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wApua 0.06.4 released //at 02:55 //by abe

from the still-alive dept.

I today released version 0.06.4 of my WAP WML browser wApua and also uploaded that release to Debian Unstable.

It’s a bugfix release and the first upstream release since 2017.

It fixes the recognition of WAP WML pages with more recent DTD location URLs ending in .dtd instead of .xml (and some other small difference). No idea when these URLs changed, but I assume they have been changed to look more like the URLs of other DTDs. The old URLs of the DTD still work, but more recent WAP pages (yes, they do exist :-) seem to use the new DTD URLs, so there was a need to recognise them instead of throwing an annoying warning.

Thanks to Lian Begett for the bug report!


Starting a GNU Screen session via SSH’s ~/.ssh/config //at 05:50 //by abe

from the helpful-usage-patterns-never-die dept.

This is more or less a followup to this blog posting of mine about AutoSSH and GNU Screen from nearly ten years ago — which by the way is still valid and still the way, I use SSH and GNU Screen.

Recently a friend asked me how to automatically start or reconnect to a GNU Screen session directly via OpenSSH’s configuration file. Here’s how to do it:

Add an entry to ~/.ssh/config similar to this one:

Host screen_on_server
    Hostname server.example.org
    RequestTTY yes
    RemoteCommand screen -RD

and then just call ssh screen_on_server and you’ll get connected to an existing screen session if present, otherwise you’ll a new new one.

Should work with tmux, too, but might need commandline different options.


Git related shell aliases I commonly use //at 14:28 //by abe

from the git-rules--p dept.

  • ga="git annex"
  • gap="git add -p"
  • amend="git commit --amend"

Hope this might be an inspiration to use these or similar aliases as well.


How do you type on a keyboard with only 46 or even 28 keys? //at 08:51 //by abe

from the you-can-do-it-if-you-really-want dept.

Some of you might have noticed that I’m into keyboards since a few years ago — into mechanical keyboards to be precise.


It basically started with the Swiss Mechanical Keyboard Meetup (whose website I started later on) was held in the hackerspace of the CCCZH.

I mostly used TKL keyboards (i.e. keyboards with just the — for me useless — number block missing) and tried to get my hands on more keyboards with Trackpoints (but failed so far).

At some point a year or two ago, I looking into smaller keyboards for having a mechanical keyboard with me when travelling. I first bought a Vortex Core at Candykeys. The size was nice and especially having all layers labelled on the keys was helpful, but nevertheless I soon noticed that the smaller the keyboards get, the more important is, that they’re properly programmable. The Vortex Core is programmable, but not the keys in the bottom right corner — which are exactly the keys I wanted to change to get a cursor block down there. (Later I found out that there are possibilities to get this done, either with an alternative firmware and a hack of it or desoldering all switches and mounting an alternative PCB called Atom47.)

40% Keyboards

So at some point I ordered a MiniVan keyboard from The Van Keyboards (MiniVan keyboards will soon be available again at The Key Dot Company), here shown with GMK Paperwork (also bought from and designed by The Van Keyboards):

The MiniVan PCBs are fully programmable with the free and open source firmware QMK and I started to use that more and more instead of bigger keyboards.


With the MiniVan I learned the concepts of layers. Layers are similar to what many laptop keyboards do with the “Fn” key and to some extent also what the German standard layout does with the “AltGr” key: Layers are basically alternative key maps you can switch with a special key (often called “Fn”, “Fn1”, “Fn2”, etc., or — especially if there are two additional layers — “Raise” and “Lower”).

