Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

November 28
Elysium is done by the guy who did District 9, and this much is fairly obvious from the look and feel of the thing. There are some Game-of-Thrones-y "wait, did you just kill that person I thought would last to the end of the movie?" bits, and the director sure likes him some messy gore. The plot is fairly straightforward and not unlike a million and one other (Not So) Bad Guy Comes Good movies you may have seen. I do like the gritty feel of the spacecraft, though - that's nicely done, and pretty much entirely convincing (although we will not talk about things reaching escape velocity with no visible means of doing so, nor any other space glitches). Enjoyable enough movie as long as you don't think too hard about it or look for any deeper meaning.

Oh, and you built a super-secure offworld habititat for your rich people, and used a stock Intel PC as its master control system?

November 26
Email certificate renewal time again. Apple no longer supports "Web Sharing", so my previous directions on how to do this no longer quite work, and other things that should work also don't, and by the time I resorted to something that did work I'd forgotten the transient password I put on the export file at the start of the process.

For the record:
  1. Get a new cert from wherever. I use StartCom for mine.
  2. The certificate probably winds up in your keychain. Open Keychain Access to get at it.
  3. Find the cert, right-click (control-click) and select the Export option.
  4. Select Personal Information Exchange (.p12) format (it's the default), and somewhere to save the file.
  5. Give it a password. Try not to forget this, even though you'll only need it for a brief period. Also, make it a strong password, because you'll be moving your private key around in a file.
  6. DropBox? Doesn't work. AirDrop? Nope. How about... email? Yes. Email the file to yourself. (This is stupid, and annoying, but there you go). If you've got a webserver handy, you can put the file on that, or if you feel like taking the time to figure out how to get Web Sharing working again in the absence of the control panel options (not hard, just tedious), do that, and use that to export your file.
  7. You took the easy option (eventually) and used email. You've now got an email with a .p12 attachment in it in your mailbox, which you can access from ALL THE PLACES (iPhone, iPad, the copy of Thunderbird you run in the office, etc.)
  8. Open the attachment. Following instructions are for iOS devices; for other things, you'll need to experiment, wait for me to deliver a writeup, or use Google to find an existing one.
  9. Tapping the attachment should open your settings app, on a page that says, "Install Profile" at the top. Tap "Install" (top right)
  10. You may need to enter your passcode here if you have one set on the iDevice.
  11. "The profile is not signed.", it says, Yeah yeah. Move along (Tap "Install" again)
  12. ...and again. Seriously, Apple?
  13. Enter the password you used to export the cert. You've forgotten it, haven't you? (note, pressing "return" inserts a literal newline into the password box, it doesn't submit your password. Just type the password, then tap on the "Next" on the top right.)
  14. Profile Installed! Sweet! (tap on "Done")

You still need to tell Mail to actually use that new cert, but I'll get back to that. Or, you know, Google.

November 23
I just crashed Scratch while fiddling about with something for a Coder Dojo class I'm running next week. I guess I'll leave that off the lesson plan. Spent an entertaining couple of hours playing with Scratch, however, and learned a few things about it.

November 22
End of Season Five of The Sopranos. This is the end of the penultimate season, and I should be on tenterhooks to find out what's going to happen next, but to be honest it really wound up on a low-key note and if it wasn't for a lack of closure I'd just give up on the series at this point. I don't know why this got such rave reviews as I'm really not feeling particularly engaged with it: it's a bunch of unsympathetic disfunctional characters who keep making the same mistakes over and over, and the only limiting factor on how often this happens is that they're gradually being wiped out. I was wondering if someone had done a chart of who kills who (and maybe coupled with who's related to who) in the series. I was wondering this during the episode, which tells you how engaged I am.

November 21
Cloud Atlas is an epic movie, and by all accounts not universally acclaimed, but it was enjoyed Chez Waider. The "small cast plays many roles" works surprisingly well and provides an odd sort of continuity through the different segments.

November 16
Resurrecting old bits of code for amusement value. Nothing to see here, move along...

November 15
Another day of failed technology at Chez Waider. Mac wouldn't connect to wireless network. Reboot Mac. No luck. Reboot wireless router (UPC-provided Scientific Atlantic Cisco EPC2425). No luck, and now the phone won't talk to the wireless either. Power-cycle router. Finally, connectivity. Look at Mac, Finder has crashed, as has Dropbox, and the disk is churning, and the machine seems to be running hot even though I've just rebooted it. Check the logs, and it turns out that Dropbox is trying to upgrade itself, and something called DesktopService is chewing 90% of the CPU. Try to start a Terminal, and the normally sedate bouncing icon is jumping like a kangaroo. Try to start Emacs, and it just spins up a process that never shows a window, just consumes 50% CPU (I've seen Emacs do this regularly on Mac, however, and often - but not always - the solution is to reinstall, or install the latest version, or just kill the rogue process and start it again). Clearly I've been punished more harshly than usual for installing an Apple ".0" version.

