color - Dave's Blog


Retweet of mathias

2016 Jan 27, 10:29
Take any Facebook/Instagram photo URL.👉 append `.txt` → ASCII art👉 append `.html` → colored ASCII artE.g. …

Retweet of anildash

2016 Jan 3, 9:59
Oh! @jsnell is way ahead of me: … Programming BB-8 with a kid-friendly app! Thanks to @anoopr for the link.

Debugging anecdote - the color transparent black breaks accessibility

2014 May 22, 10:36

Some time back while I was working on getting the Javascript Windows Store app platform running on Windows Phone (now available on the last Windows Phone release!) I had an interesting bug that in retrospect is amusing.

I had just finished a work item to get accessibility working for JS WinPhone apps when I got a new bug: With some set of JS apps, accessibility appeared to be totally broken. At that time in development the only mechanism we had to test accessibility was a test tool that runs on the PC, connects to the phone, and dumps out the accessibility tree of whatever app is running on the phone. In this bug, the tool would spin for a while and then timeout with an error and no accessibility information.

My first thought was this was an issue in my new accessibility code. However, debugging with breakpoints on my code I could see none of my code was run nor the code that should call it. The code that called that code was a more generic messaging system that hit my breakpoints constantly.

Rather than trying to work backward from the failure point, I decided to try and narrow down the repro and work forwards from there. One thing all the apps with the bug had in common was their usage of WinJS, but not all WinJS apps demonstrated the issue. Using a binary search approach on one such app I removed unrelated app code until all that was left was the app's usage of the WinJS AppBar and the bug still occurred. I replaced the WinJS AppBar usage with direct usage of the underlying AppBar WinRT APIs and continued.

Only some calls to the AppBar WinRT object produced the issue:

        var appBar = Windows.UI.WebUI.Core.WebUICommandBar.getForCurrentView(); 
// appBar.opacity = 1;
// appBar.closeDisplayMode = Windows.UI.WebUI.Core.WebUICommandBarClosedDisplayMode.default;
appBar.backgroundColor = Windows.UI.Colors.white; // Bug!
Just setting the background color appeared to cause the issue and I didn't even have to display the AppBar. Through additional trial and error I was blown away to discover that some colors I would set caused the issue and other colors did not. Black wouldn't cause the issue but transparent black would. So would aqua but not white.

I eventually realized that predefined WinRT color values like Windows.UI.Colors.aqua would cause the issue while JS literal based colors didn't cause the issue (Windows.UI.Color is a WinRT struct which projects in JS as a JS literal object with the struct members as JS object properties so its easy to write something like {r: 0, g: 0, b: 0, a: 0} to make a color) and I had been mixing both in my tests without realizing there would be a difference. I debugged into the backgroundColor property setter that consumed the WinRT color struct to see what was different between and {a: 1, r: 0, g: 0, b: 0} and found the two structs to be byte wise exactly the same.

On a hunch I tried my test app with only a reference to the color and otherwise no interaction with the AppBar and not doing anything with the actual reference to the color:;. This too caused the issue. I knew that the implementation for these WinRT const values live in a DLL and guessed that something in the code to create these predefined colors was causing the issue. I debugged in and no luck. Now I also have experienced crusty code that would do exciting things in its DllMain, the function that's called when a DLL is loaded into the process so I tried modifying my C++ code to simply LoadLibrary the DLL containing the WinRT color definition, windows.ui.xaml.dll and found the bug still occurred! A short lived moment of relief as the world seemed to make sense again.

Debugging into DllMain nothing interesting happened. There were interesting calls in there to be sure, but all of them behind conditions that were false. I was again stumped. On another hunch I tried renaming the DLL and only LoadLibrary'ing it and the bug went away. I took a different DLL renamed it windows.ui.xaml.dll and tried LoadLibrary'ing that and the bug came back. Just the name of the DLL was causing the issue.

I searched for the DLL name in our source code index and found hits in the accessibility tool. Grinning I opened the source to find that the accessibility tool's phone side service was trying to determine if a process belonged to a XAML app or not because XAML apps had a different accessibility contract. It did this by checking to see if windows.ui.xaml.dll was loaded in the target process.

At this point I got to fix my main issue and open several new bugs for the variety of problems I had just run into. This is a how to on writing software that is difficult to debug.