There are several concepts how these layers can be reached with these keys:

  • By keeping the Fn key pressed, i.e. the alternative layer is active as long as you hold the Fn key down.
  • One-shot layer switch: After having pressed and released the Fn key, all keys are on the alternative layer for a single key press and then you are back to the default layer.
  • Layer toggle: Pressing the Fn key once switches to the alternative layer and pressing it a second time switches back to the default layer.
  • There are also a lot of variants of the latter variant, e.g. rotating between layers upon every key press of the Fn key. In that case it seems common to have a second special key which always switches back to the default layer, kinda Escape key for layer switching.
My MiniVan Layout

For the MiniVan, two additional layers suffice easily, but since I have a few characters on multiple layers and also have mouse control and media keys crammed in there, I have three additional layers on my MiniVan keyboards:

“TRNS” means transparent, i.e. use the settings from lower layers.

I also use a feature that allows me to mind different actions to a key depending if I just tap the key or if I hold it. Some also call this “tap dance”. This is especially very popular on the usually rather huge spacebar. There, the term “SpaceFn” has been coined, probably after this discussion on Geekhack.

I use this for all my layer switching keys:

  • The left spacebar is space on tap and switches to layer 1 if hold. The right spacebar is a real spacebar, i.e. already triggers a space on key press, not only on key release.

    Layer 1 has numbers on the top row and the special characters of the number row in the second row. It also has Home/End and Page Up/Down on the cursor keys.

  • The key between the Enter key and the cursor-right key (medium grey with a light grey caret in the picture) is actually the Slash and Question Mark key, but if hold, it switches me to layer 2.

    Layer 2 has function keys on the top row and also the special characters of the number row in the second row. On the cursor keys it has volume up and down as well as the media keys “previous” and “next”.

  • The green key in the picture is actually the Backslash and Pipe key, but if hold, it switches me to layer 3.

    On layer 3 I have mouse control.

With this layout I can type English texts as fast as I can type them on a standard or TKL layout.

German umlauts are a bit more difficult because it requires 4 to 6 key presses per umlaut as I use the Compose key functionality (mapped to the Menu key between the spacebars and the cursor block. So to type an Ä on my MiniVan, I have to:

  1. press and release Menu (i.e. Compose); then
  2. press and hold either Shift-Spacebar (i.e. Shift-Fn1) or Slash (i.e. Fn2), then
  3. press N for a double quote (i.e. Shift-Fn1-N or Fn2-N) and then release all keys, and finally
  4. press and release the base character for the umlaut, in this case Shift-A.

And now just use these concepts and reduce the amount of keys to 28:

30% and Sub-30% Keyboards

In late 2019 I stumbled upon a nice little keyboard kit “shop” on Etsy — which I (and probably most other people in the mechanical keyboard scene) didn’t take into account for looking for keyboards — called WorldspawnsKeebs. They offer mostly kits for keyboards of 40% size and below, most of them rather simple and not expensive.

For about 30€ you get a complete sub-30% keyboard kit (without switches and keycaps though, but that very common for keyboard kits as it leaves the choice of switches and key caps to you) named Alpha28 consisting of a minimal Acrylic case and a PCB and electronics set.

This Alpha28 keyboard is btw. fully open source as the source code, (i.e. design files) for the hardware are published under a free license (MIT license) on GitHub.

And here’s how my Alpha28 looks like with GMK Mitolet (part of the GMK Pulse group-buy) key caps:

So we only have character keys, Enter (labelled “Data” as there was no 1u Enter key with that row profile in that key cap set; I’ll also call it “Data” for the rest of this posting) and a small spacebar, not even modifier keys.

The Default Alpha28 Layout

The original key layout by the developer of the Alpha28 used the spacbar as Shift on hold and as space if just tapped, and the Data key switches always to the next layer, i.e. it switches the layer permanently on tap and not just on hold. This way that key rotates through all layers. In all other layers, V switches back to the default layer.

I assume that the modifiers on the second layer are also on tap and apply to the next other normal key. This has the advantage that you don’t have to bend your fingers for some key combos, but you have to remember on which layer you are at the moment. (IIRC QMK allows you to show that via LEDs or similar.) Kinda just like vi.

