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The Expanse

I’ve just finished watching the first episode of SyFy’s new highly-anticipated series: The Expanse.

I’m not familiar with the novel series, but I was looking forward to watching the show after all the hype I heard about it from Steve Gibson on Security Now. By all accounts, The Expanse looks to be SyFy’s first truly serious, high production value series since Battlestar Galactica. For someone like me who doesn’t have paid cable television, it’s not too often that I’m aware of new shows weeks before they premiere. I’d even seen previews for the show during the trailers before a few movies - so I was excited for it to begin.

I’ve only watched the first episode so far, but I’m excited for where this series is headed. We establish that it takes place ~300 years in to the future. Mars and Earth are both populated by humans, but operate as completely separately governed planets, and another population of humans exists in deep space, and in the asteroid belt, mining them for precious resources - namely, water.

In the first episode, we establish ourselves with a stern politician on Earth, a brooding noir-like detective on an asteroid base, and a young XO on a mining ship. Thus far, I find the interrogator on Earth, and the XO on the mining ship to be the most intriguing characters, but I’m hopeful that the cliched brooding detective character will have a payoff in the future episodes.

The world in the Expanse is certainly captivating. Many of the problems that exist in modern-day Earth seem to have continued into the future as well. The Expanse is not a bright shiny utopia, there is struggle, there is a certainly poverty among the people working in the asteroid belt. Mind you, it’s not entirely dark and gritty, but there is a definite sense of realism that the classes of people that exist today will have an analogue in the future as well.

Thus far in the first 44 minutes of the shows, we’re left with far more questions that we’ve had answered - and I like that. It makes me curious for where the show is going. We’re left with questions as to why the colonies on Earth and the Mars are unified, but why the government of Mars seems to be at the brink of war with Earth. We’re told very little about Mars, actually; we meet no characters on Mars, so we wonder what’s Mars’ deal. We hear murmurs about a terrorist organization led by people from the asteroid belt - but is it a simple fight for equality, or something more? The biggest question we’re left with comes at the end of the show when the XO and his mining ship crew find a big surprise for themselves. I won’t spoil it, but it takes us in a great direction.

So far, it looks to be great Science Fiction. The Expanse shows us an intriguing world with interesting characters, a plausible future for humanity, great acting, and great production value(I mention this because lets be honest, often SyFy feels cheap).

Based on what I’ve seen so far, this doesn’t look like it’s going to be like BSG, which was very much The West Wing in space, but we’re off to a promising start.

The first 4 episodes are now available for streaming on SyFy’s website.

Typed on my white alps64

Beautiful student spec ad for Johnnie Walker

Two brothers traverse the fog-kissed, craggy terrain of Scotland’s Isle of Skye—their childhood home, apparently—as a voiceover poetically recounts their experiences and depth of feeling for each other. The notion of “freedom,” and “being free,” surfaces several times as they climb rocky hills and gaze over twisted landscapes as desolate and awe-inspiring as the mountains of the moon. Reaching a dilapidated farmhouse-type structure, they share some Johnnie Walker, then continue on to a desolate peak overlooking the sea.

[via Adweek]

Typed on Octopage

Zeobit exposes 13 million users' data

Anti-virus company MacKeeper is making headlines today for its lax security on a customer database that contained 13 million customer records complete with names, email addresses, usernames, password hashes, phone numbers, IP address, and system information.

Big surprise, Zeobit, a company well know to Mac users for their obtrusive adds promising to ‘clean up your Mac’, yet failing in every regard to do anything of the sort has (borrowing Steve Gibson’s words) done it wrong.

Even less surprising still, they were hashing users passwords with MD5. MD5 in this day and age? Come on, they might as well have put them in a .txt file called “User passwords, please don’t steal.”

Not sure if I should feel angry at Zeobit, or angry at the customers silly enough to have bought their software.

[via Macrumors]

Typed on Octopage

On Becoming a Keyboard Wonk

If you’re in any way involved in the gaming or technology world, you’ve likely come across, tried, or at bare minimum heard of mechanical keyboards.


:noun \ˈwäŋk, ˈwȯŋk
A person who knows a lot about the details of a particular field (such as politics) and often talks a lot about that subject.

