XScreenSaver 6.03 out now


XScreenSaver 6.03 is out now, including iOS and Android.

I wrote two new hacks this time:

Squirtorus, which I can't really explain or justify except that it came to me in a dream. The pandemic has been weird, ok?

And also MapScroller, which suggested itself following my investigations of OpenStreetMap while trying to figure out how to plot a heat map of my ticket sales.

MapScroller is not available on iOS or Android because network access happens through a Perl subprocess, since doing HTTPS from C code is untenable.

Also Sphere Eversion has a freaky new mode.

Two years ago I said: "fixed rotation on iOS 13 (Apple incompatibly breaks rotation every two years as a matter of policy)". As it has been two years, they broke it again, and I fixed it again. As foretold by prophecy.

And on X11, by popular demand, holding down backspace in the password entry field will clear it. For some reason the XInput2 extension does not send keyboard auto-repeat events, so I had to special case this in the client, like an animal.

A couple of things I could use some help with:

  • Speaking of XInput2, if you are the sort of person who is concerned about the fact that this popular and universally-deployed component of the X server is reproducibly returning uninitialized and/or freed data from server memory to any old client that connects, might I recommend that you build and run "xscreensaver/driver/test-xinput --grab". The logs printed should make the problem extremely clear. Update: I was mistaken, nevermind.

  • If you are the sort of person who cares about localization: the eldrich horror known as "intltoolize" has gurgled to the surface again: if you upgrade autoconf beyond 2.69_5, then the po/ directory stops working. Something has angered the many-angled ones who squat and gibber at the bottom of the potfile. So if you could install a recent autoconf, Make It Go, and send me a patch, that would be great.

    I'm sorely tempted to just delete the po/ directory entirely and let each distro figure that shit out on their own. I've just about had it.

    As I said years ago in a comment in configure.ac:

    This IT_PROG_INTLTOOL nonsense has so many self-modifying levels of insanity that it must have been written by RMS, or an equally demented protégé. Why does po/Makefile.in.in exist?? Why does aclocal.m4 exist?? Why can't I ever upgrade it without everything breaking?? Won't someone please have mercy on us all and write a normal po/Makefile.in that uses wildcards, and write a sane set of rules to detect gettext(3) and msgfmt(1) and just do the obviously straightforward thing?
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CDC recolors maps to declare victory

How to lie with numbers, Invisible Hand of Capitalism Edition! As far as I can tell, these two maps represent approximately the same data. The first one, which you've been seeing variants of for years, puts nearly every county in the Danger Zone. The second one is how CDC is coloring it today.

So if you had been thinking, "I'm going to avoid crowds until my county isn't SCORCHING RED", congratulations! CDC has solved that problem for you, without any of the underlying numbers having substantially changed!

And of course CDC is uninterested in talking about Long COVID at all.

As far as I can tell, the motivation here is:

"Federal, State and Local government functionaries, along with people in rural diners and lunatic Qanons, have decided that masking is over, and so we must make our guidance reflect the 'Personal Freedoms' that these idiots are going to do anyway."

The new "low" threshold is 2× the old "high" threshold.

So overnight we went from "Holy shit, the whole country is red, we are letting the virus rip, Omicron is going to kill us all" to... "It's fiiiiiiine, everybody get back to work, go to the mall, book a flight, so that we can put out some press releases about Strong Economic Growth so that we don't get slaughtered in the midterms."

[Narrator: they are going to get absolutely slaughtered in the midterms regardless.]

AstroKatie:

I say this seriously and it is not a contested statement: the new CDC guidance is predicated on the assumption that you are entirely okay with catching Covid and passing it on to others. If you are NOT okay with that, you're just a footnote in the new guidance.

The new CDC "Community Levels" determining when they do or don't recommend masks have virtually no connection to your risk of catching Covid; they're just about whether there's a decent chance you'll die specifically because local hospitals are full with your neighbors.

watermelonpunch:

CDC says it's ok to unmask now because there's still local freezer truck morgue capacity available in your area.


Update:
To clarify: it's not entirely accurate to describe what CDC has done as "recoloring the map". They didn't just change the scale or the map key: they are actually measuring different data now.

That old map, the all-red map on the left, is a map of new infections per 100k people: it correlates well to your chance of exposure and infection. CDC's term for this is "Community Transmission".

The map on the right is the new one that they say we should be paying attention to instead: the "Community Levels" map, which is basically new infections DIVIDED BY available hospital beds. So COVID could be absolutely ripping through your community, but if you happen to have an excess of ICU capacity, that map is going to be green and tell you "you're golden, go eat at indoor restaurants and don't worry about it."

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From craft beer to Molotov cocktails

"Right now, nobody is drinking much beer anyway because of the war, so we decided to use the bottles to make Molotovs instead," said Juri Zastavniy, the manager of Pravda.

