Nov 20, 2008

QNX 6.4 > 6.3

I had been running QNX 6.3 on my trusty old 1.4 GHz Pentium III system with two gigs of memory for the last couple years and it was alright. Never quite fast enough despite decent hardware (P3 chips were 2x as fast as P4s clock per clock, don't whine otherwise) and limited hardware support, I was looking forward to the upgrade because, finally, after four years I might get a better-optimized system.

Nov 17, 2008

FreeBSD Owes Apple Big

The other day, while booting my eight-core 3.2 GHz Mac Pro with 32 GiB RAM, I watched my system startup messages (nvram boot-args="-v") and thought of Darwin's origins at NeXT as a pastiche of academic research and hacker hobby. Darwin has come so far and exhibits the best of long-term software engineering. But while thinking of how far Darwin has come, I also thought of all it has given back to FreeBSD. By the time my Mac had loaded my desktop, I was at work researching just how much FreeBSD owes Apple.

Jan 15, 2008

Skinhacking: A DIY Guide to Facials, Laxatives, and Moisturizers

I have dry skin. Heating systems at home, school, and work all conspire with the general dryness of Zone 5 Winter to leave me with a flaky, sensitive epidermis that not only feels papery and prone but, in some areas, cracks or reddens. To combat this I began using, for the first time in my life, commercially available moisturizers like Aloe & Chamomile Advanced Therapy Lotion (St. Ives) and Norwegian Formula Body Moisturizer (Neutrogena). After becoming wary of their exotic additives and unpronounceables, I decided to try making my own in order to ascertain what's really responsible for rehydrating my skin.

The recipe below is simple and forms the basis of most DIY skin moisturizers; it functions by shielding the skin from dehydrating agents and both attracting and trapping moisture within the skin. I created it after a few tries from some recipes I found online and in a local anarchist hippie zine called Motha Earrrth.

  • 4 tbs. beeswax

  • 8 tbs. coco butter

  • 4 tbs. coconut oil

  • 2 tsp. distilled water

Use either a simple double boiler or a Pyrex dish either in a pot of boiling water or on top of a hot plate.

  1. Place beeswax in dish and allow it to melt to the consistency of water.

  2. Add the distilled water and mix thoroughly.

  3. Add the coconut oil and coco butter, stirring continuously until completely mixed with the beeswax and water.

  4. Pour into a container and allow it to cool for about an hour before use.

  5. Total time: Seven minutes.

The stark simplicity of this recipe contrasts quite obviously with commercial solutions as it lacks dyes, vitamins, and chemicals. The color of the finished product will be a light tan or beige color depending on the color of the products you used and it should smell vaguely tropical or like a legally-aged but still pubescent girl who just went tanning. I tried this recipe on my face, where it worked well as a lip balm too, and felt results in just a couple days.

After trying this recipe with other oils, I realized that skin moisturizers, lip balm, hair conditioner, and shoe polish all exist along a spectrum and tweaking the amounts and ingredients allow for products appropriate for many household and garden uses. For instance, adding a teaspoon of sesame oil and olive oil each and reducing the beeswax a bit results in an excellent hair care product that one can leave in and style with or rinse out in the shower. Women love to touch my hair.

Upon further experimentation with this basic recipe for skin care use, I decided to fancy it up so it was more like the expensive commercial brands, something I could gift and use to impress attractive lady-friends. This required the purchase of essential oils, which are about US $2-6 per 10mL; one adds just a few drops of the essential oil when mixing. The only guidelines here are the skinhacker's personal tastes and allergies. I would recommend using garlic or valerian oil in a batch meant for gifting, for example.

My favorites so far have been a catnip/chamomile/lavender/St. John's wort combo which is nice before bedtime, a chamomile/lemon/mint paste with honey which is an excellent pre-shower facial that leaves the skin full and smooth and smelling incredibly kissable, and a peppermint/ginger combo that mimics my preferred Tom's of Maine toothpaste flavor and so is excellent for post-shower application. A three-to-one frankincense/sandalwood combination smells of success and sinecure; wear it to interviews and meetings.

Alongside more obvious scents, many skin products contain vitamins; Vitamin E compounds are especially common. Vitamins are of obvious benefit, but few are actually effective when applied externally. Vitamin A, for instance, is a magnitude more effective when taken internally, while the B vitamin complex has absolutely no benefit when applied to the skin. In researching I found that only one Vitamin E compound, alpha tocopherol, is effective topically. I purchase gel cap preparation from discount stores and pop and squeeze it in when mixing the other ingredients. It adds no odor or other side effects but I do feel as if my skin feels tighter and more resilient to inclemency than without.

Another benefit of these natural ingredients is that the product is edible assuming one has not added poisonous ingredients. This means that, if one is bored, one can eat their homemade skin care products. This lends to treating constipation, since coconut oil, among others, induces bowel movements in humans. One can ingest a good amount of moisturizer orally and enjoy its soothing benefits hours later. A batch with some anise oil and high beeswax content can be inserted into the rectum for results much gentler than over-the-counter suppositories.

Taking responsibility for your skin health not only benefits your skin but shows the world that you have invested in yourself, a person just as bright as their expression. Knowing the process behind doing so allows for a subtle, personal tweaking that manufactured skin products just don't provide. Ordering a scent or cream for a looming romantic appointment is impractical and expensive, but making it at home takes only minutes and costs nothing after you've established a small cabinet of ingredients.

Eventually one will find novel uses for their personal products that will allow them to slowly wean themselves away from the horror of consumerist dependence, polishing their life—literally—in the process.

Jan 9, 2008

Demonology '08

In the new year the Berkeley Software Distribution family of Unix-like operating systems is growing at a phenomenal rate and excitement over the possibilities for this operating system family is in the air. After unprecedented development and adoption as well as major shifts in the marketplace, it's time to take a look at what's new with this demonic family of operating systems. Don't fear, the word demon means Unix goodness at just the right price.