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Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

June 29
25th Hour is disappointing given the cast and the director. It's slow, the story doesn't have a lot going on, and there are parts that seem like the director's voice projected via his characters - the commentary on overlooking World Trade Plaza, the main character's monologue to the mirror - and the whole "run for it" sequence at the end is completely overdone. About the only surprise for me in this movie was discovering that the father and son are in real life also father and son. Go figure.

June 28
Clash of the Titans suffers much the same fate as its successor, Wrath of the Titans: fairly decent cast, generally looks pretty good, but really just a mediocre film through some combination of pacing and lack of empathetic characters. Oh, and the "Braveheart" speech at the mouth of the Gorgon's lair is completely cheesy and should have been left out.

June 25
More Facebook fun: someone had his account switched to use my email instead of his (at least, that's what I'm charitably assuming is the case). Even without being able to verify this, Facebook happily accepted it at face value, which is error number one (hint: don't delete previously valid access method before confirming the new one); error number two is making it damn near impossible for me to find a way to report this.

June 23
Cycling jacket update: I stopped into Cycleways on Parnell Street - not my regular cycling shop (Cyclebike), but my regular cycling shop seems to constantly not have the things I want in stock when I actually want them - and after a prolonged conversation with a helpful shop assistant I emerged with a Gore-Tex fluorescent jacket with proper zips. It's a bit warmer than the old jacket, but that means I don't need to wear quite so much (and get quite so sweaty) in colder weather. I also got a pair of waterproof leggings (last pair left one bowsy night in Bull & Castle...) and a Kryptonite New York U-lock to replace the generic u-lock whose key has gotten worn to the point where it's getting hard to unlock. I bought all this during our rather incredible 10-day long summer, and no sooner was I back to work than I had to actually start using the rain gear - and it's all good.

June 22
War Horse was very enjoyable, even if it did get a bit silly towards the end. Also, beautifully shot. And the bit with the sudden shower of wirecutters caused much hilarity chez Waide.

Trying to debug a bus error deep in the heart of the gtk+ library, as used by Gramps. Someone suggested using valgrind to see what's happening - a tool I've used in the past - but alas that doesn't build on the current version of MacOS, and even if you do beat it into building, it pretty much isn't going to work very well. So I'm reduced to adding random print statements and single-stepping in gdb.

June 16
I made some mention of this a while back: the lies of Facebook (not actually anything about privacy, surprisingly enough).

I made an accidental Kindle purchase (no, honestly) via the Amazon website, where there is no big, goofy button to say, "did you do this by mistake? click here!", and it took me longer to find the "Whoops" option than it did to get my mistaken order refunded. For the record: go to "Manage my Kindle", find the order in question, and click on the "Return for Refund" link.

June 15
Trying to do some family-tree-related math, I find that Emacs is the better tool than Excel for the simple reason that the latter refuses to deal with a date prior to Jan 1 1901 (which excludes all the dates I'm looking at...)

Gambit is an excellent caper movie, with a remarkably fresh approach to what could have been run-of-the-mill cringe humour - the obvious target actually comes out on top. I'd figured out the twist, such as it was, before it was revealed, but I don't think that's any big deal - it's all about the execution of the idea, not how complex the idea is. Well worth watching.

June 14
The Lucky One is one of those movies that pretty much writes itself, although I think they chickened out of dealing with the Bad Ex-Husband. The movie itself is no great shakes; while I'm not adverse to enjoying a predictable movie that's well made, this is just a fairly bland telling of a fairly indifferent story.

June 10
New Google Maps appears to lack most of the functionality I was enjoying: lat/long for a given location in a format I can cut & paste, show the last few searched-for locations on the same map as the current thing I'm searching for, that sort of useful stuff. Nice update.

June 8
Salmon Fishing on the Yemen is almost entirely predictable, but it's very well made and laugh-out-loud funny in places. Must-see.

June 7
Given its pedigree, I wasn't expecting much from Breaking Dawn Part 2, but I did want to close out the series. And so. First, it's pretty obvious that there was no good reason to split Breaking Dawn into two movies (other than the good reason denoted by "ka-CHING!") as there's nothing in this movie. There's a big action sequence but (a) it was invented for the movie, as there's no such sequence in the book and (b) hands up who remembers the Bobby Ewing silliness in Dallas? (probably showing my age there...) Bottom line, they could have done everything in a single movie with a bit of editing, and while it wouldn't necessarily have made for a good movie, it'd have at least made it less worse. In summary, I'm sorry if you started watching these movies, because you'll be compelled to see just how bad it all gets, but if you haven't yet watched them then, I dunno, watch the first one if you have to - it can stand alone, more or less - but skip the rest.

