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Welcome to Kirsle.net!

This is the personal homepage of Noah Petherbridge, and it's where I keep my web blog and various creative projects.

I blog about anything I find interesting, and since I have a lot of varied interests, my blog entries are kind of all over the place. You can browse my tags to sort them by topic and see which ones I frequently write about, or the archive has a complete history of my posts, dating back to 2008!

Besides my blog, I have pages for my creative projects, which are linked to on the navigation bar.

I write a lot about Linux and Android, Minecraft, and I like to rant about stuff. Generally anything that makes me curious.

For the geeks: this website respects your privacy and doesn't run any third party ads or analytics. This site speaks HTTP and doesn't require any JavaScript to work.

Evolution of Web Development
March 13, 2020 by Noah

In this blog post, I'll recount my experience in web development over the last 20 years and how the technology has evolved over time. From my early days of just writing plain old HTML pages, then adding JavaScript to those pages, before moving on to server-side scripts with Perl (CGI, FastCGI and mod_perl), and finally to modern back-end languages like Python, Go and Node.js.

Note that this primarily focused on the back-end side of things, and won't cover all the craziness that has evolved in the front-end space (leading up to React.js, Vue, Webpack, and so on). Plenty has been said elsewhere on the Internet about the evolution of front-end development.

I first started writing websites when I was twelve years old back around the year 1999. HTML 4.0 was a brand new specification and the common back-end languages at the time were Perl, PHP, Coldfusion and Apache Server Side Includes.

Read more...

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Progress Report: Degoogling
January 16, 2020 (updated January 16, 2020) by Noah

A couple of years ago I started the progress of slowly de-googling my life: lessening my reliance on Google services, moving my data to my own servers and limiting what data Google can collect about me going forward as well as deleting the data they already have.

In this blog post I'll talk about the Google services I used to use and the solutions I found for replacing them. The full list of Google services I used to use and have found alternatives for include:

  • Gmail: hosting my @kirsle.net email addresses elsewhere.
  • Contacts & Calendar: Nextcloud provides my cross-device sync for these.
  • Drive: Nextcloud holds my files in the "cloud" (my home PC available on the go).
  • Photos: I moved all mine to my Nextcloud.
  • Search: DuckDuckGo.

Also check out some of my personal notes I've been taking as I went:

Read more...

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A drawing-based maze game
July 9, 2019 (updated July 18, 2019) by Noah

I've been working on a videogame the past couple of years, off and on. It's called...

...for now. I have a better name picked out for it, but I'm going to be callling it Project: Doodle (while it's in alpha) so that the finished version will be distinct from the alpha versions, of which it may end up looking nothing like!

The theme of Doodle is centered around hand-drawn, side-scrolling platformer type mazes. You can draw your own levels using freehand and basic drawing tools, color in some fire or water, and drag in pre-made "Doodads" like buttons, keys and doors to add some interaction to your level.

Read more for a screenshot, more information and alpha version download links (Linux, Windows and Mac OS).

Read more...

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Ask Me Anything
December 24, 2018 by Noah

I added a new feature to my Go blog app that sort of automates a Tumblr-style "Ask Me" feature, which I found useful for other blogs I run on this codebase.

So Kirsle.net has gained an ask me anything page. It's like a Contact Me form except your question will become a blog post with my answer attached and you might receive a notification e-mail if you want.

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Password Hashing for Noobs
October 11, 2018 by Noah

I was discussing passwords with someone recently and thought of a neat little hands-on exercise that shows not only how password hashing works, but shows you a real-world example of cracking a weakly hashed password just using Google.

The hands-on exercise should be easily approachable for beginners. I'll also go over a general history of passwords on the Internet -- I've been working as a web developer long enough to watch the whole transition from MD5 to bcrypt play out.

Requirements

Any Unix-like environment with the md5sum command. Most Linux distros have it by default as part of the coreutils package. The Windows Subsystem for Linux might work.

Mac OS might have these built-in too. Not sure.

Or just find a program that can generate MD5 hashes for you, preferably as a downloadable program you run on your computer, or one that runs from a web page but in JavaScript and without the server being involved.

Read more...

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Time Zones
August 3, 2018 by Noah

Probably one of the most frustrating things to deal with as a software developer is time. Specifically time zones and daylight savings time and all that nonsense. Tom Scott has a video about it but I have a recent story of my own.