My Alpha28 Layout

But maybe because I’m more an Emacs person, I dislike remembering states myself and don’t mind bending my fingers. So I decided to develop my own layout using tap-or-hold and only doing layer switches by holding down keys:

A triangle means that the settings from lower layers are used, “N/A” means the key does nothing.

It might not be very obvious, but on the default layer, all keys in the bottom row and most keys on the row ends have tap-or-hold configurations.

Basic ideas
  • Use all keys on tap as labelled by default. (Data = Enter as mentioned above)
  • Use different meanings on hold for the whole bottom row and some edge column keys.
  • Have all classic modifiers (Shift, Control, OS/Sys/Win, Alt/Meta) on the first layer twice (always only on hold), so that any key, even those with a modifier on hold, can be used with any modifier. (Example: Shift is on A hold and L hold so that Shift-A is holding L and then pressing A and Shift-L is holding A and then pressing L.)
Bottom row if hold
  • Z = Control
  • X = OS/Sys/Win
  • C = Alt/Meta
  • V = Layer 3 (aka Fn3)
  • Space = Layer 1 (aka Fn1)
  • B = Alt/Meta
  • N = OS/Sys/Win
  • M = Ctrl
Other rows if hold
  • A = Shift
  • L = Shift
  • Data (Enter) = Layer 2 (aka Fn2)
  • P = Layer 4 (aka Fn4)
How the keys are divided into layers
  • Layer 0 (Default): alphabetic keys, Space, Enter, and (on hold) standard modifiers
  • Layer 1: numbers, special characters (most need Shift, too), and some more common other keys, e.g.
    • Space-Enter = Backspace
    • Space-S = Esc
    • Space-D = Tab
    • Space-F = Menu/Compose
    • Space-K = :
    • Space-L = '
    • Space-B = ,
    • Space-N = .
    • Space-M = /, etc.
  • Layer 2: F-keys and less common other keys, e.g.
    • Enter-K = -
    • Enter-L = =
    • Enter-B = [
    • Enter-N = ]
    • Enter-M = \, etc.)
  • Layer 3: Cursor movement, e.g.
    • scrolling
    • and mouse movement.
    • Cursor cross is on V-IJKL (with V-I for Up)
    • V-U and V-O are Home and End
    • V-P and V-Enter are Page Up/Down.
    • Mouse movement is on V-WASD
    • V-Q
    • V-E and V-X being mouse buttons
    • V-F and V-R is the scroll wheel up down
    • V-Z and V-C left and right.
  • Layer 4: Configuring the RGB bling-bling and the QMK reset key:
    • P-Q (the both top corner keys) are QMK reset to be able to reflash the firmware.
    • The keys on the right half of the keyboard control the modes of the RGB LED strip on the bottom side of the PCB, with the upper two rows usually having keys with some Plus and Minus semantics, e.g. P-I and P-K is brightness up and down.
    • The remaining left half is unused and has no function at all on layer 4.
Using the Alpha28

This layout works surprisingly well for me.

Only for Minus, Equal, Single Quote and Semicolon I still often have to think or try if they’re on Layer 1 or 2 as on my 40%s (MiniVan, Zlant, etc.) I have them all on layer 1 (and in general one layer less over all). And for really seldom used keys like Insert, PrintScreen, ScrollLock or Pause, I might have to consult my own documentation. They’re somewhere in the middle of the keyboard, either on layer 1, 2, or 3. ;-)

And of course, typing umlauts takes even two keys more per umlaut as on the MiniVan since on the one hand Menu is not on the default layer and on the other hand, I don’t have this nice shifted number row and actually have to also press Shift to get a double quote. So to type an Ä on my Alpha, I have to:

  1. press and release Space-F (i.e. Fn1-F) for Menu (i.e. Compose); then
  2. press and hold A-Spacebar-L (i.e. Shift-Fn1-L) for getting a double quote, then
  3. press and release the base character for the umlaut, in this case L-A for Shift-A (because we can’t use A for Shift as I can’t hold a key and then press it again :-).