PermalinkCommentsbug debug javascript JS technical windows winrt

URI functions in Windows Store Applications

2013 Jul 25, 1:00


The Modern SDK contains some URI related functionality as do libraries available in particular projection languages. Unfortunately, collectively these APIs do not cover all scenarios in all languages. Specifically, JavaScript and C++ have no URI building APIs, and C++ additionally has no percent-encoding/decoding APIs.
WinRT (JS and C++)
JS Only
C++ Only
.NET Only
Relative resolution
Encode data for including in URI property
Decode data extracted from URI property
Build Query
Parse Query
The Windows.Foudnation.Uri type is not projected into .NET modern applications. Instead those applications use System.Uri and the platform ensures that it is correctly converted back and forth between Windows.Foundation.Uri as appropriate. Accordingly the column marked WinRT above is applicable to JS and C++ modern applications but not .NET modern applications. The only entries above applicable to .NET are the .NET Only column and the WwwFormUrlDecoder in the bottom left which is available to .NET.



This functionality is provided by the WinRT API Windows.Foundation.Uri in C++ and JS, and by System.Uri in .NET.
Parsing a URI pulls it apart into its basic components without decoding or otherwise modifying the contents.
var uri = new Windows.Foundation.Uri("");
console.log(uri.path);// /path%20segment1/path%20segment2

WsDecodeUrl (C++)

WsDecodeUrl is not suitable for general purpose URI parsing.  Use Windows.Foundation.Uri instead.

Build (C#)

URI building is only available in C# via System.UriBuilder.
URI building is the inverse of URI parsing: URI building allows the developer to specify the value of basic components of a URI and the API assembles them into a URI. 
To work around the lack of a URI building API developers will likely concatenate strings to form their URIs.  This can lead to injection bugs if they don’t validate or encode their input properly, but if based on trusted or known input is unlikely to have issues.
            Uri originalUri = new Uri("");
            UriBuilder uriBuilder = new UriBuilder(originalUri);
            uriBuilder.Path = "/path2/";
            Uri newUri = uriBuilder.Uri; //

WsEncodeUrl (C++)

WsEncodeUrl, in addition to building a URI from components also does some encoding.  It encodes non-US-ASCII characters as UTF8, the percent, and a subset of gen-delims based on the URI property: all :/?#[]@ are percent-encoded except :/@ in the path and :/?@ in query and fragment.
Accordingly, WsEncodeUrl is not suitable for general purpose URI building.  It is acceptable to use in the following cases:
- You’re building a URI out of non-encoded URI properties and don’t care about the difference between encoded and decoded characters.  For instance you’re the only one consuming the URI and you uniformly decode URI properties when consuming – for instance using WsDecodeUrl to consume the URI.
- You’re building a URI with URI properties that don’t contain any of the characters that WsEncodeUrl encodes.


This functionality is provided by the WinRT API Windows.Foundation.Uri in C++ and JS and by System.Uri in .NET.  Normalization is applied during construction of the Uri object.
URI normalization is the application of URI normalization rules (including DNS normalization, IDN normalization, percent-encoding normalization, etc.) to the input URI.
        var normalizedUri = new Windows.Foundation.Uri("HTTP://EXAMPLE.COM/p%61th foo/");
        console.log(normalizedUri.absoluteUri); //
This is modulo Win8 812823 in which the Windows.Foundation.Uri.AbsoluteUri property returns a normalized IRI not a normalized URI.  This bug does not affect System.Uri.AbsoluteUri which returns a normalized URI.


This functionality is provided by the WinRT API Windows.Foundation.Uri in C++ and JS and by System.Uri in .NET. 
URI equality determines if two URIs are equal or not necessarily equal.
            var uri1 = new Windows.Foundation.Uri("HTTP://EXAMPLE.COM/p%61th foo/"),
                uri2 = new Windows.Foundation.Uri("");
            console.log(uri1.equals(uri2)); // true

Relative resolution

This functionality is provided by the WinRT API Windows.Foundation.Uri in C++ and JS and by System.Uri in .NET 
Relative resolution is a function that given an absolute URI A and a relative URI B, produces a new absolute URI C.  C is the combination of A and B in which the basic components specified in B override or combine with those in A under rules specified in RFC 3986.
        var baseUri = new Windows.Foundation.Uri(""),
            relativeUri = "/path?query#fragment",
            absoluteUri = baseUri.combineUri(relativeUri);
        console.log(baseUri.absoluteUri);       //
        console.log(absoluteUri.absoluteUri);   //