"As a brewery, we have access to large numbers of bottles, and we also know to handle materials and generally keep everything clean and safe." [...] Mr Zastavniy said it helped the war effort to have Molotovs that were ready-made by experts, as they could injure the user if not properly constructed. "It can be very dangerous if you don't put a proper cork into the bottle, for example," he said.

At his brewery in an old industrial quarter on the outskirts of Lviv, where start-up firms operate from old shipping containers, Pravda's staff were churning out hundreds of Molotovs on Sunday in the corner of a yard.

They used a mixture of petrol and other household ingredients blended to a specific recipe that they had downloaded from the internet. Ukraine's civil authorities have also issued the public with instructions on how to make Molotovs, urging civilians to use them to "neutralise the occupier".

The Putin Huilo beer - described as a "dry-hopped golden ale" - has a label depicting Mr Putin as a tattooed Russian mafia boss sitting on a throne. In his lap sits a childlike-version of Dimitry Medvedev, Russia's former prime minister, who holds a toy-like version of the MH17 airliner. The plane was shot down by Russian separatists over Ukraine in 2014, killing 298 civilians. [...]

The beer is brewed in a large champagne-style bottle, which Mr Zastavniy said was the ideal size for petrol bombs. He added, though, that the company would be making Molotovs donated from every brewery in the city. "Even the big brewery from Carlsberg offered their bottles for free," he said.

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Recent Movies and TV

  • Yellowjackets (2021): A girls' soccer team crashes in the mountains and they go full Lord of the Flies. It's interleaved between a story about the kids and them as adults. I am extremely conflicted about this. On the one hand, all of the actors are fantastic and I was invested in their stories. On the other hand, this is THE most plotblocking show I've seen since Lost. To be fair, unlike Lost, they don't keep just moving the goalposts: in Lost the answer to every question was a new, stupider question, and they aren't doing that. But the Yellowjackets writers clearly have no intention of telling us WTF happened in the mountains until like season 5, if then. Do they even know? Maybe not. I absolutely hate this miserly style. It is the "dark pattern" of screenwriting.

    Also it's very weird that two of the girls in the crash are credited as "Yellowjacket #1" and "Yellowjacket #2". There are only like ten of them, you couldn't be bothered to give them all names? According to IMDB, Yellowjackets #1 and #2 appear in 7 episodes.

  • The Book of Boba Fett (2022): Obviously I will watch any show set on Tatooine. I will enthusiastically watch it on that basis alone, just for the environments and background characters. But I guess I just don't really give a shit about Boba Fett as a person. He was a bad guy with really cool armor, but the more I learn about him, and his dad, and his millions of clone uncles (clunkles?) the less I care. The stuff with the Tuskens was fun, but way too Dances With Wolves. I loved the scooter gang! But give us the Ming-Na Wen show instead. Also if Baby Yoda could fuck all the way off, that would be great.

  • The Expanse (2015): They stuck the landing on the abbreviated series finale, despite some weird choices. (Like why spend any time at all on the psychic necromancer lizards if you're just going to leave that thread dangling? Every second you spent on perky children is a second you could have spent on Drummer being a badass instead.) Though the series had a droopy middle (I didn't care about anything happening on Ilus in S04) this show set the bar for any future science fiction series or movie. It's the characters and stories that made it great, but it's the physics and the sets that made it real. Every subsequent show is going to have to live up to that.

    In hindsight, of the strangest things about the show is that, through all these interplanetary cold and hot wars over scarce resources, at no point is any corporation mentioned. Not only does Earth have some form of UBI, but in all three polities, corporations are apparently just not a thing any more? That's almost harder to believe than the Manhattan sea wall, or the space demons.

  • Archive 81 (2022): A guy whose job is restoring damaged Hi-8 cartridges (and who is not named Jason Scott) is drawn in to a culty mystery. It's pretty great, and I'm am here for this new genre of "people sitting in a room with q-tips and alcohol swabs trying to pull demons out of old analog tapes". But, stock plot detected, I can certainly do without the new trend of "the third-to-last episode interrupts the plot with a period-piece multi-decade flashback exposition episode that walks you through the whole mythology." Still. I enjoyed it.

  • In From The Cold (2022): Now I love me some "deep-cover Russian agent went native and became a suburban mom then gets blackmailed back into doing one more job" stories. And this one has some good moments, and some good fights. But it has a bunch of tech that is just straight-up magic, a villain whose motivations make no damned sense, and an ending that is... just... bullshit.

  • Nightmare Alley (2021): A noir about some carnys who upgrade their mentalist act to a real con. It's gorgeous, with great acting, a great cast and incredible sets. The story is a bit of a narrative mess, which was also true of the original -- it's kind of 2 1/2 different movies tacked together. But still a good time.

  • Peacemaker (2022): Because it is James Gunn, you're only 30 seconds into it before it is deep in the "daddy issues" woods, and I'm so bored with that. But, this show is still pretty hilarious, and a fine entry in the burgeoning "superheroes who swear" genre. It's no Harley Quinn, but it is a fine followup to the surprisingly-adequate Suicide Squad 2. And, it has far and away the most hilarious title sequence I've seen in years. I watch the entire title sequence every time.

