Knot Boards

Each year Cub Scouts has a birthday party for Scouting in February, which is called the Blue & Gold banquet. We have a tradition that at the banquet were we thank all of our volunteers who help make the Cub Scout Pack run. For the Den Leaders, who are so critical to the program, I like to do something special that helps them to run a better program for the scouts. For 2018 (notice I'm a little behind) I decided to make all of the Den Leaders for our Pack knot boards.

SVG file for the knotboard design

When I was a Scout I remember my mom making knot boards. Back then we had a piece of paper with the various knots that was varnished onto a piece of plywood, which had a rope attached to it. High technology for the time, but today I'm a member of makerspace and have access to a laser cutter. While these knot boards are the same in spirt, we can do some very cool things with big toys.

Laser actively cutting boards with a cool sparkle

First step is to pull out Inkscape and design the graphics. I grabbed a rope border from Open Clipart and grabbed some knot graphics from a Scouting PDF (which I can't find a link to). I put those together to create the basic design along with labes for the knots. I also added a place for each Scout to sign their name as a Thank you to the Den Leader. I then make some small circles for the laser cutter to cut out holes for the ropes. I made a long oblong region on the right so the board would have a handle and a post to tie the hitches around. Then lastly I added the outline to cut out the board.

To get the design into the laser cutter I exported it from Inkscape in two graphics. I exported the cut lines as a DXF and I exported the etching as a 300 DPI PNG. The cut lines were simpler and the laser cutter software was able to handle those and create simple controls for the cutter. The knots on the other hand were more complex vector objects and the laser cutter software couldn't handle them. Inkscape could, so I had it do the rendering to a bitmap. The laser cutter can then setup scans that use the bitmap data which worked very well.

For the boards I used ¼th" Lauan Plywood which I was able to get in 2'x2' sheets at Lowe's. Those sheets have a nice grain on both sides. I also liked being able to get sheets that were exactly the size I needed to fit into the laser cutter. Saved me a step. I'm certain the knot boards would be great in many other woods and other materials.

Cut knot boards sitting the bed of the laser cutter

After cutting out the knot boards I needed short lengths of rope to be able to insert into the holes. I couldn't find anywhere that would sell me short pieces of rope. I felt like I needed a Monty Python sketch. To make short lengths of the paracord I looped it in a circle with the circumference as the length I needed. Then I took a blowtorch and cut the circle. This also sealed the ends of the paracord.

Final knot boards with ropes in the holes

posted Feb 2, 2019 | permanent link

Texas Linux Fest 2019 in Dallas

Texas Linux Fest 2019 will be in Dallas! It will be held May 31st and June 1st at the Irving Convention Center and the Call For Papers is open right now.

A few years ago I started to suggest to TXLF staff that coming to Dallas was a good idea. I wanted there to be more tech conferences in Dallas, and I love the community organized nature of TXLF and similarly SCALE. Plus, it was Texas Linux Fest, it can't always be in Austin! This year I was able to convince them to take the risk and try a year in Dallas. It is a huge risk, as it is likely that many sponsors and regular attendees might not be interested in traveling up I-35 to attend. Being in Dallas also opens up huge opportunity to reach new audiences and new sponsors. Now to prove that.

I'm excited that we were able to secure the conference center in Irving. It is on a light rail line that goes to both airports, and surrounded by restaurants if you don't want to take the train. We'll be securing blocks of rooms at local hotels if you want to attend from afar. It should be an easy adventure and put you in a location that you can enjoy the best of Dallas.

Now is your time to help out by submitting a talk to make the conference great. If you know of a sponsor we'd love to hear from you as well. And we'll be having registrations open as we announce the speakers.

Hope to see y'all in Dallas!

posted Jan 10, 2019 | permanent link

Letting Information Go

There's a lot of information stored all over the Internet about me, about you, about everyone. At best, most of it can just go away because it's useless, at worst it is potentially harmful. A humorous take on this by Molly Lewis:

The place that this is the most obvious is social media. I really liked this post on old tweets by Vicki Lai which talks about the why and how of deleting Tweets. It applies to all social media. But this all got me thinking about my blog.

Blog posts tend to be more thought out (or at least I try) and seem to me to be part of the larger web. So just deleting them after a matter of time doesn't feel the same as tweets. If someone was writing about the Unity HUD I would hope they'd reference my HUD 2.0 post, as I love the direction it was going. I have other posts that are... less significant. The ones that are the most interesting are the ones that are linked to by other people, so what I'm going to do is stop linking to old blog posts. That way posts that aren't linked to by other people will stop being indexed by search engines and effectively disappear from the Internet. I have no idea if this will actually work.

The policy that I settled on was to have the latest five posts on my blog page, and then having the archives point to posts of the last two years. This means I need to write five posts every two years (easy right!) to keep it consistent. Turned out implementing it in Jekyll was a little tricky, but this post on Jekyll date filtering helped me put it together.

I think that my attitudes to data are generational difference. For my generation the idea that we could have hard drives big enough to keep historical data is exciting. Talking to younger people I think they understand it is a liability. Perhaps fixing my blog is just me trying to be young.

posted Oct 1, 2018 | permanent link

Jekyll and Mastodon

A while back I moved my website to Jekyll for all the static-y goodness that provides. Recently I was looking to add Mastodon to my domain as well. Doing so with Jekyll isn't hard, but searching for it seemed like something no one had written up. For your searchable pleasure I am writing it up.