If the characters on upper layers are not labelled like on the Vortex Core, i.e. especially on all self-made layouts, typing is a bit like playing that old children’s game Memory: as soon as you remember (or your muscle memory knows) where some special characters are, typing gets faster. Otherwise, you start with trial and error or look the documentation. Or give up. ;-)

Nevertheless, typing on a sub-30% keyboard like the Alpha28 is much more difficult and slower than on a 40% keyboard like the MiniVan. So the Alpha28 very likely won’t become my daily driver while the MiniVan defacto is my already my daily driver.

But I like these kind of challenges as others like the game “Memory”. So I ordered three more 30% and sub-30% keyboard kits and WorldspawnsKeebs for soldering on the upcoming weekend during the COVID19 lockdown:

  • A Reviung39 to start a new try on ortholinear layouts.
  • A Jerkin (sold out, waitlist available) to try an Alice-style keyboard layout.
  • A Pain27 (which btw. is also open source under the CC0 license) to try typing with even one key less than the Alpha28 has. ;-)

And if I at some point want to try to type with even fewer keys, I’ll try a Butterstick keyboard with just 20 keys. It’s a chorded keyboard where you have to press multiple keys at the same time to get one charcter: So to get an A from the missing middle row, you have to press Q and Z simultaneously, to get Escape, press Q and W simultaneously, to get Control, press Q, W, Z and X simultaneously, etc.

And if that’s not even enough, I already bought a keyboard kit named Ginny (or Ginni, the developer can’t seem to decide) with just 10 keys from an acquaintance. Couldn’t resist when offered his surplus kits. :-) It uses the ASETNIOP layout which was initially developed for on-screen keyboards on tablets.


Pictures in pure HTML with chafa and aha //at 05:55 //by abe

from the because-I-can dept.

I recently stumbled upon chafa, a tool to display pictures, especially color pictures on your ANSI text terminal, e.g. inside an xterm.

And I occasionally use aha, the Ansi HTML Adapter to convert a colorful terminal content into HTML to show off terminal screenshots without the requirement of a picture — so that it also works in e.g. text browsers or for blinds.

Combining chafa and aha: Examples

A moment ago I had the thought what would happen if I feed the output of chafa into aha and expected nothing really usable. But I was surprised by the quality of the outcome.

looks like this after chafa -w 9 -c full -s 160x50 DSCN4692.jpg | aha -n:











Checking the Look in Text Browsers

It even looks not that bad in elinks — as far as I know the only text browser which supports CSS and styles:

In Lynx and Links 2, the text composing the image is displayed only in black and white, but you at least can recognise the edges in the picture:

Same Functionality in One Tool?

I knew there was a tool which did this in one step. Seems to have been png2html.

Tried to play around with it, too, but neither really understood how to use it (seems to require a text file for the characters to be used — why?) nor did I really got it working. It always ran until I aborted it and it never filled the target file with any content.

Additionally, png2html insists on one character per pixel, requiring to first properly resize the image before converting to HTML.

The Keyboard in the Pictures

Oh, and btw., the displayed keyboard is my Zlant. The Zlant is a 40% uniform staggered mechanical keyboard. Currently, only Zlant PCBs are available at 1UP Keyboards (USA), i.e. no complete kits.

It is shown with the SA Vilebloom key cap set, currently available at MechSupply (UK).


Backup over Tor with BackupPC //at 04:37 //by abe

I have a Raspberry Pi at my parents home. They have internet access via some ISP using Carrier Grade NAT (CGN). Hence their home router is not reachable via IPv4 from the outside, they do have IPv6 and the devices can also be made accessible via IPv6 via the local router.

Did that, was able to access my Raspberry Pi over IPv6 and SSH from the outside. So doing backup of that Raspberry Pi with BackupPC from the outside was a walk in the park.

Unfortunately the IPv6 prefix seems to change occasionally and the router only allows to configure explicit IPv6 addresses in firewall rules — so after a prefix change the configured rules no more match the devices IPv6 addresses. Meh.

