Bitforte: A masterclass in scamming

2021/10/12 12:16 AM 2 months ago

Earlier today I got an obvious scam email:

Return-Path: <no-reply@[redacted]>
Subject: Bitcoin Payment
To: Recipients <no-reply@[redacted]>
From: "Mr. Neves N" <no-reply@[redacted]>
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 2021 19:10:52 +0900

Hi Rob Hoffman, As requested, we have now deposited 30 BTC which amount to
($1,692,796.80 USD) into your bitcoin portfolio at bitforte.net/signin
 Customer Id: [redacted]
Customer Password: [redacted]

I was curious to see how this scam worked, so I fired up my favorite anonymizing VPN and private browser session and went to town.

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Creative Commons, summarized

2021/10/08 11:39 AM 2 months ago

The Creative Commons initiative has been incredibly transformative for how people make things, and has been a huge boon to content creators the world around.

Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of confusion around what they are and how they work. I see some very common mistakes with using them, both from creators and from users, especially in the game development and YouTube communities.

My hope is to clear some of these misunderstandings up.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, I’m just an enthusiast about copyright law. This is also not an exhaustive guide by any means.

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Garbage opinions

2021/10/07 10:56 AM 2 months ago

Today I got a market research survey from the garbage company which wanted to know my opinions about how valued I feel as a customer. One of the questions was a 1-10 scale of whether I’m “disappointed” or “delighted” with the service, and a text form where they wanted details for why I gave the rating I did. I had a lot to say, and I’m posting it here just so that it actually gets read by someone.

Never mind that the only reason I use you is that you have a local monopoly on waste management services, I am continually frustrated by how your workers will often skip my home, or will knock over the trash can and then not pick it back up or empty it out. Also, it would be great if you could institute a system where it’s paid by weight rather than container size; my garbage output varies widely from week to week and my bins are usually just half-full, but with just enough trash that going to the lower tier size wouldn’t be sufficient. Having it be based on actual weight of pickup would be a lot more fair.

It’d also be great if you’d partner with Styro Recycle to offer styrofoam recycling; right now my choices are either to drive to Kent (which is wasteful) or to put styrofoam in the trash (which is wasteful). In a perfect world things wouldn’t be packaged in styrofoam to begin with but that’s not something I, as a consumer, have control over.

My (current) coffee station

2021/10/07 12:59 AM 2 months ago
IMG_3534.jpeg

For the last few months (since mid-July) I’ve been going through a lot of upgrades and troubleshooting on my coffee setup, especially as far as espresso is involved. I’m finally at the point where I’m happy with both the equipment and technique I have… or at least I think I am.

Here are the products I currently use, and the techniques I’ve found to get the most out of them. As usual, I have affiliate links for many of the products on display, but feel free to search for the best deal or the vendors you prefer.

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Current goings-on

2021/10/05 11:39 AM 2 months ago

Huh, it’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog entry. So let’s do some catch-up to the present, I guess.

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Songs of Substance

2021/10/01 12:00 AM 2 months ago

ESE pod review: Caffe Pompeii Circe 100% Arabica

2021/09/25 6:35 PM 3 months ago

The Caffe Pompeii Circe (which is labeled as “Gusto” on the pod envelope) is one of the pods that Podhead sent me as a sample. Being fully-caffeinated I was hesitant to drink it (as caffeine hecks me up something fierce), so for the sake of this review I only did a single 16g shot.

This time I used my standard portafilter, so I don’t know whether there was channeling. However, the resulting coffee tasted smooth and well-balanced, and I definitely recommend this one wholeheartedly if you want an ESE pod to brew and don’t have any reason to avoid caffeine.

An hour later I had jitters and a panic attack, as expected. Oh well.

Gusto Decaf Polifemo

2021/09/18 6:46 PM 3 months ago

When I ordered a bunch of ESE pods for this ongoing ESE pod experiment, PODhead sent me a few samples of a few other pods. This is one of them. Oddly, I couldn’t find this particular one anywhere on their website, although a websearch turned it up, so it’s probably just something weird about their site navigation.

Also, given some of the extraneous slug text on the link, I worry about whether the links will remain active in the long term as their stock changes. If anyone from PODhead wants to let me know about what’s going on with that, it’d be greatly appreciated!

