Emacs remote file editing over TRAMP

Posted by Michał ‘mina86’ Nazarewicz on 31st of January 2021

I often develop software on remote machines; logged in via SSH to a workstation where all source code reside. In those situations, I like to have things work the same way regardless of which host I’m on. Since more often than not I open files from shell rather than from within my editor, this in particular means having the same command opening files in Emacs available on all computers. emacsclient filename works locally but gets a bit tricky over SSH.

Running Emacs in a terminal is of course possible, but graphical interface provides minor benefits which I like to keep. X forwarding is another option but gets sluggish over high-latency connections. And besides, having multiple Emacs instance running (one local and one remote) is not the way.

Fortunately, by utilising SSH remote forwarding, Emacs can be configured to edit remote files and accept server commands from within an SSH session. Herein I will describe how to accomplish that.

Hacking GOG.com for fun and profit

Posted by Michał ‘mina86’ Nazarewicz on 24th of August 2020

If you have a GOG account, you might have received an email announcing a Harvest Sale. While it’s unusual for harvest to last only 48 hours, but apart from that naming blunder, the sale is no different than many that came before it. What caught my attention was somewhat creative spot the difference puzzle that accompanied it. Specifically, as pretext to share some image processing insights.

Portion of the spot the difference Harvest Sale puzzle

Each identified difference presents a discount code for an exciting game. Surely, one cannot let it go to waste! Alas, years of sitting in a cave in front of a computer destroyed our eyesight; how could we possibly succeed‽ Simple!

sRGB↔XYZ conversion

Posted by Michał ‘mina86’ Nazarewicz on 7th of July 2019

In an earlier post, I’ve shown how to calculate an sRGB↔XYZ conversion matrix. It’s only natural to follow up with a code for converting between sRGB and XYZ colour spaces. While the matrix is a significant portion of the algorithm, there is one more step necessary: gamma correction.

What is gamma correction?

Human perception of light’s brightness approximates a power function of its intensity. This can be expressed as \(P = S^\alpha\) where \(P\) is the perceived brightness and \(S\) is linear intensity. \(\alpha\) has been experimentally measured to be less than one which means that people are more sensitive to changes to dark colours rather than to bright ones.

Based on that observation, colour space’s encoding can be made more efficient by using higher precision when encoding dark colours and lower when encoding bright ones. This is akin to precision of floating-point numbers scaling with value’s magnitude. In RGB systems, the role of precision scaling is done by gamma correction. When colour is captured (for example from a digital camera) it goes through gamma compression which spaces dark colours apart and packs lighter colours more densely. When displaying an image, the opposite happens and encoded value goes through gamma expansion.

TIL: Browsers ignore Expires header on reload

Posted by Michał ‘mina86’ Nazarewicz on 26th of February 2019

This may have been obvious, but I’ve just learned that browsers ignore Expires header when the user manually reloads the page (as in by pressing F5 or choosing Reload option).

I’ve run into this when testing how Firefox treats pages which ‘never’ expire. To my surprise, the browser made requests for files it had a fresh copy of in its cache. To see behaviour much more representative of the experience of a returning user, one should select the address bar (Alt+D does the trick) and then press Return to navigate to the current page again. Hitting Reload is more akin, though not exactly the same, to the first visit.

Of course, all of the above applies to the max-age directive of the Cache-Control header as well.

Moral of the story? Make sure you test the actual real-life scenarios before making any decisions.

Setting up Tor hidden service

Posted by Michał ‘mina86’ Nazarewicz on 17th of February 2019

Anyone can think of myriad reasons to run a Tor hidden service. Surely many unsavoury endeavours spring to mind but of course, there are as many noble ones. There are also various pragmatic causes like circumventing lousy NATs. Me? I just wanted to play around with my router.

Configuring a hidden service is actually straightforward so to make things more interesting, this article will cover configuring a hidden service on a Turris Omnia router with the help of Linux Containers to maximise isolation of components. While some steps will be Omnia-specific, most translate easily to other systems, so this post may be applicable regardless of the distribution used.

Java: Stringchar[]

Posted by Michał ‘mina86’ Nazarewicz on 9th of February 2019

Do you recall when I decided to abuse Go’s run-time and play with string[]byte conversion? Fun times… I wonder if we could do the same to Java?