Encode data for including in URI property

This functionality is available in JavaScript via encodeURIComponent and in C# via System.Uri.EscapeDataString. Although the two methods mentioned above will suffice for this purpose, they do not perform exactly the same operation.
Additionally we now have Windows.Foundation.Uri.EscapeComponent in WinRT, which is available in JavaScript and C++ (not C# since it doesn’t have access to Windows.Foundation.Uri).  This is also slightly different from the previously mentioned mechanisms but works best for this purpose.
Encoding data for inclusion in a URI property is necessary when constructing a URI from data.  In all the above cases the developer is dealing with a URI or substrings of a URI and so the strings are all encoded as appropriate. For instance, in the parsing example the path contains “path%20segment1” and not “path segment1”.  To construct a URI one must first construct the basic components of the URI which involves encoding the data.  For example, if one wanted to include “path segment / example” in the path of a URI, one must percent-encode the ‘ ‘ since it is not allowed in a URI, as well as the ‘/’ since although it is allowed, it is a delimiter and won’t be interpreted as data unless encoded.
If a developer does not have this API provided they can write it themselves.  Percent-encoding methods appear simple to write, but the difficult part is getting the set of characters to encode correct, as well as handling non-US-ASCII characters.
        var uri = new Windows.Foundation.Uri("" +
            "/" + Windows.Foundation.Uri.escapeComponent("path segment / example") +
            "?key=" + Windows.Foundation.Uri.escapeComponent("=&?#"));
        console.log(uri.absoluteUri); //

WsEncodeUrl (C++)

In addition to building a URI from components, WsEncodeUrl also percent-encodes some characters.  However the API is not recommend for this scenario given the particular set of characters that are encoded and the convoluted nature in which a developer would have to use this API in order to use it for this purpose.
There are no general purpose scenarios for which the characters WsEncodeUrl encodes make sense: encode the %, encode a subset of gen-delims but not also encode the sub-delims.  For instance this could not replace encodeURIComponent in a C++ version of the following code snippet since if ‘value’ contained ‘&’ or ‘=’ (both sub-delims) they wouldn’t be encoded and would be confused for delimiters in the name value pairs in the query:
"" + Windows.Foundation.Uri.escapeComponent(value)
Since WsEncodeUrl produces a string URI, to obtain the property they want to encode they’d need to parse the resulting URI.  WsDecodeUrl won’t work because it decodes the property but Windows.Foundation.Uri doesn’t decode.  Accordingly the developer could run their string through WsEncodeUrl then Windows.Foundation.Uri to extract the property.

Decode data extracted from URI property

This functionality is available in JavaScript via decodeURIComponent and in C# via System.Uri.UnescapeDataString. Although the two methods mentioned above will suffice for this purpose, they do not perform exactly the same operation.
Additionally we now also have Windows.Foundation.Uri.UnescapeComponent in WinRT, which is available in JavaScript and C++ (not C# since it doesn’t have access to Windows.Foundation.Uri).  This is also slightly different from the previously mentioned mechanisms but works best for this purpose.
Decoding is necessary when extracting data from a parsed URI property.  For example, if a URI query contains a series of name and value pairs delimited by ‘=’ between names and values, and by ‘&’ between pairs, one must first parse the query into name and value entries and then decode the values.  It is necessary to make this an extra step separate from parsing the URI property so that sub-delimiters (in this case ‘&’ and ‘=’) that are encoded will be interpreted as data, and those that are decoded will be interpreted as delimiters.
If a developer does not have this API provided they can write it themselves.  Percent-decoding methods appear simple to write, but have some tricky parts including correctly handling non-US-ASCII, and remembering not to decode .
In the following example, note that if unescapeComponent were called first, the encoded ‘&’ and ‘=’ would be decoded and interfere with the parsing of the name value pairs in the query.
            var uri = new Windows.Foundation.Uri("");
                function (keyValueString) {
                    var keyValue = keyValueString.split("=");
                    console.log(Windows.Foundation.Uri.unescapeComponent(keyValue[0]) + ": " + Windows.Foundation.Uri.unescapeComponent(keyValue[1]));
                    // foo: bar
                    // array: ['','&','=','#']

WsDecodeUrl (C++)

Since WsDecodeUrl decodes all percent-encoded octets it could be used for general purpose percent-decoding but it takes a URI so would require the dev to construct a stub URI around the string they want to decode.  For example they could prefix “http:///#” to their string, run it through WsDecodeUrl and then extract the fragment property.  It is convoluted but will work correctly.