Anyway, they only gave me two pods, so I can only do a two-shot evaluation. For my first shot I went with a lungo, which I managed to get exactly 21g out. Yay me! The shot pulled cleanly and there was no channeling. Some slight bitter notes, maybe a little bit burned, but nothing unpleasant. Good texture. Left behind some sweet notes on my palate.

For my second shot I opted to go with a standard shot, and got 15g out. Just like with the Cremissimo arabica decaf I paradoxically got something more bitter and overextracted. So, this stuff definitely wants a shot on the longer side. It was still decently drinkable though.

This seems like a decent starter espresso for someone who just wants something simple and no-nonsense, and is somewhat forgiving to overextraction. Someone who doesn’t care about the fiddly details of espresso, or extraction ratios or channeling or texture, someone who has never heard of WDT or calibrated tamping or puck prep or any of the debates about 3 bar vs. 9 bar vs. 15 bar.

I used to be like that.

Sometimes I miss those days.

This coffee is fine.

Cremissimo arabica decaf

2021/09/18 3:07 PM 3 months ago

The fourth ESE pod up for review is the decaf arabica espresso by Cremissimo.

Upon opening, the pod smells like… pretty standard coffee, really. The puck is good and firm, and feels well-compacted. Pods are 7g.

For the first shot I did 24g out (3.4:1, for a longer-than-usual lungo). The resulting coffee was pretty smooth, with a slightly bitter finish and some sweet notes. There wasn’t anything about the flavor which particularly grabbed me; it tasted like a pretty ordinary espresso shot. Which, if we’re being honest, is a good thing. As usual I used the bottomless portafilter, and I didn’t see any channeling take place.

Shot 2 I only took to 14 grams, and paradoxically this was much more bitter than the first one. It tasted like the sort of espresso you’d get at a major coffee chain, or one of those mall kiosks.

And, finally, I did a 125g/4.4oz “shotover,” which took over 2 minutes to pull. It tasted like gas station coffee.

So, overall I would not recommend it. It seems to be good for lungo shots and nothing else, and even then, I’ve had better.

Procrastursive

2021/09/17 3:30 PM 3 months ago

Being resursively procrastinatory; for example, being distracted from work by tidying up the basement, from which one is distracted by chatting online, from which one is distracted by writing up a definition for “procrastursive”

An open letter to the .us domain registrar

2021/09/16 12:12 PM 3 months ago

I attempted to send this message to the .us registrar’s contact form but they kept on throwing up unreasonable, hidden barriers; it required a full first name that’s at least four letters long (sucks to have a name like “Jay” I guess) and “must only contain alphabets” (i.e. no punctuation or spaces, sucks for anyone with apostrophes) and the text input must be under 500 characters, with no indication of how many characters you’ve written.

So, I’ve submitted a very edited-down version, but am reproducing my letter in full here:

Hi, I have a number of domain names registered under several different TLDs. Most of them allow anonymous proxy registrations, with the sole exception of .us.

The lack of proxy registration causes me to get quite a lot of unsolicited calls, violations to my privacy, and attempted scams from bad actors who are all making use of the WHOIS database.

When will .us allow anonymous/proxy registrations, as is standard for pretty much every other TLD?

The current policy is especially problematic for marginalized people who are subject to protracted abuse, harassment, and threats of violence, and this makes .us unsafe for use for all but the most privileged of people.

I absolutely implore you to revisit this regressive, unfair, and downright dangerous policy that does nothing to actually improve the supposed security of the .us registration database.

ESE pod review: Bristot decaffeinato

2021/09/16 10:24 AM 3 months ago

The next ESE pod on my agenda is Bristot decaffeinato.

Opening the packet released a pleasantly fruity aroma.

For my first shot, I opted to use the factory portafilter (which meant not being able to directly measure the shot output), and my resulting shot was around 20g. The shot pulled quite slowly and I was worried that it would be bitter and overextracted, but the flavor was actually rich and well-rounded, and a bit nutty and sweet. Really nice crema on it as well.

To get a better comparison against the other pods so far, I pulled a second shot using the bottomless portafilter, and measured it to a 20.5g extraction, for a ratio of just under 3:1. From this I saw a little bit of channeling, a little more than the Illy pod, way less than the Arabica Express. This time the shot tasted just a little bit more bitter.

