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Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

October 29
Webserver certificate update time again, and once again I've forgotten how NSS works. Here's what I eventually stumbled on: Last time I did this I left a note to myself that certutil is not the tool you want (because it can't import private keys), but unhelpfully I'd not left any notes on what the correct tools were. So maybe next year I'll find this page again and not spend a half hour reading manual pages and googling for help.

October 27
After some mucking about I managed to pull together a script to upload my FatWatch data to FitBit. The only real complication was that the app lies about where you can connect to it to retrieve the data (giving me a 10.x IP address despite its presence on my very much not 10.x network) so once I'd found where it was hiding the rest was just a bit of quick hackery. If you want to use this yourself (it's actually just generic Date, Weight CSV upload to FitBit) there's a few moving parts that you'll need to hack around with which I might get around to documenting. Script: upload-weight-data-to-fitbit.py.

October 25
We were just talking about how useful the Scooba 385 has been in the house when it started making an unpleasant whining noise. It would seem the main brush motor has decided that it's had enough. Time to see if I can repair it, or if we need an upgrade to the latest model.

October 23
I'm hacking on my RSS Toy and turning it into a Javascript-based horror. I am sorely tempted to replace various "waiting for network response" things with the Javascript Matrix stuff I did several years ago.

October 22
Ah, it's tech failure day again. DSPsrv.com appears to have fallen off the air (responding to ping but nothing else), and my Macbook tells me there's an update available, but refuses to download or install it. I will try the magical Repair Permissions fix.

I should note here that I hate voodoo fixes.

A voodoo fix is where you say, "my computer is on fire" and somebody says, "you should reset the PRAM and then run Repair Permissions". They may as well suggest that you orient the computer towards True North (not Magnetic North), chant a bit, and wave a sprig of dried rosemary. A voodoo fix is an activity that has no logical connection to the problem, and I hate them because of that.

Making matters worse is that the people I often see promulgating voodoo fixes are software developers. You know, people who spend their day working on logical reasoning (or, well, you'd hope, anyway). People who'll laugh at homeopathy and explain the placebo effect to you. People who'll tell you how they've optimised their morning routine by only eating the exact calories required to get them as far as the office. And then they'll tell you to do something completely illogical to fix your computer - not because they know a secret about why it works, but because once they had a problem with their computer, and somewhere in the 300 things they tried simultaneously was this voodoo fix, and they chose that to be the one thing that actually made a difference (not disimilar to homeopathy and placebo in this respect). So this really bugs me.

But the thing that tops it all is when a creator of software makes it so that the voodoo fix actually works. When it's the only thing you did, and the problem has now gone away, and you can't account for this change in any other way.

BRB. I'm off to set up a stall on Grafton Street that'll fix your computer by sprinkling it with some finely-ground herbs. I bet at least 90% of my customers will have their problem solved.

(No, Repair Permissions didn't fix the problem, but I Had Some Theories involving a caching server and a full disk, and that bit of voodoo appears to be on the way to solving my problem).

October 21
Accidentally updated Mrs. Waider's laptop to Windows 10. No, seriously, it was an accident; I thought I'd be able to do a Trial Update or some such thing, and then I thought I'd be able to uninstall the stub installer, and then it said, "Hi" and was Windows 10. On the plus side, it doesn't look too terrible and she's happy with it so far.

October 20
Gotta love phone contracts and their redefinition of limits, or lack of same: some months ago I discovered that 15GB is the universally accepted standard for "unlimited" data, and now I read that "[phonecall class] is uncapped, it is subject to fair usage policy of 3000 minutes per month." So it's not that you're exceeding a cap, it's that you're being unfair.

Finally got tired of trying to figure out what exactly is going on with my junkmail setup on the waider.ie server and turned on greylisting. Short version of this is that you may, if you're unlucky, see bounced mail about this. On the other hand, I don't have to watch my mail server falling over every time I get hit by a wave of spam.

Had my phone battery replaced today - €40 and an hour's wait at Lynch Computer Repairs, in Merchant's Arch in Temple Bar. The other people I asked wanted €60 and were "very busy" so couldn't give me a more accurate estimate than "two or three hours". (hint: if you're very busy, take notes and use them to refine your estimation process for future customers.)

October 17
Back from my second recruiting trip in Milan this year. This time, we were hiring software engineers.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was clichéd, formulaic, predictable, and very well done - in other words, I very much enjoyed it.

October 10
Learning the intricacies of logwatch (to tell me what's going on) and fail2ban (to do something about it).

Turns out my "neat" RDS update actually Broke A Thing, but somehow no errors were logged (short version, I had a NOT NULL field with a DEFAULT value, and somehow in the swings and roundabouts that was getting an explict NULL value passed into it, which was obviously failing, but bizarrely this didn't log any errors until I went poking at it manually at which point it was all like, OH HEY THERE'S AN ERROR).

Adding ServerAliveInterval to the configuration that does my backups-over-internet turns out to be a huge boost to its reliability. I think it spends an awful lot of time in rsync's "thinking about whether to copy these files" code, at which point one or the other end of the connection goes away.

October 7
Well, that was neat. "I think I'll upgrade my RDS database to the latest version of MySQL." *click* *click* *wait* TA-DA. Smooth.

October 4
I should've mentioned: if you have an account on DSPsrv.com, I've disabled all password logins - this includes email. Reason being that you probably have a cached copy of your inbox from before the server disappeared, and the server no longer has that data, so when you next successfully log in you lose anything that was in that inbox. Permanently. So, if this is your situation, please make a backup of your cached copy - whatever way that works in your chosen mailreader - and then ping me to get your password re-enabled.

October 2
And hurrah, DSPsrv.com is finally back on the Intarwebs.

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October, the magical shampoo ingredient.