I used to put the Mastodon instance at But I wanted my Mastodon address to be @[email protected]. To do that you need to link the domain to point at To do that you need a .well-known/host-meta file that redirects webfinger to the Mastodon instance:

<?xml version='1.0' encoding='UTF-8'?>
<XRD xmlns=''>

<!-- Needed for Mastodon -->
<Link rel='lrdd'
 template='{uri}' />


The issue is that Jekyll doesn't copy static files that are in hidden directories. This is good for if you have a Git repository, so it doesn't copy the .git directory. We can get around this by using Jekyll's YAML front matter to set the location of the file.

layout: null
permalink: /.well-known/host-meta
<?xml version='1.0' encoding='UTF-8'?>
<XRD xmlns=''>

<!-- Needed for Mastodon -->
<Link rel='lrdd'
 template='{uri}' />


This file can then be placed anywhere, and Jekyll will put it in the right location on the static site. And you can folow me as @[email protected] even though my Mastodon instance is

posted Jan 29, 2018 | permanent link

Net change

Recently the FCC voted down the previously held rules on net neutrality. I think that this is a bad decision by the FCC, but I don't think that it will result in the amount of chaos that some people are suggesting. I thought I'd write about how I see the net changing, for better or worse, with these regulations removed.

If we think about how the Internet is today, basically everyone pays to access the network individually. Both groups that want to host information and people who want to access those sites. Everyone pays a fee for 'their connection' which contributes to companies that create and connect the backbone together. An Internet connection by itself has very little value, but it is the definition of a "network effect", because everyone is on the Internet it has value for you to connect there as well. Some services you connect to use a lot of your home Internet connection, and some of them charge different rates for it. Independent of how much they use or charge you, your ISP isn't involved in any meaningful way. The key change here is that now your ISP will be associated with the services that you use.

Let's talk about a theoretical video streaming service that charged for their video service. Before they'd charge something like $10 a month for licensing and their hosting costs. Now they're going to end up paying an access fee to get to consumer's Internet connections, so their charges are going to change. They end up charging $20 a month and giving $10 of that to the ISPs of their customers. In the end consumers will end up paying for their Internet connection just as much, but it'd be bundled into other services they're buying on the Internet. ISPs love this because suddenly they're not the ones charging too much, they're out of the billing here. They could even possibly charge less (free?) for home Internet access as it'd be subsidized by the services you use.

Better connections

I think that it is quite possible that this could result in better Internet connections for a large number of households. Today those households have mediocre connectivity, and they can complain about it, but for the most part ISPs don't care about a few individuals complaints. What could change is that when a large company is paying millions of dollars in access fees is complaining, they might start listening.

The ISPs are supporting the removal of Net Neutrality regulations to get money from the services on the Internet. I don't think that they realize that with that money will come an obligation to perform to those service's requirements. Most of those services are more customer focused than ISPs are, which is likely to cause a culture shock once they hold weight with their management. I think it is likely ISPs will come to regret not supporting net neutrality.

Expensive hosting for independent and smaller providers

It is possible for large services on the Internet to negotiate contracts with large ISPs and make everything generally work out so that most consumers don't notice. There is then a reasonable question on how providers that are too small to negotiate a contract play in this environment. I think it is likely that the hosting providers will fill in this gap with different plans that match a level of connectivity. You'll end up with more versions of that "small" instance, some with consumer bandwidth built-in to the cost and others without. There may also be mirroring services like CDNs that have group negotiated rates with various ISPs. The end result is that hosting will get more expensive for small businesses.

The bundling of bandwidth is also likely to shake up the cloud hosting business. While folks like Amazon and Google have been able to dominate costs through massive datacenter buys, suddenly that isn’t the only factor. It seems likely the large ISPs will build public clouds of their own as they can compete by playing funny-money with the bandwidth charges.

Increased hosting costs will hurt large non-profits the most, folks like Wikipedia and The Internet Archive. They already have a large amount of their budget tied up in hosting and increasing that is going to make their finances difficult. Ideally ISPs and other Internet companies would help by donating to these amazing projects, but that's probably too optimistic. We'll need individuals to make up this gap. These organizations could be the real victims of not having net neutrality.

Digital Divide

A potential gain would be that, if ISPs are getting most of the money from services, the actual connections could become very cheap. There would then be potential for more lower-income families to get access to the Internet as a whole. While this is possible, the likelihood would be that only families in regions that have customers the end-services themselves want. It will help those who are near an affluent area, not everyone. It seems that there is some potential for gain, but I don't believe it will end up being a large impact.

What can I do?

If you're a consumer, there's probably not a lot, you're along for the ride. You can contact your representatives, and if this is a world that you don't like the sound of, ask them to change it. Laws are a social contract for how our society works, make sure they're a contract you want to be part of.

As a developer of a web service you can make sure that your deployment is able to work on multi-cloud type setups. You're probably going to end up going from multi-cloud to a whole-lotta-cloud as each has bandwidth deals your business is interested in. Also, make sure you can isolate which parts need the bandwidth and which don't as that may become more important moving forward.

posted Dec 19, 2017 | permanent link

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