I think the main practicality problem with ESE pods is that they’re all 7-8g, so if you want a standard 2:1 ratio you’re getting only a tiny amount of espresso out. This is especially troublesome when drinking decaf, which is all about the flavor, and regardless it’s much more satisfying to have a larger shot, but even a 3:1 lungo is ridiculously small. Maybe this is a mismatch between my American sensibilities and what Italians want out of their coffee.

Or maybe I should be a bit more daring and try brewing at a higher ratio to see what comes out.

So that’s what I did:

Espresso cup sitting on a scale showing a weight of 35.6g

I was pretty worried about how this might taste. The shot looked pretty darn watery towards the end, and the shot continued to pull quite slowly.

I don’t know if it’s just that my taste buds are no good because this was my third shot tasted in a row, but… it’s fine. Tastes almost just like the first two. The texture is a little thinner, there’s a little bit more bitterness, and a bit less sweetness, but… it’s fine.

Maybe this stuff is more forgiving than I thought.

Maybe it’s just coffee and I shouldn’t get so worked up about it.

ESE pod reviews: Illy decaf, Arabica Express

2021/09/15 5:27 PM 3 months ago

Recently I’ve been infatuated with espresso-type brewing, and have been on a quixotic quest to get the perfect decaf shot. In doing so, I bought a bottomless portafilter for my Gaggia Classic Pro, which very quickly revealed that the biggest problem in my brewing is that my Baratza Encore simply isn’t up to the task, even with the modifications I made to it; all of my shots were channeling and making a mess, regardless of grind size or tamp pressure. The only fix was to grind ultra-fine and tamp ultra-hard, and this led to an overly-slow, over-extracted shot.

As part of my process that led to this decision, I bought some ESE pods in order to have a baseline brewing experience. While ESE pods aren’t ideal for my taste in espresso (I prefer longer shots from a large dose, on the order of 20 in, 40 out) and also don’t satisfy my whole “espresso is an experiment in tweaking and fussiness” impulses, the experience was good enough that I decided to see if ESE Pods on their own were worthwhile.

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9/11+20

2021/09/12 12:35 AM 3 months ago

You know what I miss about the pre-9/11 days?

People being able to go to the gate to greet the traveler as they arrived.

It was always so nice to welcome people, or be welcomed. After 9/11 that little ritual went away, because now only travelers themselves were allowed beyond the security checkpoint, and nobody wanted to wait for their loved ones outside of the security checkpoint, so that very quickly made way to people waiting in the loading zone, which then turned into waiting in the cellphone lot, trying to make the whole greet-and-pick-up process as soullessly efficient as possible.

There’s a bunch of other stuff that changed so much that people are talking about, but this is a thing that I haven’t seen anyone else mention. Just this little bit of humanity that was part of the travel experience.

Then again, everything we’ve lost comes down to little bits of humanity, in the end.

Studio and cat updates

2021/09/10 11:08 PM 3 months ago

Studio

My basement studio setup is coming along slowly but surely. I ended up buying a used ADAT preamp to expand my existing audio interface (rather than buying a new interface/patchbay/etc.) and it mostly works great, although I’m going to see if I can hack an S/PDIF decoder into a word clock source for it so that the 18i8 can be master (which makes a couple of things easier to deal with).

For now I’m using my old MacBook as the recording computer. It only has a 500GB drive, though, and I couldn’t find the power adapter for my external HDD enclosure, so I decided to try just running Native Instruments off of my NAS over gigabit Ethernet. Nearly every install failed with a nonsensical “malformed XML document” error, which turns out to be a known issue with attempting to install to a NAS. Oh well. Hopefully that PSU turns up soon. I’m sure it’s in the bottom of whichever box I end up unpacking last.

(The PSU isn’t anything particularly exotic in principle, just a 12V 2A center-positive wallwart, but for some reason all the 12V center-positive wallwarts I can find can’t accommodate its extra-thick center pin.)

But anyway, today I finally got to the point where I could hook up my piano, and so I played piano for the first time since April, which felt nice. I can’t believe I let it be this long. I guess I really thought the backyard shed studio would go a lot more quickly!

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