Right, this time Emacs needed: kill, relaunch, kill, relaunch, kill, upgrade, relaunch, kill, relaunch. I think that's a new record for continuous brokenness.

November 14
And so Die Another Day, the last of the Brosnan Bond movies. You know you've done something wrong when Roger Moore says the gadgets are overdone and the effects are crappy. It's actually somewhat surprising how bad the composite shots are in places - several are clearly "I am on a bluescreen with the background patched in in post" including several sequences which could have plausibly been done in camera. The nonsense with the invisible car, using the ejector seat to flip it over, the electrified glove which only turns on its user at the critical juncture, and so on, this is really the movie where they threw away the story in favour of the stupidity. Nice that they did recognise this and somewhat return to basics for the next in the series (Casino Royale) but a shame that it wasn't recognised before this was released. To be fair, it's not all bad: as an action movie it works well enough in between the gadget silliness; the "Q storeroom" with all the nods to the previous movies is a nice touch, as is making John Cleese more Q and less Python; the swordfight sequence, while completely gratuituous, is a whole lot of fun, and my memory of this movie's overuse of gadgets is a lot worse than the reality.

November 9
GoldenEye: I seem to recall that I first saw this in Leicester Square in London around the time of its release, but I can't figure out why I'd have been in London at that point, so I may actually have seen it at a cinema in Swindon. I do recall there being a round of applause after the plane pulls out of the dive in the opening sequence. Anyway. Brosnan looks so young in this compared to the later movies; Famke Janssen is (pardon the pun) completely over the top; the tank chase is one of the best Bond gags ever; and the gadgets are tolerable. Last of the Brosnan Bond movies to reach us, Die Another Day, does not (by my recollection) have this feature; we'll be watching that this week at some point.

November 8
Mac Mail on Yosemite (or OSX 10.10 if you prefer) is noticeably more flaky than its predecessor. Two bugs I've noticed so far: getting permanently but silently wedged while trying to sync IMAP accounts, and merging two unrelated threads into each other. I'm sure it's my own fault for running this as soon as it was launched.

Also flaky: Home Sharing. I have a Mac Mini running iTunes 24x7, and an Apple TV. Every time I've tried to access the Mac Mini from the Apple TV, it's told me that it can't find it and maybe I forgot to turn on home sharing. Usually it takes a variety of restarts - iTunes, Apple TV, or both - to get things back in sync. Surely this is basic failure of intended operation?

November 6
Updating certs on the website... apparently I didn't write this down the last time. If you want to import certificates and private keys to a NSS database, you need to first export them to a PKCS#12 file, then use pk12util to import them to NSS. Despite appearances, certutil will not actually do what you want in this case.

(Hopefully I'll remember to look here next year when the current cert expires.)

November 4
EC2 instance had a hiccup and had to be manually recovered. One of my coworkers asked me why I didn't just fail my website over to another AZ... yes, we're all this funny at the office.

November 2
Forced to use Excel on a Mac for some office-related things. My first thought was that I'd do up a CSV file and import it. This foundered on the following: Import -> CSV -> select formatting etc. -> Select destination: current spreadsheet, cell A2 and onward; Excel shifted the entire spreadsheet one row to the right and then inserted my data at the new column zero. Just now I am thinking I might have figured out why this happened, but if my theory is correct it's about as far from the Principle of Least User Surprise as you could make it. Aside from this mishap, dealing with comments in Excel for Mac is incredibly bad: enabling Show All Comments for the current workbook appears to carry over to subsequently-opened workbooks (the checkbox remains checked) but the comments won't actually show in the new workbooks - you have to toggle the option off and on to make it work. Editing the comments themselves is a nightmare: the resize/move handles for the comment boxes are impossible to find, and when you do find them the slightest error in dragging means the spreadsheet underneath goes scrolling wildly and next thing you know you've got a 300-row-tall comment box with two lines of text in it. Of course, if the comment box would auto-scroll to follow the cursor as you typed, this wouldn't be an issue. Such a disaster of a feature, I don't know why they even bothered including it.

November 1
Permissions problem arose again. VERY strange. Either I've got some periodic process that's causing this, or it's some sort of malicious action to stop me from running Python... militant Perl programmer, maybe?

(this could also be related to my attempts to clean up some old backups, which I've just noticed have symlinks into the real filesystem...)

Ah yes, it is indeed my cleanup process getting overzealous with link-following. D'oh.

Also, getting MRTG working again:
sudo ln -s /opt/X11 /usr/X11

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