  • Pivoting (2022): Eliza Coupe and Maggie Q are rich suburban dirtbags having a mid-life crisis. It's pretty funny.

  • Pump Up the Volume (1990): I hadn't watched this in many years, and I'm happy to report that it mostly holds up. This movie is the spiritual prequel to Hackers and (at least in my headcanon) the literal prequel to Mr. Robot. The one aspect that doesn't hold up so well is that it's hard not to read Happy Harry Hardon as just another edgelord podcaster, and it's hard to remember a world where that just didn't exist yet. Let alone had become a nightmarish cliché.

  • Seize the Night (2022): A melancholy dealer and a suicidal pop star meet and have a romantic first date while trying to buy drugs. It is both surprisingly sweet and pretty depressing.

  • The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window (2022): Everybody wants to make their own Rear Window now, I wonder why that is. The acting on this is great, and I enjoyed the first few episodes, even though it was kind of hard to watch, because Kristen Bell's character is just crazy as shit and intent on burning her life down... But as the actual plot begins to unfold, it gets just deeply, deeply stupid, and the ending in particular is just an insulting slap in the face of the audience.

  • Kimi (2022): Another Rear Window, I can't imagine why this is such a trend now! But this one is by Soderberg, and Zoë Kravitz is fantastic. It takes a bit of a Die Hard turn, and is extremely satisfying. One of those rare movies that acknowledges that a pandemic happened.

  • Inventing Anna (2022): Remember that "fake heiress" woman from a few years back? Yeah neither do I; I've mixed her up in my head with the "Russian NRA spy" woman. Anyway, I have no idea how much of this is true, but this series is pretty great. Anna Chlumsky is awesome, and the title character reminds me of several people I've known, which probably means I should spend less time around bullshit artists.

  • House of Gucci (2021): Wow was this boring. I did not give half a shit about any of these people. I started fast-forwarding about halfway through. I gather there was a murder at the very end? Nothing of value was lost.

  • The Leftovers (2014): 2% of the population got raptured (so, twelve COVIDs, or 1/25th of Marvel's "Blip") and the world loses its damn mind. This is by the Lost guy, so I avoided it on that basis alone, but someone recommended it so I gave the first season a shot. It is true that it is not very plotblocking, but also not a lot happens. It's very depressing, full of sad, damaged people doing sad, damaged things and accomplishing basically fuck-all. It wasn't terrible, but it also wasn't very compelling. It is, however, weird watching this through a COVID lens, because the ways in which the show's world went nuts are both more and less insane than what we've been dealing with.

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Andreessen-Horowitz now advertising with spray paint

You wouldn't right-click someone's garage door:

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Great moments in visualization

I was examining some data, and these surprisingly cool looking images popped out. I'll bet you can't guess what this is. But go ahead, give it a try!


Update:

Well it's from a screen saver, of course, specifically Dymaxion Map.

These images are maps translating Equirectangular coordinates (longitude × latitude) to XY coordinates on a flat image containing the triangles of the traditional Dymaxion projection. Input XY are the pixel positions on the input Equirectangular image; output XY coordinates for the Dymaxion image are packed into the RGBA color values at 16 bits each, though I had to delete the alpha channel (and thus the top 8 bits of Y) to make anything show up. The two images represent the same mapping, but the second one is at half the resolution of the first: the colors and shapes are different because the coordinate space is smaller, and smaller values affect the coloration.

It's not a particularly useful visualization -- it clarifies nothing -- but it looks cool.

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Mask Mandate


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Y2038

Your periodic reminder that we are closer to the Y2038 bug than the Y2K bug:

SELECT UNIX_TIMESTAMP("2038-01-18 19:14:07") → 2147483647;
SELECT UNIX_TIMESTAMP("2038-01-18 19:14:08") → NULL;
SELECT VERSION() → 10.4.22-MariaDB-log

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Robot war dogs hunting migrants now

Dystopian robot dogs are the latest in a long history of US-Mexico border surveillance:

Each is embedded with different types of cameras (thermal, night vision, long-range) and sensors (chemical, weapons detection). DHS praised the device's ability to cross multiple terrains -- including sand, rocks and hills -- and its durability in high heat and cramped spaces.

DHS' choice of vendor sparked additional concern. While most police departments leased their pups from Boston Dynamics, which forbids customers weaponizing any of their tech, DHS chose Philadelphia-based Ghost Robotics. Late last year, the company debuted a version of its robot dogs equipped with long-range guns capable of hitting targets at a reported 1,200 meters.

DHS's oddly cheery blogpost also implied the robots would be used beyond the border itself, including "towns, cities, or ports'' where DHS agents might encounter dangerous conditions. Federal officials have increased authority to stop and search civilians within 100 miles of the border, despite fourth amendment protections against arbitrary or excessive stops and seizures.

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Pandemic Cartograms

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