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Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

March 29
Shiny new macOS. Same old out-of-date SSL support in Perl and Python. BOO.

Also shiny new iOS, which seems to have decided that in spite of my specifying an IMAP prefix, it should index my entire home directory on a server that has rather a lot of files in it. BOO.

(The second item may yet be related to server-side changes, but since it appears to have happened on two unrelated servers, I'm not 100% sure)

More fun: couldn't ssh to various things. Debugged, said my key type wasn't listed. Scratched my head as at least one target doesn't even have the option to configure key types. Eventually figured out that it was a client-side error: Apple's /etc/ssh/ssh_config now has restrictions on what sort of SSH keys it'll allow the client to use, never mind what the server supports.

March 26
Have been meaning to scrape content out of my rather defunct LiveJournal account and rehome it here (or something like that). ljgrabber.pl looked like a good bet as it also allows me to lock all the postings on LJ so that noone adds more content to them. However as currently posted, two caveats: the code to retrieve your session cookie from Safari's cookie cache is written for an older version of Safari, and, more importantly, if you use the --debug flag it doesn't actually save anything to disk. Which I would have known if I'd read the comment at the head of the file carefully, instead of chasing through the code...

March 21
Wrangling some non-trivial quantity of images on the laptop at the moment - about twenty years of accumulated digital photographs plus a bunch of scanned documents and what not related to family history - and finding that the default Apple tools, iPhoto and Photos, are not only not up to the task, but almost belligerently opposed to it. I found a third-party doodad that purports to split your iPhoto library up into smaller libraries; I'm inferring that its operation is that it uses Applescript to control iPhoto and open the correct library, remove duplicates, etc. In practice I'm finding that things that were supposedly removed from, say, Family History are still there, while Family History things are showing up in Photos of Waider, Drunk or what have you.

(The latter, obviously, being a huge archive...)

I may have to go shell out for something actually capable.

March 17
Unfortunate dance of stupidity to get SpamAssassin to recognise my desire to consider the raft of French-language email I'm getting as spam. Eventually figured out that the setting that enables it (or more specifically, that defines the UNWANTED_LANGUAGE_BODY rule) is loaded sufficiently early that my attempt to turn it on in local.cf was happening too late. This sort of defeats the purpose of having local.cf somewhat.

March 16
Back from a few days in the Algarve. Weather was just turning as we left, so it was a nicely-timed break.

Solomon Kane: wow, that was pretty bad. Not outright terrible; I've seen a good deal worse, but really, if I'd not been braindead from travel I probably wouldn't have stuck the entire thing.

March 15
eBay sent me an email about how they were going to close my account because I hadn't used it so long, unless I signed in in the next 30 days. The email was poorly formatted (text/plain encoding, but included HTML; the HTML was bizarrely just a couple of P tags used to wrap a line of underscores). Links were included to such pages as "how to detect fake (spoof) emails".

Phishing, right?

Actually not: this is a legitimate email. Apparently noone in the approvals chain for this messaging at eBay has the slightest familiarity with Ten Things That Will Make Your Email Look Fake or similar OpSec guidelines. Bizarre.

(The fact that my account has been dormant long enough to be flagged for deletion probably tells me I don't actually need an account anyway.)

March 14
Set up a local ad-blocking proxy using SquidMan and a little config hacking.

March 12
Binge-watched episodes 6 through 10 of season 2 of The Man in the High Castle. Kinda like Preacher, there was a slow "middle bit" where you're waiting for things to happen, but it wraps up nicely by the time you get to season's end in such a way that they could conceiveably walk away without a third season, while at the same time leaving enough openings for a followup. And since Amazon Studios have confirmed that there will indeed be a third season, I'm looking at all the potential twists they could now introduce. Was Smith planning this all along? Was he planning it as the role he plays, or as a Fifth Columnist? Did Frank survive? Joe? Will the various protagonists reunite at any point? Interesting to see also that so much of the story revolves around a strong female character; although to be fair this much is a direct carry-over from the book. Equally interesting is the very obvious science-fiction angle the adaptation has taken - the book was straightforward alternative fiction, with our own timeline imagined by an author, while the adaptation is not only messing about with alternate timelines, but going so far as to have them interact in signficiant ways. Anyway, I'm looking forward to S3, whenever that shows up.

I recently reread Charlie Stross' original Laundry Files novel, The Atrocity Archive (named, it would appear, for a single scene deep in the book that doesn't have a huge bearing on the plot outside that scene; it's more thematic background than anything else) and in the afterword Stross pretty much lionised Len Deighton as the genius of the Cold War spy novel. Dad had a bunch of Len Deighton lying around when I was a kid, but I don't ever recall reading any - I was much more inclined towards his Robert Ludlum books, in so far as I can recall sticking to a single author for any length of time. So I've been picking up Deighton's back catalogue at $6-$7 per on Kindle and reading them. So far, I can't say I'm impressed. Ipcress File was a reasonable debut, but it seemed to grow vague as you got to the point where you expected all to be revealed. Horse Under Water was better and tighter, but still wandered a bit. Billion Dollar Brain was definitely a downturn: I really didn't like the way two of the main characters, Harvey and Signe, seemed to change moods and attitudes from one paragraph to the next. I mean, sure, keep your readers guessing, but try to maintain a bit of consistency as well. In any case, I'm persevering with my quest, having just picked up a bundle of the next four novels. We'll see if Mr. Deighton gets to a point where I actually enjoy the book cover to cover.

March 11
Updates here have gotten a little sparse for a couple of reasons: I'm not doing as much goggle-boxing nor as much concentrated hacking as previously, and what I've been hacking on has been slow, sporadic, and not really interesting.

Anyway. I've started mucking about with home automation: specifically, I'm now in possession of a Z-wave USB doodad, and two Z-wave radiator valves, and what I've found most interesting so far is graphing the room temperature as provided by those valves. I'm using OpenHAB as the driver, and the docs are generally a bit ropey but I've managed to piece together enough to allow me to do said graphing. I don't have a boiler controller installed just yet; I'm going to bolt on a bunch more TRVs first, and consider what else might be of use before I go for the heavy stuff. And I'm building this out of parts rather than a kit because all the kits I've looked at require that your connection between the physical toys and your laptop is mediated by Someone Else's Webserver - which means allowing said server access to your network in some undefined and - as seems to be generally the case, poorly-secured - way, and also leaving you at the mercy of a functioning Internet connection for the operation of your heating system. No, I have my Mac Mini server with the USB doodad, and the thermostatic valves are all autonomous and operable without the networking goop if need be, and the whole thing stays inside my own LAN and if I need to access it from outside there's a perfectly good VPN available.

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Marching to the beat of a different kettle of fish