaway: when you are Steve Mnuchin, a festively-wrapped gift box is a "suspicious package".

In video of the scene taken by an NBC Los Angeles helicopter, an officer can be seen opening the box, dumping out its contents and spreading a dark, unevenly clumped substance across the ground.

The substance ended up being horse manure, police said. And, according to aerial footage, there was a lot of it.

Afterward, at least three officers could be seen standing around the pile, shining flashlights on the manure and moving it around with their feet.

Relatedly, sales of pitchforks and guillotines soar:

The Bel Air neighborhood is filled with multimillion-dollar mansions and is home to many celebrities.

One resident, Prince Frederic von Anhalt, told CBS Los Angeles that he was blocked from leaving his neighborhood for about two hours while police cleared the scene.

"We have $50 million homes and we can't move. We can't get out," von Anhalt, an entrepreneur and husband of the late actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, told the news station Saturday night. "That's bad. They have to find another way."

Not since Alfred E. Neuman has there been a more shit-eating grin.
This poop present tops off what's been a banner year for the Secretary,

....whose wife, Louise Linton, got into a viral Instagram fight over a post in which she'd hashtagged her own Hermès scarf. Together, the couple used a government jet to fly to Kentucky for a view of the solar eclipse. Mnuchin himself may have lied about the Treasury's research of the Republican tax plan, a plan he promised would not only "pay for itself, but it will pay down debt." (In reality, the tax plan will increase the deficit by nearly one and a half trillion dollars.) Mnuchin's been proving all year that he's one of the many crumbly turds in the big box of manure that President Trump has left on America's doorstep.

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Crash Test Dummies

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"Now I am become Hammer, the Destroyer of Worlds."


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Hostile Architecture, SF Edition

Homeless scoff at SF strategy of dumping boulders at camp site

The homeless people the boulders were intended to dissuade simply moved their tents a few feet away. Most of the rocks stand a few feet high, and at about 400 pounds are too heavy to move easily. But there is plenty of space left between them for sleeping bags -- and plenty of Hairball ground beyond that for pitching tents.

"Not sure why they thought this would stop us, but it didn't," James Ayres, 36, said Thursday as he stood outside his tent at the Hairball, on a dirt field about 50 feet from a cluster of boulders. "Maybe they'll put more out here. I don't know. They've got lots of money to do it. But for now, you could camp right between them if you want. I mean, really, it's kind of funny." [...]

This dynamic has played out for decades, from resentment when benches at Civic Center Plaza were removed in the 1990s to keep people from sleeping on them, to sprinklers being installed at St. Mary's Cathedral doorways in 2015 where homeless people slept. The sprinklers were taken out after a public outcry, but the benches have never come back -- and many benches around the city, particularly at bus stops, are now designed to make them tough to stretch out on.

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Merry Last Christmas, Jack Dorsey

Mike Monteiro:

Among the changes, swastikas are now banned from Twitter. That's a good move. I applaud it, and it's beyond time. However, the Confederate flag, a hate symbol that defines one race's desire to own another race, is still acceptable. Twitter's reason is that the Confederate flag is historical. But so is the swastika. This decision seems less based on principles, but more on a desire to not piss off a certain group.

Despite their sanctimonious appeal to "principles", Twitter appears to be making decisions based on who they're afraid to (or can't afford to) piss off and then backwards engineering the rationale to make it palatable. That's not principled. That's cynical.

The new policy also allows a thinly veiled loophole for Trump:

This policy does not apply to military or government entities and we will consider exceptions for groups that are currently engaging in (or have engaged in) peaceful resolution.

For all his promises about wanting to reduce the amount of hate and violence and harassment on the platform, Jack Dorsey has purposely built in a loophole for the biggest perpetrator of all those things. That's not principled. It's cowardly. And it's dangerous. [...]

As of this writing, despite Twitter's new anti-harassment rules, Richard Spencer, Mike Cernovich, Joey Gibson, and David Duke are still on the platform. All known fascists. Ta-Nehisi Coates is not. Driven off by Richard Spencer's harassment. These are the voices we are losing because Jack Dorsey has chosen not to act. And it is probably too late. That's not hyperbolic. Jack has given Donald Trump the fuse to light a nuclear war. Jack has given Trump's minions the fuse to silence the voices America most needs at this moment. And Silicon Valley has allowed this to happen because their libertarian allegiance doesn't extend beyond their own pricks.