To remind ourselves of the ‘problem’, strings in Java are immutable but because Java has no concept of ownership or const keyword (can we move the industry to Rust already?) to make true on that promise, Java run-time has to make a defensive copy each time a new string is created or when string’s characters are returned.

Alas, do not despair! There is another way (exception handling elided for brevity):

private static Field getValueField() {
	final Field field = String.class.getDeclaredField("value");
	/* Test that it works. */
	final char[] chars = new char[]{'F', 'o', 'o'};
	final String string = new String();
	field.set(string, chars);
	if (string.equals("Foo") && field.get(string) == chars) {
		return field;
	throw new UnsupportedOperationException(
		"UnsafeString not supported by the run-time");

private final static Field valueField = getValueField();

public static String fromChars(final char[] chars) {
	final String string = new String();
	valueField.set(string, chars);
	return string;

public static char[] toChars(final String string) {
	return (char[]) valueField.get(string);

However. There is a twist…

Calculating sRGB↔XYZ matrix

Posted by Michał ‘mina86’ Nazarewicz on 3rd of February 2019

I’ve recently found myself in need of an sRGB↔XYZ transformation matrix expressed to the maximum possible precision. Sources on the Internet typically limit the precision to just a few decimal places so I've decided to do the calculations by myself.

What we’re looking for is a 3-by-3 matrix \(M\) which, when multiplied by red, green and blue coordinates of a colour, produces its XYZ coordinates. In other words, a change of basis matrix from a space whose basis vectors are sRGB’s primary colours: $$ M = \begin{bmatrix} X_r & X_g & Y_b \\ Y_r & Y_g & Y_b \\ Z_r & Z_g & Z_b \end{bmatrix} $$

PSA: Yes, 64-byte key file is OK

Posted by Michał ‘mina86’ Nazarewicz on 4th of April 2017

In an earlier entry I’ve changed generated key file used for disk encryption from 4096 to meagre 64 bytes. I gave no mention of that adjustment considering it unimportant but have since been enquired about security of such a short password.

Rest assured, a 64-byte key file is sufficient for any symmetric encryption (disk encryption being one example) and anything more does not improve security.

Go: string[]byte

Posted by Michał ‘mina86’ Nazarewicz on 28th of February 2017

Yes… I’ve started coding in Go recently. It lacks many things but the one feature relevant to this post is const keyword. Arrays and slices in particular are always mutable and so equivalent of C’s const char * does not exist.

On the other hand, strings are immutable which means that conversion between a string and []byte requires memory allocation and copying of the data. Often this might be acceptable but to squeeze every last cycle the following two functions might help achieve zero-copy implementation:

func String(bytes []byte) string {
	hdr := *(*reflect.SliceHeader)(unsafe.Pointer(&bytes))
	return *(*string)(unsafe.Pointer(&reflect.StringHeader{
		Data: hdr.Data,
		Len:  hdr.Len,

func Bytes(str string) []byte {
	hdr := *(*reflect.StringHeader)(unsafe.Pointer(&str))
	return *(*[]byte)(unsafe.Pointer(&reflect.SliceHeader{
		Data: hdr.Data,
		Len:  hdr.Len,
		Cap:  hdr.Len,

Depending on the length of the strings, the difference in performance might be noticeable:

PSA: Creating world-unreadable files

Posted by Michał ‘mina86’ Nazarewicz on 5th of February 2017

I’ve been reading tutorials on using key-files for disk encryption. Common approach for generating such files is to create it using something similar to head -c 4096 /dev/urandom >key-file and only then change it’s permissions (usually with a plain chmod 400 key-file) to prevent others from reading it.

Please, stop doing this and spreading that method. The correct way of achieving the effect is:

(umask 077; head -c 64 /dev/random >key-file)

Or if the file needs to be created as root while command is run by a different user:

sudo sh -c 'umask 077; head -c 64 /dev/random >key-file'

The first method creates the file as world-readable and before its permission are changed anyone can read it. The second method creates the file as readable only by its owner from the very beginning thus preventing the secret disclosure.