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Managing Android Wifi with Tasker

One of the earliest programs I installed when I bought my first smartphone in 2013 was Kismet’s Smarter Wi-Fi Manager. It kept the phone’s wireless radio disabled unless I explicitly enabled it and connected to a network. When that happened, it would store the location by identifying nearby cell towers. Whenever it saw those towers again, it would turn the wireless radio on. In all other cases it would keep the radio off. This was a simple solution to the problem of only wanting wifi turned on at known locations, like home and work. It helped save battery, and prevented information leaks when wandering around meatspace.

Recently, when setting up a new phone, I discovered that Smarter Wi-Fi Manager had been abandoned. I thought I had heard something about the behaviour being integrated into the latest version of Android, but it seems that is not the case. Fortunately I found that Tasker can be configured to replicate the behaviour.

In Tasker, a profile can be created to recognize a location using a few different means. I setup one profile for home and one for work, both using the “cell near” context state. Like the Smarter Wi-Fi Manager of old, this just stores the identities of nearby cell towers. Then I created two tasks: one to turn wifi on and one to turn it off. The first task is added to both profiles as the main task. The latter is added to the profiles as the exit task. The result is that when the phone sees the cell towers near my trusted locations, the wireless radio turns on. When I leave, the wireless radio turns off.

Profile: Home (1)
    Restore: no
    State: Cell Near [ ... bunch o' towers here ... ]
    Enter: Wifi On (4)
        A1: WiFi [ Set:On ]
    Exit: Wifi Off (9)
        A1: WiFi [ Set:Off ]

Profile: Work (2)
    Restore: no
    State: Cell Near [ ... bunch o' towers here ... ]
    Enter: Wifi On (4)
        A1: WiFi [ Set:On ]
    Exit: Wifi Off (9)
        A1: WiFi [ Set:Off ]

The task to turn the wireless off is only triggered when I leave the location, which means I can still manually turn the radio on when I am somewhere unknown without Tasker immediately turning it back off. That new location will not automatically be stored as a trusted location, but if I want it to be remembered it only takes a minute to create a new profile and hook it up to my two wifi tasks.

I found the Tasker interface to be somewhat confusing. It took me a while to figure out how to achieve my desired behaviour. This is probably because Tasker can do a lot of other things. I don’t think my phone is integrated enough into my life to make its other capabilities relevant to me (though I might set it up to only enable GPS when mapping applications are open), but I was happy to pay the low price to retake control of my wireless radio.

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Link Log 2020-12-06

On the use of a life

Did Global Warming Play A Significant Role in the Recent Northwest Wildfires?

Just how many people do we need doing that job, anyway?

Why Is Post-COVID China Embracing A Cyberpunk Aesthetic?

No Config for Old Men

Bro Culture, Fitness, Chivalry, and American Identity

Preventing the Collapse of Civilization (Jonathan Blow, 2019)

It is the regular course of world history that great achievements in technology just get completely lost because the civilizations that made those achievements fell or failed to propogate the knowledge into the future. Technology goes backwards all the time.

Without generational transfer of knowledge, civilizations die because the technology those civilizations depends on degrades and fails.

Green Machine

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On Toothpowder

After posting about my toothpaste capsules last year, Ze Stuart wrote to ask if I had ever considered toothpowder. He recommended Eco-Dent DailyCare.

I had not brushed with a commercial toothpowder product before, though had tried carrying baking soda on some backpacking trips for this application. I was never happy with the result. Mostly I think it was just that the lack of foaming and mint flavor, both of which I’ve been psychologically conditioned to associate with “clean”.

Eco-Dent was available locally, so I bought a bottle and started using it. Application is easy: wet the brush, squirt out a bit of the powder from the bottle’s flip top lid, and brush like normal. After brushing for a second the powder froths up, and the experience is more or less the same as brushing with toothpaste.

The label claims that the 2 oz bottle can provide “up to 200 brushings”, which I find to be inaccurate. My first bottle lasted me 350 days. I brush twice a day, so that is 700 brushings. That works out to be about $0.01 per use, which is better than any toothpaste can offer. (Perhaps they expect you to use more of the powder per brushing than I do, but I always use enough to generate the same frothy lather I’d expect from toothpaste.)

When travelling, I repackage the powder into a 0.25 oz bottle. That is plenty for a week or two, takes up no space in a toiletry kit, and weighs approximately nothing.

There are plenty of other toothpowders on the market, but I’ve bought another couple bottles of Eco-Dent. Between those, my collection of toothbrush heads, and a stash of floss, I’ll be out of the dental care market for a few years.