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"Bits, in this case, are actual physical objects."

MAME is now emulating LCD handheld games, which is weird and kind of amazing. The sort of games that had little light-up chunks of the "moving" portions on top of a printed background, like an old digital watch. Here's a thread describing the extraction process:


The first step is identification. They're usually microcontrollers, but can someitmes (rarely, even) be pure state machines in the form of an ASIC. This does happen, though, and if they're not an MCU, it makes it a lot harder to emulate.

To identify the MCU, the circuit board (which is usually simple, with just a handful of passive components other than the chip itself) is traced out, and "Sean Riddle" of the Bannister forums tries to match the pinout against any known pinouts.

In the event that it matches an MCU model for which there's a known method for dumping the internal ROM, Sean breaks out one of several test jigs and pulls out the data, then wires up the LCD and photographs the segments to be vectorized.

Since the chips themselves usually have all identifying markings scrubbed, this is about the only way to do it in a safe manner. It also assumes the chip is in a normal plastic or ceramic package. If it's unidentifiable or is "globbed" with an epoxy dot, the real fun begins!

In that case, the chip is removed from the board in any way possible, and the whole shebang is dissolved in fuming nitric acid until the silicon die itself is exposed. The silicon die is then cleaned in Whink and put under a microscope.

Multiple photos are taken of the exposed die, then stitched together. At this point, it would be a good time for a small digression about "mask programmed" versus "electrically programmed" silicon chips.

Hand-waving away certain details, the vast majority of modern chips are electrically programmed. The chip starts out blank, and has its program uploaded at the time of manufacturing, usually via pogo pins against the wafer itself, or a custom jig after the chip is packaged.

But, for chips that are going to have a lot of them made, this step costs too much time and money. In these cases, the ROM bits are literally a part of the photolithographic mask used to manufacture the silicon chip itself. So yes, bits in this case are actual physical objects.

The bright side to this is twofold: First, after photographing, the bits can be pulled out of the images however. Computer vision, some unfortunate fellow sitting and manually plugging 0/1 into an editor, whatever method results in the least number of errors.

Second, and most importantly, it means that the actual ROM bits are usually the absolute last thing to break. So, in the event that you have a partly-functioning or non-functioning LCD handheld that you'd like to see dumped, take heart and send me a DM! :-)

He's looking for donations to help him buy a big auction of old handhelds to de-cap and extract.

I understand that MAME can also emulate Pong now, and I'm not even really sure what that means, because Pong was arguably not a computer. It didn't have "code". It didn't have a CPU. It was wire-wrapped out of discrete analog components: a state machine and signal generator made out of relays as big as your thumbnail.

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World's Slowest Game of Railroad Tycoon Update

1,700 miles of Continental Railroad: 6 years. 1.7 miles of Muni tracks: 8+ years.

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XScreenSaver 5.38

XScreenSaver 5.38 is out now, including iOS and Android.

There are many minor improvements, such as: BSOD now accepts Dunning-Krugerrands. But only one new hack this time, Esper. I'd been meaning to write this for years, and finally got around to it in protest of a certain sequel.

Hacks like this are tricky because it's challenging to get lo-fi fuzz effects out of OpenGL's sharp-edged way of doing things. That sort of thing is easier if you can write in the GLES2 shader language, but alas, there's no way to do that and still maintain backward compatibility with old X11 desktops.

The Android version is much improved, again thanks to the hard work of Dave and Dennis. It should also work properly on Android TV now.

Some bad Android news, though: at some point since the previous release, some piece-of-shit within the Android tool chain decided to silently delete my .keystore file. It seems that this happened more than six months ago, so it has expired from my off-site backups too. This means that I no longer have the signing key that I previously used on the Google Play store, and that means that they won't let me upload a new version without changing the name of the app. That's stupid, so I'm not going to do that. I'm just going to stop uploading new versions to the Google store instead. You can install the APK file directly from my site. It does exactly the same thing, except that you won't get auto-updates. Bummer.

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