Disney+

I am a bit of a sucker for Disney. They constantly provide experiences that delight and entertain. While I know they’re a large, monopolistic company setting out on an ambitious quest to dominate the entertainment industry… I just can’t seem to dislike or even distrust them as much as I would, say, Amazon. My family seems to be much of the same.

That being said, we bought into Disney+ from the get-go. It offered a chance to see all of the classic Disney movies, Marvel smash hits and some NatGeo content as well as some specially created content designed for Disney+ exclusively. Honestly, so long as they kept up with the content, I didn’t see the problem.

Well, now we’re 2 months (as of now) in and I’m already bored with it. Mandalorian is already over, Forky with it. There are some new shorts pulled from the various Pixar movies and some Star Wars content that I haven’t seen in a while. The problem is, the vast majority of the content is either trash, or content I didn’t care about before the launch of the service.

This is a real problem. Not just for Disney, but for Netflix, Hulu (also Disney-owned), HBO, Amazon and Apple. There is a voracious desire for content, but it doesn’t come fast enough. People then look elsewhere for new stuff, or drop their subscription until content is fully loaded. I wish I could just buy the content ala carte. We’re back to the old television channels problem: There is so much crap I don’t want or need, but I’m still paying for it.

I know ala carte probably isn’t a good business model to sustain such expensive material, but tying me to a subscription that I use for only part of the time also seems like theft. It’s primarily why I keep waffling around on Apple Music/Spotify/Amazon Music Prime. I don’t listen to that much music, but I’d like to listen to it occasionally without any advertising. It’s certainly a thorny problem.

I’m probably also being a bit of a curmudgeon.

Historical Function

Today, I delved into a tiny bit of X11/xorg plumbing to see if I could move this damnable .xsession-errors file to someplace more out of the way. For those of you not in the know about Linux or X11, it’s basically a holding tank of any GUI application errors that aren’t normally logged. To me, it seems vestigial of a time before centralized system logging via systemd, but who am I to question our forefathers?

Well, damn it, it’s open source! Lets see if I can fuck with it and make it do what I want it to do!

Turns out no. At least not easily.

Inside /etc/X11/Xsession (on Debian, anyway), exists the following bit of code to create or temporarily create an error log file:

ERRFILE=$HOME/.xsession-errors

# attempt to create an error file; abort if we cannot
if (umask 077 && touch "$ERRFILE") 2> /dev/null && [ -w "$ERRFILE" ] &&
  [ ! -L "$ERRFILE" ]; then
  chmod 600 "$ERRFILE"
elif ERRFILE=$(tempfile 2> /dev/null); then
  if ! ln -sf "$ERRFILE" "${TMPDIR:=/tmp}/xsession-$USER"; then
    message "warning: unable to symlink \"$TMPDIR/xsession-$USER\" to" \
             "\"$ERRFILE\"; look for session log/errors in" \
             "\"$TMPDIR/xsession-$USER\"."
  fi
else
  errormsg "unable to create X session log/error file; aborting."
fi

exec >>"$ERRFILE" 2>&1

The gist (haha) here is that if you don’t have one, make it, if you can’t make it, create a dummy one in the system temp folder and if that fails, just give up. All well and good, right? Right.

So, what happens if we, say, modify the ERRFILE path to something else? Well, I tried that and I got an unexpected result: The file being created correctly in the right location (yay) and an empty file created in the original location (boo).

Excuse me, what the actual fuck?

Right now, I’m kind of at an impasse here. It seems like changing the code above to do what I want it to do works but there is something probably hard-coded elsewhere that just goes “DUMP IT IN $HOME/.xsession-errors“, which is frustrating. I don’t know where else to look. If anyone has any ideas, let me know, I’d be glad to credit you.

Update

I thought I had a smoking gun. I redirected everything in my .xprofile to two different logs, manually. This logged correctly, but I still got a leftover file, let’s see who has it open:

Oh, hello i3bar….

So, I go and re-introduce my changes to Xsession, like so:

# Original
# ERRFILE=$HOME/.xsession-errors
ERRFILE=$HOME/.cache/xorg/errors

# attempt to create an error file; abort if we cannot
# if (umask 077 && touch "$ERRFILE") 2> /dev/null && [ -w "$ERRFILE" ] &&
#   [ ! -L "$ERRFILE" ]; then
#   chmod 600 "$ERRFILE"
# elif ERRFILE=$(tempfile 2> /dev/null); then
#   if ! ln -sf "$ERRFILE" "${TMPDIR:=/tmp}/xsession-$USER"; then
#     message "warning: unable to symlink \"$TMPDIR/xsession-$USER\" to" \
#              "\"$ERRFILE\"; look for session log/errors in" \
#              "\"$TMPDIR/xsession-$USER\"."
#   fi
# else
#   errormsg "unable to create X session log/error file; aborting."
# fi

exec >>"$ERRFILE" 2>&1

I checked and it dumps the standard rigamarole from X starting up. That’s good(tm). Problem is, I still get an (empty) .xsession-errors file.

Time to investigate sway/wayland.

