My feelings about the Queen (are complicated)

Something that many don’t know about me is that I’m Welsh (despite living in the US). Being Welsh gives me a very interesting relationship with Britain and the monarchy.

The United Kingdom provides us with a lot of good things, but Britain has also traditionally treated us pretty poorly at various times and under various reigns.

Still, it has made me quite upset at a visceral level to see how much the Internet and Twitterverse appears to hate the Queen and her family personally. A lot of what I see revolves around either colonialism or misunderstandings perpetuated by the media rags of the day.

While I definitely agree the Queen and the royals in general should have done more to give reparations to those who suffered under British colonial rule, I don’t agree she should shoulder all or even most of the blame.

Under the reign of her father and herself, many of the former colonies became independent republics. And it’s not like the Tories in power for the majority of her reign would have approved appropriate reparations anyway. I do wish they would have done more for Africa, and hope to see the new King doing work on that.

While the royals have done some pretty terrible things in their time, they’ve also done a lot of good. They are all big proponents of helping the climate, and the younger royals especially take after Lady Di in wanting to help the impoverished.

Speaking of Diana, let’s not forget that in her capacity as a royal, she helped to destigmatise HIV/AIDS at a time when many others in high places were happy to let those suffering from the disease rot.

Could they do more? Absolutely. Are they as flawless or squeaky clean as they’d like you to believe? Not even close.

But I highly disagree with the level of vilification happening online in the wake of the Queen’s death. I mourn her and the legacy of good things that she has done, while still acknowledging she was a flawed being and there were things she should have done that she did not.

Compiling XIBs with CMake without Xcode

I’ve been enjoying using the JetBrains IDE CLion to do some refactoring and improvements to the Auctions code base. However, when I tried to build the Mac app bundle with it, the app failed to launch:

2022-07-30 19:54:15.117 Auctions[80371:16543044] Unable to load nib file: Auctions, exiting

The XIB files were definitely part of the CMake project. I later learned that CMake does not automatically add XIB compilation targets to a project. It relies on the Xcode generator to do that.

I found a long-archived documentation page from CMake on the Kitware GitLab that described a method to build NIB files from XIBs, and have modified it to make it simpler for Auctions.

You can see the change in the commit diff, but I’ll include the snippet here for posterity.

First, you define an array with the XIB file names with no suffix. For instance, I’ve done set(COCOA_UI_XIBS AXAccountsWindow AXSignInWindow Auctions) for the three XIB files presently in the codebase.

Then we have the loop to build them:

find_program(IBTOOL ibtool REQUIRED)
foreach(XIBFILE ${COCOA_UI_XIBS})
add_custom_command(TARGET Auctions POST_BUILD
COMMAND ${IBTOOL} --compile ${CMAKE_CURRENT_BINARY_DIR}/Auctions.app/Contents/Resources/${XIBFILE}.nib ${CMAKE_CURRENT_SOURCE_DIR}/${XIBFILE}.xib
COMMENT "Compiling NIB file ${XIBFILE}.nib")
endforeach()

Now it starts correctly and works properly when built from within CLion. This was surprisingly difficult to debug and fix, so I hope this post can help others avoid the hours of dead ends that I endured.

Until next time, Happy Hacking!

Expanding the Retro Lab, and Putting It to Work

Over the past month, I have been blessed with being in the right place at the right time to acquire a significant amount of really cool computers (and other technology) for the Retro Lab.

Between the collection I already had and these new “hauls”, I now have a lot of computers. I was, ahem, encouraged to stop using the closets in my flat to store them and finally obtained a storage locker for the computers I’m not using. It’s close to home, so I can swap between what I want to work on virtually at will.

Now I am thinking about ways to track all of the machines I have. One idea I’ve had is to use FileMaker Pro for the Power Macintosh to track the Macs, and FoxPro to track the PCs. One of my best friends, Horst, suggested I could even use ODBC to potentially connect the two.

This led me to all sorts of ideas regarding ways to safely and securely run some server services on older systems and software. One of my acquisitions was a Tyan 440LX-based server board with dual Pentium II processors. I’m thinking this would be a fun computer to use for NT. I have a legitimate boxed copy of BackOffice Server 2.5 that would be perfect for it, even!

Connecting this system to the Internet, though, would present a challenge if I want to have any modicum of security – so I’ve thought it out. And this is my plan for an eventual “Retro Cloud”.

Being a cybersecurity professional, my first thought was to completely isolate it on the network. I can set up a VLAN on my primary router, and connect that VLAN to a dedicated secondary router. That secondary router would have total isolation from my present network, so the “Retro Cloud” would have its own subnet and no way to touch any other system. This makes it safer to have an outbound connection. I’ll be able to explore Gopherspace, download updates via FTP, and all that good stuff.

Next, I’m thinking that it would make a lot of sense to have updated, secure software to proxy inbound connections. Apache and Postfix can hand sanitised requests to IIS and Exchange without exposing their old, potentially vulnerable protocol handlers directly to the Internet.

And finally, as long as everything on the NT system is public knowledge anyway – don’t (re)use any important passwords on it, don’t have private data stored on it – the risk is minimal even if an attacker were able to gain access despite these protections.

I’m still in the planning stages with this project, so I would love to hear further comments. Has anyone else set up a retro server build and had success securing it? Are there other cool projects that I may not have even thought of yet? Share your comments with me below!

Wherefore art thou, USB-C hubs?

I’ve been looking for weeks at various stores around Tulsa, and online, for USB-C hubs. I already have a USB-C hub that has ports like Ethernet, HDMI, and USB-A. What I am looking for is a hub that has many USB-C ports.

As my Lightning cables age out, and I replace more equipment with devices that have only USB-C, more of my devices are connected this way.

My M1 MacBook Pro has two USB-C ports, but I have:

  • A USB-C SSD with my photo library.
  • My iPhone 12 with a Lightning to USB-C cable (all of my Lightning to USB-As are finally worn out).
  • My iPad mini which is USB-C to USB-C.
  • The aforementioned hub for connecting an external display.
  • Sometimes an optical drive, which yes, also uses USB-C.
  • The charging cable, because all of these devices pull a lot of power.

So, as a ballpark estimate, I need about six USB-C ports here. I really do not want to have to use a bunch of C-to-A adaptors, especially since some of my devices seem to slow down when using them. Has anyone seen anything like that out there? I drastically prefer to shop local, but at this point I would even consider buying from Amazon.

Or to put it in the words of one of my favourite bloggers: Dear lazyweb, where can I buy USB-C hubs?