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Link Log 2020-09-19

Built to Last

Indeed, present-day tech could use more of the sort of resilience and accessibility that COBOL brought to computing – especially for systems that have broad impacts, will be widely used, and will be long-term infrastructure that needs to be maintained by many hands in the future. In this sense, COBOL and its scapegoating show us an important aspect of high tech that few in Silicon Valley, or in government, seem to understand. Older systems have value, and constantly building new technological systems for short-term profit at the expense of existing infrastructure is not progress. In fact, it is among the most regressive paths a society can take.

Vocational Awe

Because of our refusal to deal with systemic, societal issues, librarians – much like public school teachers – grapple with a condensation of duties onto their profession. Librarians become technology experts, crowd control specialists, and emergency responders, trained in how to deal with someone in the middle of a mental health crisis. Now they’re custodians of our democracy as well….in addition to being, you know, information scientists and attempting to maintain collections of knowledge. They are working at least three jobs. Five jobs? More? But they’re often only compensated (and often poorly) for that last one.

My PBP Bike: Contact Points

Comfort on a bike really depends on two things. The first is absorbing vibrations through supple, wide tires and a little suspension in the fork. The second is to make the contact points, where your body touches the bike, as anatomical as possible.

A Time Piece

A decent watch is a useful piece of personal equipment. While not a critical item many of use appreciate a rugged, practical timepiece. I thought I would discuss my experience with watches, as it reflects the activities I was involved in at the time.

How Conspiracy Theories Are Shaping the 2020 Election—and Shaking the Foundation of American Democracy

Democracy relies on an informed and engaged public responding in rational ways to the real-life facts and challenges before us. But a growing number of Americans are untethered from that. “They’re not on the same epistemological grounding, they’re not living in the same worlds,” says Whitney Phillips, a professor at Syracuse who studies online disinformation. “You cannot have a functioning democracy when people are not at the very least occupying the same solar system.”

Attack Surface Kickstarter

Fuck Audible.

de Young 2020

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YubiKey Cleaning

I’ve carried the same YubiKey NEO on my keychain for five years. On average it gets used dozens of times per day, via USB, as an OpenPGP card. The YubiKey looks a little worse for wear, but it almost always works flawlessly.

Occasionally, it requires a few insertions to be read. When this happens I clean the contacts by rubbing them gently with a Pentel Clic Eraser, wiping off the dust, spraying them with isopropyl alcohol, and then wiping them dry. Afterwards, the YubiKey is registered immediately on the first insert. I perform this procedure about once or twice per year.

YubiKey Cleaning

Using the eraser is potentially dangerous, but I’ve had good luck with it over the years. The white vinyl in the Pentel Clic feels very smooth compared to the abrasiveness of the rubber found on the tops of most pencils.

A few years ago, when large wildfires were becoming the norm, I remember hearing that you shouldn't vacuum when the air quality was poor.

The claim was that pollutants would go through the vacuum and out the exhaust, distributing them back into the air, where you then breathe them in. It was better to just let them sit. While this argument made sense, it struck me as primarily being a critique of a poorly designed tool: I vacuum to remove unwanted matter from my living space, not to redistribute it within the space. So I did the obvious thing and bought a Miele vacuum with HEPA exhaust filter from the Germans. For the past four years my vacuum has been effectively the same as my air filter. I can use it regardless of environmental conditions, even during the 36-hour night.

San Francisco Sunrise

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Link Log 2020-08-25

A clean start for the web

Inside the high-stakes world of clandestine crude shipping

Hygiene Theater Is a Huge Waste of Time

COVID-19 has reawakened America’s spirit of misdirected anxiety, inspiring businesses and families to obsess over risk-reduction rituals that make us feel safer but don’t actually do much to reduce risk-even as more dangerous activities are still allowed. This is hygiene theater.

Elderblog Sutra: 11

Applied to a blog, angkorwatification is a sort of textual equivalent of rewilding. You have a base layer of traditional blog posts that is essentially complete in the sense of having created, over time, an idea space with a clear identity, and a more or less deliberately conceived architecture to it. And you have a secondary organic growth layer that is patiently but relentlessly rewilding the first, inorganic one. That second layer also emerges from the mind of the blogger of course, but does so via surrender to brain entropy rather than via writerly intentions disciplining the flow of words. I’ve seen some other old sites undergo angkorwatification. Some seem to happily surrender to it like I am doing, others seem to fight it, like I won’t.

Bikes of the Bunch: Rob English’s English road bike

I am very excited about this revolutionary bicycle, and look forward to testing it. Look at all the gains – the same braking power, modulation and control, but with less weight, easier-to-remove wheels, no hydraulics, more compliant fork and no rotor-rubbing noises! Yes, there are a couple of downsides – it’s not ideal in the wet, and it can’t use the best shaped aerodynamic (carbon) rims. Still, could this oversized rotor concept be the next big thing in cycling?

Buena Vista Fire Sunset

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