So there were multiple possibilities to work around these restrictions and access a devices behind the router:

  • Using a permanent VPN connection, e.g. OpenVPN.
  • Using a software defined network (SDN), e.g. ZeroTier.
  • Enabling a Tor Hidden Service to access the device via SSH and Tor.

Enabling a Tor Hidden Service for port 22 is a no-brainer and was done most quickly (actually it already was in place as I already suspected that an IPv6 prefix change might happen) and I so far was too lazy to replace it with something more proper.

But my backup was relying on direct SSH access via IPv6. So I needed to get that working over Tor, too.

Here’s what was needed for the host named “sherpa” (named after the Fiberfab Sherpa) to be backed up via Tor:

  • Make sure the folloing packages are installed on the BackupPC server:
    • netcat-openbsd (netcat-traditional might work, too, but then needs different commandline options)
    • ssh-tools for ssh-ping
    • tor (of course :-)
  • Add these lines to ~backuppc/.ssh/config:
    Host sherpa_via_tor
            Hostname abcdefghijklmnop.onion
            ProxyCommand /bin/nc.openbsd -X 5 -x localhost:9050 %h %p
    These lines basically configure an alias hostname for ssh which then connects via SOCKS5 to the Tor daemon instead of doing DNS lookup and connection itself. It also configures the actual hostname (a Tor “.onion” hostname) to connect to.
  • Add the following lines to /etc/backuppc/sherpa.pl:
    $Conf{ClientNameAlias} = 'sherpa_via_tor';
    $Conf{PingCmd} = '/usr/bin/ssh-ping -c 1 $host';
    $Conf{NmbLookupFindHostCmd} = "";
    These lines configure a few things in BackupPC:
    • Use the hostname alias declared in .ssh/config.
    • Use ssh-ping instead of standard ping as command to test connectivity. (ICMP neither works over SOCKS5 nor over Tor. And we configured the connection only for SSH anyways.)
    • Don’t try to do any DNS lookups on the given hostnames. (Otherwise you’ll get error messages like “Can’t find host sherpa_via_tor via netbios” in BackupPC’s per-host log files.)

That’s it basically.

Of course you also need to have the SSH public host key in the .ssh/known_hosts file also for the .onion hostname. And the Tor Hidden Service needs to be configured on the target device.

But that’s left as exercise for the reader. There’s a lot of documentation about that on the internet, including slides and video recordings of talks and live demos I gave about this topic in German.

Ah, and in case you might think that’s unfair and misuse of the resources of the Tor Project: No, I explicitly asked and they said more or less any additional traffic helps to make it more difficult to analyse Tor traffic or to track Tor users — and is hence welcome.

Addendum: The last direct full backup of that Raspberry Pi (5.5 GB) took around 32 minutes. The first full backup over Tor (8.7 GB) took 341 minutes. Seems much slower, but there might be other factors as well: Most backups which ran last night were running at only 0.85 MB/s to 1 MB/s, probably because too many backups were running in parallel after a recent backup server downtime with file system check — the backup server was probably the bottleneck. The backup of the Raspberry Pi over Tor ran at 0.42 MB/s, so about half the speed of the other backups. (Will probably add some more notes if I have more statistics over time.)


Freitagstexter wider Willen //at 01:33 //by abe

Aus der Eigentlich-wollte-ich-ja-gar-nicht-mitmachen Abteilung

Update, Donnerstag, 5. Juli 2018: Dieter hat angeboten, sein “außer Konkurrenz” zurückzuziehen und so doch noch den Wanderpokal und damit Ehre und Pflicht des Weiterführens des Freitagstexters zu übernehmen. Schließlich war seine Einsendung die einzige mit einem Blog-Link und außerdem nicht einmal schlecht. :-)

Eigentlich wollte ich beim letzten Freitagstexter ja gar nicht mitmachen, weil ich einerseits Ferien hab und mir zumindest in den Ferien den Streß sparen wollte, der mit all den Pflichten eines Freitagstexter einhergeht — vor allem das zeitig an Dinge denken und Dinge zeitig zu machen.

