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Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

October 29
Huh, that was weird: a handful of binaries on the Server had their execute permissions removed. python, open, true. I've just invoked the somewhat talismanic "repair permissions" to pick up any more. No idea what caused that.

Permissions repaired: 236 files (plus a couple I fixed myself). VERY weird.

Went to see A Terrible Beauty as part of East Wall History Festival; fantastic documentary about the 1916 rising, specifically about the battle at Mount Street Bridge, and the defence of North King Street, as told by participants from the British Army, the Irish Volunteers, and the civilians. Some incredible archive footage is woven in with reconstructions; I'd never even seen pictures of the troop ships arriving at Dun Laoghaire, nor had I known about the scale of the reinforcements (13,000 troops sent over to put down a volunteer force of about 2,000, if I remember the numbers correctly). Interestingly, the British approach to Mount Street was like a microcosm of their approach in the Somme: despite the availability of a simple flanking manouvre, they insisted on mounting a frontal assault on a well-defended killing ground, attempting to use weight of numbers to overcome the insurgents. Anyway. Fabulous piece of work, check it out if you can.

October 27
Bad Apple, to coin a phrase: I can make the main Mail window full-screen, but I can't do so with an individual message window, but worse, the little green title bar button that means "fullscreen" in the main window means (more or less) "maximise" in the message window. Same button, different function, no indication of which you'll get. Bad, bad, bad UI, from the people who are supposed to be the top of the class at that sort of thing.

(Oh, but you'll argue that there is an indication: when you mouse over the plain green circle, either a full-screen or a maximise icon appears in black within it. Yes, indeed. Right under your mouse pointer, which prevents you from telling which icon is present. Bad on top of bad.)

Via Warren Ellis, the rather epic D3 Traveller Duffel Bag has some novel care instructions (scroll to the bottom of the page).

October 26
Today's whim: get IPv6 connectivity working again. Last time I did this I had a Linux box sitting behind my router, something I no longer have. So, first: pull down a packaged Miredo for OSX, then notice it's way out of date, then notice there's a source link, so pull that down, then learn how to use git submodules, then try to build miredo, then fail. Then go back to packaged version, and try to run that, and discover it won't work. Then wonder what the hell I was up to, and go back to other, more productive activities.

October 25
Spent the morning in Stephen's Green: first, the "Green Mile" walking tour, conducted by Donal Fallon, and then the tour of the Little Museum, which is basically a century of Dublin history crammed into two rooms of a Georgian house. Our tour here was conducted by Adam, who despite being only a few weeks on the job (he told us) was very entertaining and full of information. This is cheap entertainment: €7 gets you both the tour and the museum trip, and on a sunny day like we had today the park is a sight to see.

Back to the WSGI configs, and after a couple of hours trying to figure out what wasn't working, it turns out that a thing that I'd missed was actually quite important: the WSGIScriptAlias file has to have a .wsgi suffix, and in the middle of reconfiguring things I'd reverted to using .py (since it's a python file) which correctly loads, defines the required application() function, and exits, but the wrong handler is in use so it throws an opaque error. Small, but annoying, and I stripped out a lot of things to get this working (and figured out where to put logging statements, and how to run the server in debug mode, and that the server if disabled using serverctl will have its config rewritten to prevent it from actually working...) and now I have to gradually put all the things back as I figure out how to make them work.

Far more annoying, however, is how the Server application responds to errors in the config: first, it'll try to revert one of the config files to a previous or known-good version, then it'll revert to the factory default config (which accounts for my disappearing websites) and you'll only find out about this from the server logfile. And it doesn't seem consistent about this, either: in some cases it appears to just sit there respawning a dead service repeatedly.

(Oh, and this:
[Sat Oct 25 22:02:48.205934 2014] [core:notice] [pid 74426] AH00052: child pid 74445 exit signal Segmentation fault (11)

October 24
Mrs. Waider has not seen any of the Brosnan Bond movies, so we added them to the DVD Rentals list. First one that arrived was Tomorrow Never Dies; last time I watched this (September 2004) I described it as "pretty rough"; I've no idea what I meant. I did find myself wondering during/afterward if there were any puns given to Brosnan as script where he refused to do the line or had to bite his tongue. Anyway, it's a bit of fun, not too heavy on the gadgets, nor on the implausibility that makes Die Another Day such a terrible movie, and I always liked Brosnan as Bond.

Upgraded Server to Yosemite. Usual round of fun and games where it gets stuck trying to talk to a DNS server on and - obviously - can't because the Server upgrade has to be done in two steps, first the plain OS upgrade and then the Server larded on top of it. Once again it nuked my various WSGI configs; this time I thought I'd replace them properly, using the webapp framework; after a couple of tries at this it had erased all my Apache virtual servers. Sweet.

October 18
Handoff's first attempt: open two uncloseable mail windows on my mac, neither of which contained any actual content. Even after I'd killed the draft message on the phone, the windows couldn't be closed - I had to quit Mail entirely to get rid of them.

iCloud drive is still "setting up..." after about 12 hours.

October 17
Despicable Me 2 was much better than I'd heard. Loads of Minion gags, which was great. I think I laughed more at this than at the original.

Installed Yosemite. So far: it's, er, flat. Also, Handoff doesn't seem to be working just yet. Also, it's been "setting up..." my iCloud drive for the last ten minutes (pssst! Apple! you can just reenable the iDrive or MeDrive or whatever you used call it...)

October 15
So if it's ok with everyone can we not have any more SSL vulnerabilities, please?

After a bit of fiddling around with permissions and what not, I made a custom MRTG probe also post its data to CloudWatch, which is accomplished using far too much stupidity to document here (let's just say a script-writing script and leave it at that, m'kay?). I'm going to leave this run for a bit and see how it looks - it's collecting metrics on latency to DNS resolvers; my ISP's versus Google's.

