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Ozersk: the city on the edge of plutonium

Ozersk (also spelled Ozyorsk) – originally known only by the codename Chelyabinsk-40 – is the site of the third-worst nuclear disaster in world history, as well as the birthplace of the Soviet Union's nuclear weapons arsenal. But I'll forgive you if you've never heard of it (I hadn't, until now). Unlike numbers one (Chernobyl) and two (Fukushima), the USSR managed to keep both the 1957 incident, and the place's very existence, secret for over 30 years.

Ozersk being so secret that few photos of it are available, is a good enough excuse, in my opinion, for illustrating this article with mildly amusing memes instead.
Ozersk being so secret that few photos of it are available, is a good enough excuse, in my opinion, for illustrating this article with mildly amusing memes instead.
Image source: Legends Revealed

Amazingly, to this day – more than three decades after the fall of communism – this city of about 100,000 residents (and its surrounds, including the Mayak nuclear facility, which is ground zero) remains a "closed city", with entry forbidden to all non-authorised personnel.

And, apart from being enclosed by barbed wire, it appears to also be enclosed in a time bubble, with the locals still routinely parroting the Soviet propaganda that labelled them "the nuclear shield and saviours of the world"; and with the Soviet-era pact still effectively in place that, in exchange for their loyalty, their silence, and a not-un-unhealthy dose of radiation, their basic needs (and some relative luxuries to boot) are taken care of for life.

GDPR-compliant Google reCAPTCHA

Per the EU's GDPR and ePrivacy Directive, you must ask visitors to a website for their consent before setting any cookies, and/or before collecting any user tracking data. And because the GDPR applies to all EU citizens (who are residing within the EU), regardless of where in the world a website or its owner is based, in order to fully comply, in practice you should seek consent for all visitors to all websites globally.

In order to be GDPR-compliant, and in order to just be a good netizen, I made sure, when building GreenAsh v5 earlier this year, to not use services that set cookies at all, wherever possible. In previous iterations of GreenAsh, I used Google Analytics, which (like basically all Google services) is a notorious GDPR offender; this time around, I instead used Cloudflare Web Analytics, which is a good enough replacement for my modest needs, and which ticks all the privacy boxes.

However, on pages with forms at least, I still need Google reCAPTCHA. I'd like to instead use the privacy-conscious hCaptcha, but Netlify Forms only supports reCAPTCHA, so I'm stuck with it for now. Here's how I seek the user's consent before loading reCAPTCHA.

Scott Morrison is not keen on ABC interviews

Scott Morrison surprised the fine folks over at the national broadcaster recently, by turning down their invitation for a pre-election debate with Anthony Albanese, instead choosing to have all three of his televised debates take place on commercial channels.

I have also made the casual observation, over the last three years, that Morrison makes few appearances on Aunty in general, compared with the commercial alternatives, particularly Sky News (which I personally have never watched directly, and have no plans to, but I've seen plenty of clips of Morrison on Sky repeated on the ABC and elsewhere).

This led me to do some research, to find out: how often has Morrison taken part in ABC interviews, during his tenure so far as Prime Minister, compared with his predecessors? I compiled my findings, and this is what they show:

Morrison's ABC interview frequency compared to his forebears
Morrison's ABC interview frequency compared to his forebears

It's official: Morrison has, on average, taken part in fewer ABC TV and Radio interviews, than any other Prime Minister in recent Australian history.

Is Australia supporting atrocities in West Papua?

A wee lil' fact check style analysis of The Juice Media's 2018 video Honest Government Ad: Visit West Papua. Not that I don't love TJM's videos (that would be un-Australien!). Just that a number of the claims in that particular piece took me by surprise.

Nobody (except Indonesia!) is disputing that an awful lot of bad stuff has happened in Indonesian Papua over the last half-century or so, and that the vast majority of the blood is on the Indonesian government's hands. However, is it true that the Australian government is not only silent on, but also complicit in, said bad stuff?

On the Proof of Humanity project

Proof of Humanity (PoH) is a project that I stumbled upon a few weeks ago. Its aim is to create a registry of every living human on the planet. So far, it's up to about 15,000 out of 7 billion.

Just for fun, I registered myself, so I'm now part of that tiny minority who, according to PoH, are verified humans! (Sorry, I guess the rest of you are just an illusion).

Actual bona fide humans
Actual bona fide humans

This is a brief musing on the PoH project: its background story, the people behind it, the technology powering it, the socio-economic philosophy behind it, the challenges it's facing, whether it stacks up, and what I think lies ahead.

Introducing: Hack Your Bradfield Vote

I built a tiny site, that I humbly hope makes a tiny difference in my home electorate of Bradfield, this 2022 federal election. Check out Hack Your Bradfield Vote.

How
How "Hack Your Bradfield Vote" looks on desktop and mobile

I'm not overly optimistic, here in what is one of the safest Liberal seats in Australia. But you never know, this may finally be the year when the winds of change rustle the verdant treescape of Sydney's leafy North Shore.

I don't need a VPS anymore

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I've paid for either a "shared hosting" subscription, or a VPS subscription, for my own use, for the last two decades. Mainly for serving web traffic, but also for backups, for Git repos, and for other bits and pieces.

But, as of now, it's with bittersweet-ness that I declare, that that era in my life has come to a close. No more (personal) server that I wholly or partially manage. No more SSH'ing in. No more updating Linux kernel / packages. No more Apache / Nginx setup. No more MySQL / PostgreSQL administration. No more SSL certificates to renew. No more CPU / RAM usage to monitor.

No more defending against evil villains!
No more defending against evil villains!
Image source: Meme Generator

In its place, I've taken the plunge and fully embraced SaaS. In particular, I've converted most of my personal web sites, and most of the other web sites under my purview, to be statically generated, and to be hosted on Netlify. I've also moved various backups to S3 buckets, and I've moved various Git repos to GitHub.

And so, you may lament that I'm yet one more netizen who has Less Power™ and less control. Yet another lost soul, entrusting these important things to the corporate overlords. And you have a point. But the case against SaaS is one that's getting harder to justify with each passing year. My new setup is (almost entirely) free (as in beer). And it's highly available, and lightning-fast, and secure out-of-the-box. And sysadmin is now Somebody Else's Problem. And the amount of ownership and control that I retain, is good enough for me.

Email-based comment moderation with Netlify Functions

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The most noteworthy feature of the recently-launched GreenAsh v5, programming-wise, is its comment submission system. I enjoyed the luxury of the robust batteries-included comment engines of Drupal and Django, back in the day; but dynamic functionality like that isn't as straight-forward in the brave new world of SSG's. I promised that I'd provide a detailed run-down of what I built, so here goes.

Some of GreenAsh's oldest published comments, looking mighty fine in v5.
Some of GreenAsh's oldest published comments, looking mighty fine in v5.

Introducing GreenAsh 5

After a solid run of twelve years, I've put GreenAsh v4 out to pasture, and I've launched v5 to fill its plush shoes.

Sporting a simple, readable, mobile-friendly design.
Sporting a simple, readable, mobile-friendly design.

GreenAsh v5 marks the culmination of my continuing mission, to convert over all of my personal sites, and all of the other sites that I still host slash maintain, to use a Static Site Generator (SSG). As with some other sites of mine, GreenAsh is now powered by Eleventy, and is now hosted on Netlify.

As was the case with v4, this new version isn't a complete redesign, it's a realign. First and foremost, the new design's aim is for the thought-reading experience to be a delightful one, with improved text legibility and better formatting of in-article elements. The new design is also (long overdue for GreenAsh!) fully responsive from the ground up, catering for mobile display just as much as desktop.