WIP: Dead Tree Publishing 4

I consider Dead Tree Publishing to be Good Enough at this point. It’s launched.


New site style, FAQ page

I’m going to add support for URLs instead of uploading PDFs, and fix some bugs here for there, but it’s essentially done.

Meanwhile, I’ve already received my first physical book I’m publishing through the site. I got this nice email from Eric Eve:

Multi-universe RPG toy

https://www.rpgsolo.com/ has a table for resolving yes/no questions, in turn taken from FU RPG. Roll a die:

  • Yes, and…
  • Yes…
  • Yes, but…
  • No, but…
  • No…
  • No, and…


Their example:

I listen at the door. Do I hear anything? (I determine the odds are 50/50 so I click the “50/50” button in the Get Answer section and I get back the following.)

Yes, and…

(Now it’s up to me to determine what that means. Since it says “and” that means I got some kind of bonus. So I am going to interpret that to mean that from the sounds I am hearing I have received some extra information. So I type or say to myself),

I hear one person in the room. (Now I ask my next question.) Is the door locked?

No, but…

(The answer is no but it’s not a total loss. I interpret what that means then type the following),

The door seems weak enough that I can probably kick it open.

So we’ve gotten a base system for telling stories. We then added the following:

  1. Whenever you roll a result, roll TWICE. In one universe, you get one result. In the other universe, you get another result. (With accompanying description). If you have more than three universes lying around, discard down to three. All actions/questions are for a particular universe declared by the players.
  2. (addendum) Actually, roll two dice: only split the universe if the second die comes up “1” or “2”. Otherwise, answer the question normally. This speeds things up a bit.

It was pretty fun in practice. I recommend using a text file over paper, since you’re going to do a lot of copy-paste. We had more fun with no GM than with a GM. No firm result yet on sandbox-worldbuilding vs players in scenarios; both seemed all right.


Whiteboard Partition

I wanted a partition to divide my room, and I had a whiteboard sitting around. I sawed it into three parts, and connected them with hinges:

whiteboard 2

folding whiteboard

whiteboard 4

hinge (front)

whiteboard 1

hinge (back)

I’m a little embarrassed at having done all this, since it was obvious as soon as I started the partition was way too short to work. I figured I’d still get some experience woodworking (this is my first project). Here’s where it went:

whiteboard 5

and I never saw it again

Steak Tartare

steak tartare
Recipe is mostly from Tricia.


  • 8-10 oz fresh steak, with salt and pepper
  • 2 tsp capers and/or 2 Tbsp diced olives
  • 3 tsp brown mustard
  • 4 tsp olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp finely diced, fresh red onions
  • Crushed red pepper to taste
  1. Remove all fat and tendons from the steak. Season it lightly with salt and pepper, and sear lightly on high heat to make it safe to eat. Slice the meat into very thin (2mm) strips, arrange in two piles. Coat the meat in olive oil. Push a small divot into each pile.
  2. Dice olives and onions. Add capers, mustard, and red pepper. Mix together and pour into meat piles equally, or surround the meat with it.
  3. Separate whites and yolks (carefully removing all the white since we’re using raw yolks). Pour one egg yolk into each divot.

Read about raw beef and egg safety first to be well informed.

Paper archival

Previous work:

I wanted (for fun) to see if I could get data stored in paper formats. I’d read the previous work, and people put a lot of thought into density, but not a lot of thought into ease of retreival. First off, acid-free paper lasts 500 years or so, which is plenty long enough compared to any environmental stresses (moisture, etc) I expect on any paper I have.

Optar gets a density of 200kB / A4 page. By default, it requires a 600dpi printer, and a 600+dpi scanner. It has 3-of-12 bit redundancy using Golay codes, and spaces out the bits in an okay fashion.

Paperback gets a (theoretical) density of 500kB / A4 page. It needs a 600dpi printer, and a ~900dpi scanner.  It has configurable redundancy using Reed-Solomon codes. It looks completely unusable in practice (alignment issues, aside from being Windows-only).