For the uninitiated, a mechanical keyboard is one in which every key has its own discrete switch. These switches detect a keypress mechanically. A slider moves down the switch, and actuates a metal leaf of some sort, connecting a circuit, and telling the computer it’s connected to that a key has been pressed. This is different from a typical keyboard that most consumers use - those have rubber domes, and keypresses are detected when those domes are fully collapsed onto a printed circuit board, completing the circuit. Typical keyboards, if one key fails, nothing can be done about it, but on a mechanical board, discrete switches can be replaced should one fail.

If you’ve come across mechanical keyboards, it has likely been the guys with their flash gaming keyboards from companies with names like Razer, or Corsair. Often they have a million keys, a variety of flashing LEDs and a general tacticool look about them.

For years and years I was dismissive of these folks and their keyboards. I’d played around with one or two at a Best Buy over the years, but it didn’t seem like anything special to me. Mechanical boards were overpriced, too large, and far too gaudy. I felt eminently superior, secure in the knowledge that the Apple wireless keyboard I was using was a much better solution for my typing needs. After all, it was small, it was minimalist, and the keys felt great. Oh boy did I have a lot to learn.

My Apple wonkery is actually what led me down the path to being a keyboard wonk as well. Since 2006 or so, I’ve been absolutely a fanatic for everything that company produces - it’s a subject for another post, but suffice to say that I’m quite enthusiastic.

In my internal ledger of Apple knowledge, I was familiar with the famed Apple Extended Keyboard II (AEKII). I knew it was a mechanical keyboard produced by Apple in the 90s that was well loved, described by some as:

The best keyboard Apple ever built.

Consider my amazement when I came across such a board at work last spring. I’m in IT in an office that’s been around for ~35 years or so, so it’s not uncommon to come across old equipment every now and again. I was going through our graveyard of equipment-to-be-recycled, and saw a box with the name of something I knew.

Out of Apple wonk curiosity, I took the board back to my office and inspected it. To my amazement it wasn’t some old, busted, yellowed husk of 20 year old technology, it was brand new!

Having thoroughly inspected the board and marveling at its like-new condition, I began playing with it. Perhaps it was the fact that it’s an Apple product, perhaps it was the novelty of a piece of 20 year old technology in mint condition, perhaps it was the fact that the AEKII uses an uncommon switch type (Alps instead of Cherry) with a feel that I really really liked, but it was like something clicked instantly.

I absolutely fell in love with this board. The look of it was FANTASTIC! It’s simple, minimal, big without being ridiculous, and it’s got an Apple logo on it. I knew that I had to start using it. Of course, being from 1995, it uses the very proprietary Apple Desktop Bus - fortunately that was easily resolved with a simple converter bought on eBay. Soon I was up and running with the AEKII as my keyboard at work.

I suppose what made me fall in love with this board most of all was the feel of the keypress. It was so different from what I was used to with traditional keyboards. It was incredibly tactile, smooth, and required significantly less force (so it was easier on my fingers). All the flash gamer boards I’d ever played with at a Best Buy just didn’t appeal to me, but getting my hands on this board really showed me the light.

Of course, like any good drug, once you try it once, you’ve got to try it some more. Having experienced the GLORY of using the AEKII at work, I needed a board at home. Here was the rub though: I couldn’t possibly imagine using such a large board at my desk at home. My computer at home is a glorified reddit machine, I’ve no need for a full-sized 104 key board - soon the quest for a small board with the exact switches that I was using at work began.

Here’s the rub v2: I learned very quickly with research that Alps switches like the AEKII I have at work aren’t in manufacture anymore, so it’s impossible to just go out and buy one. The only option to have a compact board with those type of switches is to make one.

to make one…

Thus began the journey deep in to the rabbit hole of the mechanical keyboard world. Not content with just a single really cool keyboard at work, I had to have a really cool keyboard at home, I had to make a really cool keyboard…then soon…multiple really cool keyboards.

How I made my first custom keyboard, the different kinds of keyboards I have today, the kinds of keyboards I have the ambition of making: that’s a story for another post. The point is, me being the Apple wonk that I am, randomly discovering a vintage Apple keyboard has given me both the gift and curse of becoming a keyboard wonk as well….and I love it.

For the record, as of this post (December 12, 2015) I have 10 different keyboards.

Typed on my white alps64