Parse Query

The query of a URI is often encoded as application/x-www-form-urlencoded which is percent-encoded name value pairs delimited by ‘&’ between pairs and ‘=’ between corresponding names and values.
In WinRT we have a class to parse this form of encoding using Windows.Foundation.WwwFormUrlDecoder.  The queryParsed property on the Windows.Foundation.Uri class is of this type and created with the query of its Uri:
    var uri = Windows.Foundation.Uri("");
        function (pair) {
            console.log("name: " + + ", value: " + pair.value);
            // name: foo, value: bar
            // name: array, value: ['','&','=','#']
    console.log(uri.queryParsed.getFirstValueByName("array")); // ['','&','=','#']
The QueryParsed property is only on Windows.Foundation.Uri and not System.Uri and accordingly is not available in .NET.  However the Windows.Foundation.WwwFormUrlDecoder class is available in C# and can be used manually:
            Uri uri = new Uri("");
            WwwFormUrlDecoder decoder = new WwwFormUrlDecoder(uri.Query);
            foreach (IWwwFormUrlDecoderEntry entry in decoder)
                System.Diagnostics.Debug.WriteLine("name: " + entry.Name + ", value: " + entry.Value);
                // name: foo, value: bar
                // name: array, value: ['','&','=','#']

Build Query

To build a query of name value pairs encoded as application/x-www-form-urlencoded there is no WinRT API to do this directly.  Instead a developer must do this manually making use of the code described in “Encode data for including in URI property”.
In terms of public releases, this property is only in the RC and later builds.
For example in JavaScript a developer may write:
            var uri = new Windows.Foundation.Uri(""),
                query = "?" + Windows.Foundation.Uri.escapeComponent("array") + "=" + Windows.Foundation.Uri.escapeComponent("['','&','=','#']");
            console.log(uri.combine(new Windows.Foundation.Uri(query)).absoluteUri); //'%E3%84%93'%2C'%26'%2C'%3D'%2C'%23'%5D
PermalinkCommentsc# c++ javascript technical uri windows windows-runtime windows-store

Ben Goldacre’s TED talk on publication bias, drug...

2012 Sep 28, 3:55

drug companies hiding the results of clinical trials.

(via I did a new talk at TED, on drug companies and hidden data.)

PermalinkCommentsscience video ted

AbleGamers creates how-to accessibility guide for devs, publishers | Joystiq

2012 Sep 14, 4:20

A howto on making your video game accessible to those with disabilities (blind, color blind, deaf, etc)

The AbleGamers Foundation has created a 48-page document it hopes will serve as a how-to guide for game developers and publishers on how to create more accessible games. The in-depth guide by the disability non-profit covers in great detail how to make games available to those with varying degrees of mobility, hearing, visual and cognitive issues.

PermalinkCommentsgame technical video-game programming accessibility howto

Stripe CTF - SQL injections (Levels 0 & 3)

2012 Sep 5, 9:10

Stripe's web security CTF's level 0 and level 3 had SQL injection solutions described below.

Level 0


app.get('/*', function(req, res) {
var namespace = req.param('namespace');

if (namespace) {
var query = 'SELECT * FROM secrets WHERE key LIKE ? || ".%"';
db.all(query, namespace, function(err, secrets) {


There's no input validation on the namespace parameter and it is injected into the SQL query with no encoding applied. This means you can use the '%' character as the namespace which is the wildcard character matching all secrets.


Code review red flag was using strings to query the database. Additional levels made this harder to exploit by using an API with objects to construct a query rather than strings and by running a query that only returned a single row, only ran a single command, and didn't just dump out the results of the query to the caller.

Level 3


@app.route('/login', methods=['POST'])
def login():
username = flask.request.form.get('username')
password = flask.request.form.get('password')

if not username:
return "Must provide username\n"

if not password:
return "Must provide password\n"

conn = sqlite3.connect(os.path.join(data_dir, 'users.db'))
cursor = conn.cursor()

query = """SELECT id, password_hash, salt FROM users
WHERE username = '{0}' LIMIT 1""".format(username)

res = cursor.fetchone()
if not res:
return "There's no such user {0}!\n".format(username)
user_id, password_hash, salt = res

calculated_hash = hashlib.sha256(password + salt)
if calculated_hash.hexdigest() != password_hash:
return "That's not the password for {0}!\n".format(username)


There's little input validation on username before it is used to constrcut a SQL query. There's no encoding applied when constructing the SQL query string which is used to, given a username, produce the hashed password and the associated salt. Accordingly one can make username a part of a SQL query command which ensures the original select returns nothing and provide a new SELECT via a UNION that returns some literal values for the hash and salt. For instance the following in blue is the query template and the red is the username injected SQL code:

SELECT id, password_hash, salt FROM users WHERE username = 'doesntexist' UNION SELECT id, ('5e884898da28047151d0e56f8dc6292773603d0d6aabbdd62a11ef721d1542d8') AS password_hash, ('word') AS salt FROM users WHERE username = 'bob' LIMIT 1
In the above I've supplied my own salt and hash such that my salt (word) plus my password (pass) hashed produce the hash I provided above. Accordingly, by providing the above long and interesting looking username and password as 'pass' I can login as any user.