Okay, so I think these are all stupid, because you need some custom software to decode them, which in any case where you’re decoding data stored on paper you probably don’t have that. I want to use standard barcodes, even if they’re going to be lower density. Let’s look at our options. I’m going to skip linear barcodes (low-density) and color barcodes (printing in color is expensive).  Since we need space between symbols, we want to pick the biggest versions of each code we can. For one, whitespace around codes is going to dominate actual code density for layout efficiency, and larger symbols are usually more dense. For another thing, we want to scan as few symbols as possible if we’re doing them one at a time.

Aztec From 15×15 to 151×151 square pixels. 1914 bytes maximum. Configurable Reed-Solomon error correction.

Density: 11.9 pixels per byte

Data Matrix From 10×10 to 144×144 square pixels. 1555 bytes maximum. Large, non-configurable error correction.

Density: 13.3 pixels per byte

QR Code From 21×21 to 177×177 square pixels. 2,953 bytes maximum. Somewhat configurable Reed-Solomon error correction.

Density: 10.6 pixels per byte

PDF417 17 height by 90-583 width.  1100 bytes maximum. Configurable Reed-Solomon error correction. PDF417 is a stacked linear barcode, and can be scanned by much simpler scanners instead of cameras. It also has built in cross-symbol linking (MacroPDF417), meaning you can scan a sequence of codes before getting output–handy for getting software to automatically link all the codes on a page.

Density: 9.01 pixels per byte

QR codes and PDF417 look like our contenders. PDF417 turns out to not scan well (at all, but especially at large symbol sizes), so despite some nice features let’s pick QR codes. Back when I worked on a digital library I made a component to generate QR codes on the fly, and I know how to scan them on my phone and webcam already from that, so it would be pretty easy to use them.

What density can we get on a sheet of A4 paper (8.25 in × 11.00 in, or 7.75in x 10.50in with half-inch margins)? I trust optar’s estimate (600 dpi = 200 pixels per inch) for printed/scanned pages since they seemed to test things. A max-size QR code is 144×144 pixels, or 0.72 x 0.72 inches at maximum density. We can fit 10 x 14 = 140 QR codes with maximum density on the page, less if we want decent spacing. That’s 140 QR codes x (2,953 bytes per QR code) = 413420 bytes = 413K per page before error correction.

That’s totally comparable to the other approaches above, and you can read the results with off-the-shelf software.  Bam.

Backup android on plugin

In a previous post I discussed how to backup android with rsync. In this post, I’ll improve on that solution so it happens when you plug the phone in, rather than manually. My solution happens to know I have only one phone; you should adjust accordingly.

The process is

  1. Plug the phone in
  2. Unlock the screen (you’ll see a prompt to do this).
  3. Backup starts automatically
  4. Wait for the backup to finish before unplugging

First, let’s add a udev rule to auto-mount the phone when it’s plugged in and unlocked, and run appropriate scripts.

Next, we’ll add android-connected and android-disconnected

We’ll add something to mount and unmount the system. Keeping in mind that mounting only works when the screen is unlocked we’ll put that in a loop that checks if the mount worked:

The contents of  /usr/local/bin/phone-backup are pretty me-specific so I’ll omit it, but it copies /media/android over to a server. (fun detail: MTP doesn’t show all information even on a rooted phone, so there’s more work to do)

WIP: Dead Tree Publishing 3

Compared with last update,  the Dead Tree Publishing website is looking nicer.

Looking better

Looking better

It’s served over HTTPS now (not needed for security, but it puts people at ease and enabled Chrome’s autocomplete) and you can order multiple books at a time.

Other than some more visual improvements, the main thing missing is proper detection of page size — my server doesn’t understand about page margins, so it things books are bigger than they really are.

XP Boot USB Stick

Most of the following taken from : http://www.msfn.org/board/topic/151992-install-xp-from-usb-without-extra-tools/, just modified to include syslinux support.

Let me know if there are any omissions; it an XP installer bluescreens on boot for me so I can’t actually test.

  1. Obtain an XP iso file
  2. Format drive with one FAT parition, marked bootable.
  3. Edit /mnt/syslinux.cfg:
  4. Boot from the USB stick