Aber nachdem Dieter beim letzten Freitagstexter — aus weder ihm noch mir bekannten Gründen — richtig Schwierigkeiten hatte, Beiträge zu finden, er lautstark darüber gejammert hat, und ich eigentlich schon recht früh eine vage Idee für einen netten Text zu seinem Bild im Kopf hatte, konnte ich dann doch nicht umhin, meine vage Idee ein wenig auszuarbeiten und einzusenden.

Entgegen meiner Hoffnung, dafür aber dem bisherigen Verlauf mit zwei Verlängerungen mangels Einsendungen folgend, kam dann keine weitere Einsendung mehr. (Wahrscheinlich hat Dieter nur bei mir lautstark gejammert. ;-) Und entsprechend kam ich dann auch nicht umhin, nun zum dritten Mal den Freitagstexterwanderpokal entgegenzunehmen.

Und das, lieber bebal, obwohl Dieter eigentlich eher der Bulli-Spezi ist und ich der 2CV-Spezi bin. (Wobei die jeweiligen Kenntnisse zugegebenermaßen gegenseitig abfärben. ;-) Und bei Dieters neulichem Bild mit Ente habe ich mich aus genau aus dem Grund zurückgehalten — mir fielen nur Szene-Insider wie “Och nö, Ronny, nicht schon wieder eine!” dazu ein. ;-)

Aber genug des Vorgeplänkels, schreiten wir zur Tat und damit zum heutigen Freitagstexter. Die Regeln sind wie immer die selben:

  • Ich zeige Euch (unten) ein Bild.
  • Ihr müßt dürft sollt Euch einen Text zu o.g. Bild ausdenken, egal ob witzig, nachdenklich oder gar informativ, und diesen bis kommenden Dienstag (12. Juni 2018) um Mitternacht (in der Nacht zu Mittwoch) als Kommentar zu diesem Artikel posten.
  • Teilnehmen kann jede Person, die ein Blog oder so etwas ähnliches besitzt, in dem sie dann den nächsten Freitagstexter potentiell austragen könnte — und dessen URL auch im URL-Feld des Kommentars angibt.
  • Ich suche mir dann im Laufe des Mittwochs den Text zum Bild aus, der mir am besten gefällt und verkünde dann ebenfalls in meinem Blog, wer den Wanderpokal gewinnt und den nächsten Freitagstexter austragen muß wird.

Und hier ist das heißersehnte Bild für den heutigen Freitagstexter:

Hier könnte Dein Text stehen!
Hier könnte Dein Text stehen!

Wie bei auch bei den bisher von mir ausgetragenen Freitagstextern habe ich auch dieses Foto selbst aufgenommen, sogar erst vor kurzem im Urlaub. Und nein, bis auf Verkleinern, Rotieren und EXIF-Daten entfernen, ist daran nichts geändert.

Ich hoffe dann mal, daß ich diese Woche etwas mehr Freitagstexter hinterm Ofen hervorlocken kann, als Dieter mit seinem letzten, meiner Meinung nach sehr putzigen Bild.

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Hackergotchi of Axel Beckert


This is the blog or weblog of Axel Stefan Beckert (aka abe or XTaran) who thought, he would never start blogging... (He also once thought, that there is no reason to switch to this new ugly Netscape thing because Mosaïc works fine. That was about 1996.) Well, times change...

He was born 1975 at Villingen-Schwenningen, made his Abitur at Schwäbisch Hall, studied Computer Science with minor Biology at University of Saarland at Saarbrücken (Germany) and now lives in Zürich (Switzerland), working at the Network Security Group (NSG) of the Central IT Services (Informatikdienste) at ETH Zurich.

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