October 11
Finance::Bank::IE code (unreleased) for pulling statements off PTSB wasn't working. Turns out that if you specifiy single-digit numbers for dates, instead of zero-padded versions, you get logged out of the site.

October 10
Monuments Men was a decent bit of fun, even if Clooney was occasionally reprising his Danny Ocean role (the conversation at the bar with Matt Damon, for example); I'd previously read a book about the gold buillion that makes a brief appearance in this story, but I'm curious now to read about the larger recovery operation that the bullion seems to have been just a slice of. Worth a look - it's light and funny, with bits of gravitas thrown in because War Is SRS BIZNIZ.

October 9
The "Waider, where did you get your arbitrary piece of bike kit?" thing has continued, much to my amusement. I'll need to open a bike shop at my desk if this keeps up.

Did a bunch of RSS feed pruning - dumped a few broken / no longer interesting feeds, added a few things.

October 5
A few people in the office have been admiring my bike lights (resulting in two people purchasing same or similar) so I figured I'd make a quick mention here of what I've got recently to ensure I'm seen on the road.

First, to make this abundantly clear: these are for making you visible to others, not for making your surroundings visible to you. So I'm recommending these based on cycling in a reasonably well-lit city; you may want to read a bit more if you're cycling on unlit country roads or the like.

Firstly, lights: I had a set of generic LED lights powered by a pair of CR2032 batteries, and for all their low consumption those things eat batteries and the batteries aren't exactly cheap. And they also don't come in rechargeable form, and you have to carry spares because the failure curve for the battery tends to be "I'M FINE I'M FINE I'M FINE I'M *kaputt*". All hassle, especially for someone hard pressed to remember to bring basic things like his bike when going cycling. So, my shopping criteria summed up: LED lights, annoying flashing pattern, rechargable. Do not ask me how I came upon them, but I found the Knog Blinder O series lights, available as a white LED light for the front and a red LED light for the rear (currently this has one incorrect image showing it as white; trust me, it's red). For a measure of brightness, you can't look directly at the red light without getting afterimages. The white one causes people to flinch when you demonstrate it to them, plus when I'm stopped at tee junction it lights up the other side of the road. The units are small - about 5cm square on the face, with a bit of bulk on the back. The light comes from four LEDs which can show a solid beam or a pattern. There's a switch on the back that operates as on/off, hibernate (i.e. long-term off), and pattern select; there are five patterns, including solid on, rotating flasher, etc. I don't use the solid beam, but I imagine it might actually work as illumination. The units are also sufficiently waterproof to work in heavy rain - I don't know if they're immersion-safe, but hey, this is cycling, not scuba-diving. Attachment to your bike is via a rubber strap with a metal clip; the main complaint in negative reviews on Amazon appears to relate to the rubber breaking, but I did note that there's advice on the instructions that come with the light that you don't use the metal latch as a lever when attaching the lights and I imagine disregarding this might shorten the strap's life considerably. Best of all, though, is the rechargable battery: you plug it into a USB port. Since I work in IT, I have an abundance of such things available to me, including a portable USB booster battery. The bulk of the units does means you can't necessarily plug them into adjacent slots, however. I have no idea how long a full charge takes as I tend to plug them in when I get to the office and leave them until I'm heading home again. Charge lasts long enough for a week of half-hour-both-ways bike rides on the interval flashing mode (and I use these regardless of light or weather conditions - be safe, be seen!); I would imagine that the solid beam mode chews through the battery a bit faster, and there's an eco-flashing mode which probably lasts a bit longer. The lights are small enough that you can take them off the bike and slip them into a pocket, and also small enough that they may well escape the attention of thieves if you accidentally leave them on the bike. I strongly recommend these if you're doing city cycling.

My other recent purchase was a Hump waterproof / fluorescent backpack cover because I'd taken to using my laptop bag instead of my panniers for the daily commute. My only disatisfaction with this is My Own Damn Fault: the 20-40 litre model only barely covers my employer's original standard-issue HP laptop backpack when it's filled with laptop, change of clothes, lunchbox, and assorted whatnots. Everything else is exactly what I needed: it's waterproof, it's high-visibility, it has a good strong elastic that pulls the lip close around the backpack's corners, two strong elasticated straps with snap fasteners to secure it in place, and you can even use the bag it came in as a waterproof bag for stuff you want to keep separate from the rest of your backpack contents - it clips, using more snapfasteners, to the inside of the cover. Again, another strong recommend - but do check the sizing!

I've a bunch more gear of longer tenure, which I may or may not write up here at a later date - right now I'm just providing notes on the things people have commented on recently.

(For the record, I wear a helmet. The jury is out on the actual safety provided, but it makes me feel a bit safer, and that's good enough reason for me.)

Reassurance, if I needed it, that closing out one of my AIB accounts was the right thing (closed due to excessive bank charges and apathetic customer service): I still have one account left on their systems, and I went to check it out via online banking, and when I log in - correctly - I get an error saying that one of my accounts may have been closed. So what, that means I can't access any of them? I think, as soon as the opportunity arises, I'll remove the last remaining trace of dependency I have on these inconsiderate customer-haters and move to someone who gives a crap (there are such banks, surprisingly enough)

October 4
Trying to update my Java install so I can do a tax return; the "clever" Java-for-Mac page appears to be broken and there isn't an obvious link to click on to just get the bloody .dmg file. This is not what I imagined putting such things as tax returns online would involve.

(also I may have mislaid my certificate password for this activity...)

October 3
Monsters University was fun, with a few laugh-out-loud moments. It's not genius or anything, but it's predictably enjoyable and nicely put together.

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