Ben Sturmfels

Ballarat, Australia

Free software activist who loves riding bikes and flying kites. Lead developer at

  • GovHack 2018: Right to the Night

    2018-09-11T06:46:27Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    Spent the weekend at GovHack, an event to make things with government data. Neroli, Tamara and I focused on the Right to the Night public safety survey run here my home town of Ballarat. Here's our project:

    I enjoyed getting to know new folks and learnt a lot about QGIS. Thanks to the volunteers for a great event.

    Sarah Elkins likes this.

  • 2018-07-28T00:19:43Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    Baking bread and updating my GNU Guix/SD operating system ❌ likes this.

  • 2018-07-20T11:05:31Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    Haven't posted to for a bit, but still enjoying checking in every day or so to see what's happening!

    Sarah Elkins, Stephen Michael Kellat, McClane, Stephen Sekula and 1 others likes this.

    dw, dw shared this.

  • tmate - Instant terminal sharing

    2018-06-15T06:49:50Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    tmate just showed up in Guix. Looks like a really convenient way to do pair programming. It was always possible with tmux, but certainly not trivial to set up.

    My only concern is that you're basically giving the owner of the tmate server access to your computer. So this could be an ideal use of Guix's built in ability to run a program within a container. Something like:

    $ guix environment --container --ad-hoc tmate -- tmate
    [env]# tmate
    tmate: need UTF-8 locale (LC_CTYPE) but have ANSI_X3.4-1968

    This would in theory run tmate with only the current working directory available, but there's a locale issue I haven't been able to solve yet.

    And it all comes full circle. The Incompatible Timesharing System had this 50 years ago...

    Jason Self at 2018-06-15T13:35:08Z

    Ben Sturmfels likes this.

  • 2018-06-15T05:47:20Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    Sigh. Just spent two hours troubleshooting a uwsgi configuration to discover that "-v" doesn't mean "verbose" like everywhere else in the world, it means something else obscure that breaks the server.

  • helm-find-files

    2018-06-01T05:56:29Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    I'm trying to love helm-find-files for #Emacs but I don't think I want to give up my <TAB> muscle memory since it's used in the terminal too. How are others dealing with this?

  • 2018-05-25T02:02:43Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    Upgrading my desktop to Trisquel 8.0 today! Exciting!

    Now that you've had Triquel for a while, how do you like it? Are you able to do as much in general as with other systems?

    hammerron at 2018-07-15T19:38:15Z

    @hammerron I've spent something like the last 8 years using Trisquel for all of my personal and work computing. I've been a paying subscriber for much of that time. Trisquel has been my rock - combining a strong emphasis on free software with a well maintained distribution. Since it's based on Ubuntu LTS minus the non-free bits, it's extremely stable the security updates are very prompt.

    Prior to that I ran Debian Testing, so I did initially miss the continuous flow of new software coming in. In the last couple of years though I've started running GNU GuixSD on a second machine which gives me much newer software, but breaks from time to time.

    In recent years Trisquel has struggled to get enough people power to make timely releases, but the recent release of Trisquel 8 is a great achievement.

    I should probably write up something longer about all this.

    Ben Sturmfels at 2018-07-23T00:52:08Z

  • Yikes, EFF warning of PGP vulnerability - action required

    2018-05-14T06:38:17Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    Just repeating this warning from EFF. They're suggesting temporarily disabling auto-decryption of PGP-encrypted mail pending the full vulnerability announcement.

    "A group of European security researchers have released a warning about a set of vulnerabilities affecting users of PGP and S/MIME. EFF has been in communication with the research team, and can confirm that these vulnerabilities pose an immediate risk to those using these tools for email communication, including the potential exposure of the contents of past messages."

    unsigned_nerd, unsigned_nerd shared this.

    Show all 159 replies
    I'm still not sure what to do with the way this vulnerability was presented/hyped.

    Tobias Diekershoff at 2018-05-16T05:59:42Z

    I was never keen on email clients executing javascript that turns up in email by default

    that always looked dangerous

    Michael at 2018-05-16T16:14:31Z

    This press release from gpg has relevant informations

    (sorry if it has already been posted and was lost in the client-glitch repeated comments)

    Elena ``of Valhalla'' at 2018-05-18T15:01:22Z

    Thanks Elena, I hadn't had a chance to look into the the reality of issue. This is a helpful article.

    Ben Sturmfels at 2018-05-19T02:20:58Z

  • Translation strings in Handlebars templates are killing me

    2018-04-18T09:03:22Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    {{#if place.type_tarts_with_vowel }}{{#_}}an{{\_}}{{else}}{{#_}}a{{/_}}{{/if }}

    Give me regular expressions any day over these horrors. My eyes hurt.

    McClane likes this.

    No wonder your eyes hurt xDD

    JanKusanagi at 2018-04-18T12:01:14Z

  • Mapping danger spots for women

    2018-04-18T01:15:24Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    We just launched the Free to Be project in Sydney, Delhi, Lima, Madrid and Kampala, collecting data on how safe young women feel in their city, in conjuction with Plan International and CrowdSpot

    jsae, nukem, Sarah Elkins, McClane and 2 others likes this.

    nukem, nukem, McClane, EVAnaRkISTO and 4 others shared this.

    Sounds like an awesome project.


    JanKusanagi at 2018-04-18T01:32:51Z

  • Buying books online

    2018-02-27T09:53:59Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    Seen on my online book store of choice:

    "Customers who bought *RT Essentials* also bought: The Banjo Chord Chart"

    Sarah Elkins likes this.