UnFantastical

So, Fantastical, a heretofore “fantastic” calendar dropped a big new update for version 3.0. To celebrate, they decided to make it have a subscription component for stuff that was already in the app, and stuff that doesn’t need any external tooling or servers.

It’s really telling when a company that is awarded by consumers and the platform owners, has a product so good/popular that they only thing they can do is ruin it.

I was once a proud user of the app. I enjoyed it so much that I bought their contact management app, CardHop. Now, I’m back to the stock iOS apps for contacts, calendars and reminders because they got greedy (or didn’t have a strategy). Either way, good riddance. I have no place in my heart for yet another subscription.

FBI vs. Apple: Round 2

Ah, the good old false trade-off: Security or Letting the Terrorists Win and Kill Your Children. Once again, we have Apple being asked by the FBI to unlock or build back doors that “only law enforcement” (read: any bad guy) can use.

Look: I’m sympathetic to law enforcement. They have a tough enough time dealing with the literal worst of humanity and having to piece together the crimes that are comited by said. This is made more difficult when one of their suspects (or criminals) has encrypted some information. Because we have a codified right to privacy, it is reasonable to argue that giving up passcodes and other privacy stripping keys is not something we should have to do, no matter the case, as we’re all equal under the law (the Constitution being the “highest” of those laws).

This fight is further exacerbated by the fact that this is not the first time that Apple has reasonably denied these requests. It would damage their brand, their customer’s security and give an already powerful governmental department sweeping access to stuff it wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) have access to on it’s own. All in the name of “security”. The subtext of all of this is some what sadder: Despite all the massive surveillance that is being done on Americans, we still cannot stop domestic terrorism from happening. Giving the FBI or any entity, aside from the consumer, access to a device that has become the epicenter (for better or worse) of many people’s lives goes counter to our rights.

What about providing a sort of “key escrow” for law enforcement? It would be a semi-reasonable method of giving everything they want, in theory. Law enforcement would have the ability to decrypt data that they would presumably have proven their need to access. The user would still have encryption that is difficult to impossible to break in a reasonable manner and their rights are respected.

The main problems with this scenario are:

  • Who do you give these keys to?
  • What legal recourse do you have if they loose, leak or otherwise provide (willingly or not) keys to someone who should not have it?
  • How do you get millions of people, companies and devices to enroll in this system when free, strong and cryptographically secure code and systems exist in the wild and aren’t going anywhere?
  • Criminals are obviously not going to enroll, so it defeats the point.

Not to mention the massive organizational nightmare it would be to ensure keys are tied to the right person, device or organization. The whole idea is infeasible on any sizable scale.

I wish the general public would be more aware of the erosion of rights. All too often we just allow our government to trample over us because it’s convenient or we’re lead to believe that it’s “for the greater good”. When in actuality we could take some pointers from France, England and Italy where when their governments do wrong, people protest. We need some of that fire back in America, not this anesthetized complacency.

Might Makes Right

I normally don’t like being involved in politics. Confrontation is something I avoid and politics is usually full of it (instead of compromise from both sides). Last night, however, I was thrust into it by some of my classmates in college. Needless to say, they have some kind of questionable beliefs that make me genuinely scared for the future.

Child Abuse

The night began with discussing some casual child abuse. Now, we have laws in this country about how you’re allowed to treat a child. After all, the child is unlikely to be able to know the full ramifications of it’s actions, nor defend itself when attacked and generally makes an easy target for excessive aggression. The fact that we’ve codified this as a specific set of laws should be enough for people.

However, it appears as though many people are still, at least outwardly, okay with casual child abuse. My professor was wistfully talking about how the nuns at his childhood school would routinely beat up the students there and that his fear of nuns is deeply rooted due to it. He also described how his coach on various sports teams would rough him up, to the point of black eyes and whatnot. Both of these accusations seemed not only normal to him, but acceptable and the proper course of action when dealing with children.

Many of the students in class seemed to think this was an acceptable solution to what they perceive as the current issues with children misbehaving. Instead of understanding what the problem is, working through it and finding a solution to the problem. Like an adult. Corporal punishment is a savage and backwards way of making children behave, in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it made problems worse later in life.

Trump

According to my class, not only has he done nothing wrong, but other than some minor slips of the tongue, he’s been great. Despite the laundry list of things that he has done in the last few months that will likely take decades to fix, if they’re ever fully fixed. Despite the very public and very obvious character flaws that both he and his VP have, especially when dealing with women and minorities. Despite all this, they want him to stay.

I wish I could say that this is an abnormal class and that there are still people who don’t think child abuse is acceptable, and that being a toxic personality on the international stage is not very presidential. However, there many more people around me that believe the same things. There are even public officials at the tax office who have been caught failing to register people to vote if they identify democrat.

I know it’s not all broken. I know there are people out there who are not blindly following this strange 50’s-esque mentality of might makes right, let the men do the talking and women and minorities need to get back into their proper places. I know these people exist… but I feel disheartened and discouraged. I’ll vote, but I’m so tired of trying to fight this that it’s almost easier to just give up.