Code review red flag is again using strings to query the database. Although this level was made more difficult by using an API that returns only a single row and by using the execute method which only runs one command. I was forced to (as a SQL noob) learn the syntax of SELECT in order to figure out UNION and how to return my own literal values.

PermalinkCommentssecurity sql sql-injection technical web-security

Alex takes a few steps

2012 Aug 16, 4:06
From: David Risney
Views: 75
0 ratings
Time: 00:43 More in People & Blogs

Alex walking via walker

2012 Aug 6, 4:44
From: David Risney
Views: 69
0 ratings
Time: 00:53 More in People & Blogs

ifc: This week on Comedy Bang! Bang! - Michael Cera!

2012 Jun 27, 3:38


This week on Comedy Bang! Bang! - Michael Cera!

PermalinkCommentshumor comedy-bang-bang michael-cera video

wired: [via motherjones]: theweekmagazine: Sticking to an...

2012 Jun 7, 3:29


[via motherjones]:


Sticking to an exercise routine takes dedication, and many fitness junkies swear that a running companion can be a huge help. That’s why researchers have developed “Joggobot,” a quad-rotor helicopter drone designed to motivate joggers by flying in front of them. 

The aerial robot uses its camera to spot a colorful pattern on a T-shirt worn by the jogger, and flies at a safe distance ahead. The runner can control Joggobot using a smartphone: In “companion mode,” the drone simply maintains the jogger’s pace; in “coach mode,” it pushes its human trainee a little faster.

Don’t worry, there’s a video


Maybe it should chase you instead?

PermalinkCommentshumor exercise robot future video

Play Fez

2012 May 7, 3:30

I'm done playing Fez. The style is atmospheric retro nastalgia and on the surface the gameplay is standard 2D platformer with one interesting Flatland style game mechanic but dig deeper to find Myst style puzzles. Despite the following I thoroughly enjoyed the game and would recommend it to anyone intrigued by the previous. Five eighths through the game I ran into one of the game's infamous Fez save game breaking issues, but I enjoyed the game enough that I started over before any patches were released and had no further issues.

While playing the game I created some tools to help keep track of my Fez notes (spoilers) including a Pixelated Image Creator that makes it easy to generate data URIs for large, black and white pixelated images, and (spoilers) a Fez Transliteration Tool to help me translate the in-game writing system.

PermalinkCommentsvideo-game fez game xbox

Another Comedy Bang Bang preview clip this time with Zach...

2012 Apr 18, 6:02

Another Comedy Bang Bang preview clip this time with Zach Galifianakis.

PermalinkCommentszach-galifianakis comedy-bang-bang video humor preview scott-aukerman tv clip

Free Universal Construction Kit is a set of 3D models you can...

2012 Mar 19, 4:05

Free Universal Construction Kit is a set of 3D models you can print on a 3D printer that allow you to connect Lego to Duplo to Lincoln Logs, etc.

PermalinkCommentstoy video 3d-printer

(via Defend our freedom to share (or why SOPA is a bad idea):...

2012 Jan 18, 3:21

(via Defend our freedom to share (or why SOPA is a bad idea): Clay Shirky on

PermalinkCommentsvideo copyright clay-shirky sopa pipa legal politics mpaa ted

(via MakerBot Replicator, A New Larger 2 Color 3D Printer by...

2012 Jan 9, 5:43

(via MakerBot Replicator, A New Larger 2 Color 3D Printer by MakerBot)

PermalinkCommentsvideo maker-bot 3d-printer

Color Thief, script for grabbing the color palette from an image (

2012 Jan 7, 6:42

Picks out dominant color or palette from an image. Not only is that cool, but it is in JavaScript using canvas, and is licensed under Creative Commons attribution.

PermalinkCommentstechnical color javascript canvas library

Alex tries baby food

2012 Jan 3, 12:02
Alex tries baby food for the first time.
From: David Risney
Views: 51
0 ratings
Time: 00:39 More in People & Blogs

(via Instantly Redecorating a Living Room with Video Mapping)

2011 Dec 9, 6:59

(via Instantly Redecorating a Living Room with Video Mapping)


Sleepy Alex

2011 Sep 10, 10:27
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