  • Emacs lockup during mu4e contact indexing

    2018-02-19T01:53:34Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    Spent an hour or two trying to track down why mu4e was locking up Emacs for 20 seconds or so while updating the mail index in the background. This was occurring during final step of the mu4e update - updating contacts.

    It seems that the cause was a large amount of spam I've been getting to a Mailman instance I manage. Each message was coming in with a unique sender, made up of Chinese characters. Indexing was comping back with something like [mu4e] Contacts received: 35000. The *mu4e-log* buffer, which shows when mu4e-debug is set, suggests that the slowness is in communicating these contacts between mu and Emacs, not mu itself. These contacts are used for auto-completion.

    Anyhow, clearing out the spam fixed the problem. There may be a performance issue with mu4e and contacts with Chinese characters, or it may simply be loading such a high volume of contacts. Maybe reloading contacts after each index isn't such a good idea also. Anyhow, it's working well for me now.

    McClane likes this.

  • 2018-02-01T06:00:09Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    Received my GNUBee Personal Cloud 2 in the post today

    havent heard of those before ..

    "schematics available as PDFs" .. I like the sound of that ..

    is this open hardware?

    Michael at 2018-02-01T12:18:40Z

    @Michael I'm not sure whether it's open hardware. Personally that's not a concern for me given it's nearly impossible to buy new devices that run 100% free software.

    Ben Sturmfels at 2018-02-01T12:55:56Z

  • 2018-02-01T00:06:36Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    Trying tmux today. I've only ever used GNU Screen before. Default keybindings seem to be similarly annoying for an Emacs user.

  • Didn't realise what I was missing

    2018-01-31T00:51:51Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    Typing along in some documentation and Company mode for Emacs is completing file paths for me. Super handy. This documentation might even be accurate! ❌ likes this.

  • PureOS is FSF endorsed

    2018-01-25T01:06:13Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    I must have missed this in the Christmas rush: Purism's PureOS GNU/Linux operating system is now FSF endorsed. Very inspiring to see that the company is so committed to their goal of manufacturing a freedom respectful laptop!

    Kesara, McClane, ❌ likes this. ❌, ❌, ❌, ❌ and 1 others shared this.

    Cool =)

    That says lots about their hardware!

    JanKusanagi at 2018-01-25T01:12:30Z

    Sarah Elkins likes this.

    And, after certification, they added added a non-free repository:

    I wonder how this is going to go down...

    Jason Self at 2018-01-25T04:35:13Z ❌ likes this.

  • Bash history too valuable to lose

    2018-01-21T00:46:52Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    I've started version controlling my .bash_history, since it feels like my extra memory. Being able to Ctrl-r search everything just lets me remember how to do a whole lot more things without explicitly writing them down and later looking them up. This also allows me to crudely synchronise between development machines every week or so.

    McClane, Charles Stanhope, ❌, Tyng-Ruey Chuang and 1 others likes this.

    Not a bad plan =)

    JanKusanagi at 2018-01-21T02:01:09Z

    I have largely replaced aliases or functions in ~/.bash_aliases (called from ~/.bashrc) with just named functions in .bash_history. Version control becomes natural and immediate.

    So I just:
    $ useful_function() { for blah in blahs; do stuff; done; }; useful_function

    And then calling is just C-r useful_fun, and if I need to change something I change it, and then enter and boom, new version. ❌ at 2018-01-21T02:45:13Z

    That's really neat, great idea!

    Ben Sturmfels at 2018-01-21T03:04:14Z

    @Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) What happens when you restart the system or log out though, do you just Ctrl-r back to the definition?

    Ben Sturmfels at 2018-01-21T03:05:58Z

  • Noob mistake

    2017-12-01T05:03:34Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    Ok, so now I know that registering a .com domain with "app" in the title and using your real phone number is a bad idea. Have been getting about 4 cold calls a day from overseas app development companies.

    McClane likes this.

    But how much are they paying? Maybe I should exactly what you are saying. :-) ❌ at 2017-12-01T07:08:39Z

    Using your phone number for that is probably a bad idea, regardless of the domain name =)

    JanKusanagi at 2017-12-01T13:10:02Z

  • Success with WebRTC

    2017-11-15T04:43:37Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    After a few false starts, had a great audio call with a friend over Riot/Matrix. Had some issues with video, so we might try that again another day. No luck with unfortunately. Also tried Riot on mobile with me over cell data connection and friend on WiFi - audio quality not quite as good, but still very acceptable.

    To get all this working, it turns out I had to make the following changes to IceCat 52.3's default settings:

    media.peerconnection.enabled = true = false

    Worked on both Trisquel and GNU GuixSD. Here's a related IceCat mailing list thread. ❌, McClane likes this.

  • Coffee grounds for seed raising

    2017-11-12T05:25:34Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    I'm experimenting with waste coffee grounds for growing vegetables from seed. Not sure how it will go, but the benefits are that they hold water well, are finer that the commercial pine-bark potting mix I've been using, fairly sterile (from fungus and bacteria), hopefully nutritious since they're crushed seeds, plentiful, free of charge and smell quite pleasant. :)

    Downside may be that the pH is too low. My pH test kit say the grounds are about pH 5 and the kit notes recommend 5.5 - 6.5 for potting mixes, so not too far off. Some quick experimenting seemed to suggest that adding dolomite limestone at 1:8 gave me a pH of about 6. Seems like quite a lot of dolomite, so I might have to test again later and see if the pH settles higher as it breaks down.

    Sarah Elkins, Screwtape likes this.