June 6
FINALLY moving the site onto my EC2 instance. Interesting to see what, if anything, this does to my EC2 costs.

June 5
In attempting to scrub an application from my Mac, I got a little too clever with pkgutil and managed to remove a critical system file (or, er, ten). Recovering from this was non-trivial, in spite of my having backups; my options were roughly
  1. Pave the machine and restore the most recent backup
  2. Full OS reinstall (which would probably have fixed things, but I'm not sure what'd have gotten lost)
  3. Hack around for a bit until I figured out how to rsync some missing files from the Mac Mini
  4. Selectively restore files from the backup, if only I could figure out how to mount the disk image

Clearly I chose option 3, although I'd have preferred option 4. Now that I've rebooted the hackily-recovered system I can maybe use tmutil to restore the files exactly as they were on the last backup, but it surprises me that there's not an easy path between "full restore" and "no restore" for a system thus broken. It also surprises me that it's possible to get into this state, given that I can't delete e.g. my own Documents directory without some fancy footwork - surely system folders should be similarly protected?

Oh, and the root of all this - why can't pkgutil have a proper "remove" option, instead of me hacking around with file lists and manual deletions and oops there goes CoreSymbolication.framework?

Who says ebooks won't eventually replace physical? Last night I killed a fly with my Kindle... (ok, I swatted a fly which was sitting on my Kindle, which is almost the same thing).

June 4
Some time ago I bought an Altura nylon cycling jacket; lightweight but waterproof, exactly what you need for Ireland. Pricey, though: €170+, and sold to me by a bunch of bike snobs who preferred to stand around the shop talking to each other than to assist customers (they've got their comeuppance: they went bust some time ago). I am putting a little product review here of the jacket, since I can't match it to an exact product online.

Firstly, through an incident with a metal gate, I discovered that the lightweight nylon rips pretty easily. I don't particularly fault the jacket for that, however.

Secondly, within weeks the rear pocket zip jammed. It's a cheap nylon affair - as are all the zips - and once I'd freed it from the surrounding material on which it jammed I discovered that the teeth were damaged, thus ensuring it would never work properly again. Over time, all the zips went like this, one at a particularly unpleasant time - the main zip jammed while in the fully-up wearer-choking position, and it took a good deal of red-faced effort to unjam it. The final failure was the front pocket, which jammed on the surrounding fabric sufficiently that when I freed it, the zip was mangled and the fabric torn.

Thirdly, the rear pocket is susceptible to leaks. This I discovered when fishing out a somewhat sodden piece of paper which I had naively assumed to be protected from the elements.

The only reason this has lasted as long as it has is that I'm reluctant to throw away an expensive item of clothing that still has some use. With the demise of the front pocket, this jacket has now rendered itself worthless, and will be going in the bin as soon as I've purchased its replacement.

In summary: don't buy an Altura jacket without at least checking the zips for quality.

June 3
Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes! Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon is loosely based on "The Dancing Men", and by "loosely based" I mean "there is a single stick-figure message". It's basically Mr. Holmes fights the nasty Nazis and England reigns supreme, but for all that it's a fun movie. And then there's Sherlock Holmes and The Woman in Green (amusingly, watched in B&W so I've got to make assumptions about who said woman was), which is also a bit of fun, but Watson as bumbling idiot gets tiresome very quickly, especially the telegraphing of the whole hypnotism gag. Yes, fine, we get it, Watson is a professional who doesn't hold with that mumbo jumbo and is clearly going to be hypnotised. Get it over with already.

June 2
Watching Argo was somewhat marred by being aware of the (mild) controversey over "true story" vs. "based on a true story", particularly with reference to Affleck's insistence that the former was the case, even when it was obvious that Liberties Had Been Taken. That aside, this is a fun movie where, not unlike Dog Day Afternoon, the parts that seem most likely to be fiction turn out to be actually true. Plus, it's well made - so worth a look, but make sure you check your facts before citing it as history.

June 1
Went to the Docklands River Fest. Paltry display. "Tall Ships!", they advertised. One tall-ish ship and three small ones. A handful of food stalls and kiddie rides. A radio station outside broadcast unit. Pfft.

My iPad has lost all its bookmarks, and nothing I've tried has recovered them (including both recommended and somewhat shady fixes). Thinking the only solution at this point may be to factory-reset it, and wondering exactly how much hassle that will cause (I tried a reset/restore cycle, but whatever badness is causing this is in the backup at this point).

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Just a little Global Warming would be nice.