This week at work, we lost about two days of effort trying to make our web application timezone-aware. Apparently, time zones are so ridiculously complicated, that it's basically impossible to store a time with an arbitrary time zone in your database while remembering what the time zone is.

Don't believe me?

The web stack in this story involves JavaScript, Python and PostgreSQL, with PostgresSQL's problems being applicable to any backend stack.

Read more...

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Vanilla RiveScript
July 16, 2018 by Noah

I got this e-mail today about RiveScript and thought my response would be good for a general audience as well.

Orion asked:

Hello Noah i want to know...

  1. What is Vanilla Rivescript?
  2. What can Vanilla Rivescript do?
  3. How can i install or use Vanilla Rivescript?

Read more...

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Globally Recover Panics in Go
June 22, 2018 by Noah

In the past, I had been tasked to update some Python web apps to have them send e-mails out whenever they run into an uncaught Exception in one of our endpoints. This way we could identify any runtime errors in production and fix them.

In Python it was pretty easy: our web framework, Flask, provides a way to catch any error that happens in any of your HTTP routes. Even if you didn't use Flask, you can set sys.excepthook to a function and catch exceptions globally whenever other code failed to.

But then we had an app written in Go and it needed to have this feature, too. If it were simply a web service, this wouldn't have been bad, but this particular service listened on both an HTTP port and a separate TCP port in another goroutine.

Catching HTTP panics in middleware (or the standard net/http library, which catches panics itself) doesn't do anything to help catch the panics thrown by the TCP server. So, like sys.excepthook, I needed to find a way to globally catch panics in my app.

This was surprisingly very hard to do.

Read more...

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Life, the Universe, and Everything
June 8, 2018 by Noah

Earlier this year, I had a sort of existential curiosity and started researching and thinking a lot about the nature of reality, what all this stuff is made of, and so on.

Thinking too much about it started leading me to a mild case of depersonalization/derealization syndrome ("living in the Matrix", or, as some people on the subreddit put it: it's like seeing a spot on the window and suddenly becoming aware of the window, instead of just looking through it). You know, when real life starts to feel a bit "fake" like a dream and it's hard to un-see that once you've seen it.

So I've reeled in my curiosity for a while and gotten back to normal, but before I forget about all the crazy things I learned, I decided to write it all down in my blog. I'll try and fill this post with links to resources I found interesting along the way.

This post discusses topics of spirituality, philosophy, and maybe some metaphysics. For background, I was born and raised Baptist, turned atheist in my teenage years when the religion conflicted with my sexuality, and have come half a circle again and would call myself "spiritual." All man-made ideas of God are probably utterly wrong, but there's gotta be something to it all. This blog post therefore also sums up my personal beliefs, from the core idea that I'm most confident about and getting less and less sure as it goes.

A lot of this stuff may draw parallels from Buddhism or such. I don't know about any of that, but I have noticed a lot of parallels to all the religions. We're all talking about some of the same basic stuff here, in our own ways.

tl;dr.: Consciousness Is Everything

To summarize, short and sweet:

Consciousness Is Everything. All that exists in the universe is consciousness. Matter comes from consciousness, and we are all experiencing reality as though it were a dream. The brain does not create consciousness; consciousness creates the brain.

In the following sections I'll describe the first few resources that got my curiosity going.

Read more...

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I Migrated from LastPass to KeePass
March 29, 2018 (updated June 1, 2018) by Noah

Today I finally migrated away from using LastPass as my password manager and am instead going to use KeePass. My reasons were the following:

  1. I don't want a browser extension being responsible for my password manager, as the security surface area of a browser extension is unknown.
  2. The usability of LastPass's extension for Firefox has been declining. They removed the ability to "Copy Password" which makes logging in to some sites, like Amazon AWS, a royal pain in the ass.
  3. LastPass is closed source and is a black box and it does weird things, like not ask me for my password often enough, and I have no idea what it keeps available in memory for malicious apps to get into.
  4. I want to keep my things off the cloud where I can.

In this post I'll share my experience with migration, complaints about LastPass and how my current setup looks for syncing my passwords between my phone and computers.

Updated (6/1/18): Syncthing is a good way to synchronize a KeePass DB between my phone and computers.

Read more...

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