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Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

December 30
Somewhere in the last month or so I lost the ability to log into the DSPsrv box (well, virtual instance); with some dinking around I eventually figured it was due to the fact that the automatic upgrades had installed a version of sshd which required kernel-based MAC support, but the kernel the box was running was either too old or didn't have the necessary features turned on. After some more dinking around I managed to shoehorn a more modern kernel onto the box and it's now allowing me to log in. (Short version: for some reason, probably historical, I have a 32-bit OS install with a 64-bit kernel. Attempts to upgrade the kernel using the standard approach - apt-get - failed on the fact that it didn't want to install a 64-bit package on a 32-bit OS install. So I applied a little "engineering".)

I'm now trying to use ec2-bundle-vol to grab a copy of the disk to play with offline - run in VirtualBox or whatever. This is a very brittle tool. It runs rsync under the hood, and hides the output by default, so I was getting failures with no actual error messages. Eventually I discovered that (a) on a live filesystem with an active exim daemon, a disappearing spool file will cause an error and (b) there's a maximum volume size, something I learned only when the copied-to image ran out of space.

I eventually gave up on this. The size limit is crippling.

December 29
So, er, Apple's TV app doesn't have a "mark as watched" feature? Annoying, that. I don't particularly feel like renting everything in their catalogue that I've ever seen. In general, I'm finding this app to be a bit useless. Haven't tried it on the AppleTV box yet as we normally use either Prime Video or the Movies app.

I guess one thing it does have going for it is that finally I have a way of remotely adding things to the "wishlist" on the AppleTV box.

December 27
Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood seems to spend an awful lot of time showing people driving around LA in cars. And an equally awful lot of time getting to the point, upon which there's a flurry of activity, and then we have the happy ending (which I initially misinterpreted as an ominous ending, not realising that the three assailants were the three assailants). I... dunno. I didn't think much of this movie, but maybe that's because I'm not steeped in all the things that Tarantino is - the westerns, the movie business in general, the music - but then shouldn't the point of the movie be to at least interest me despite my lack of context? In the end, it's two hours and forty minutes that I could've spent reading or packing away a few more boxes from the house move or something.

December 21
Spent the day unpacking stuff - had to pick up another carload from "replacement house", and the truckload of stuff from yesterday is sort of... everywhere - and at 8pm sat down to watch The Rise of Skywalker at the local cinema. I enjoyed it; I think it's as good as I could expect for a franchise that's been going on since I was a toddler, and I only wish someone other than Lucas had been driving the "middle three" movies. Spoiler alert: REDACTED's REDACTED is REDACTED!!!!! Who would have thought?

December 20
As I put it in a text message to my mother:
"We're not yet unpacked and I'm assembling the sofabed so we have something to sleep on and we still need to finish clearing castleknock... but we're home!"
After almost eight months of a "three to four month job", our house is habitable and mostly snagged. Probably the first thing we're gonna do is get a skip and start tossing out things we realised we don't need any more. Tomorrow, maybe.

If you normally get a Christmas card from us, you won't be seeing one this year since I can hardly find my pants, much less the stationery box.

The media stuff is partially hooked up, enough for us to watch Interstellar which was ok; Soren told us about the work that went into the black hole visuals, which was cool (based on actual science, the visualisation allowed new observations / realisations / discoveries and led to a couple of scientific papers) but the story felt a bit uneven - like it ended in a few places and the writer thought about it and said, "nah, maybe I'll do a bit more" and these individual bits don't really seem to mesh so well because you've hit the "movie's over" beat and somehow there seems to be more to watch. Also, "love is a force that transcends time and space" bluurrrrgh seriously now. We're going all in on science and 5-dimensional beings and this is the angle you choose? shakes head sadly.

December 13
Minor digression into amateur polsci here: it struck me this morning that a part of why socialist politics can have such a tough time is related to why lotteries are successful.

The general premise of a lottery is to convince people to buy in, even though the odds of winning are astronomical. You do this with small random prizes, to encourage people to engage, and large, public payouts, to show that, yes, Dorothy, you could win! Of course, you smoosh the whole thing up with messages about gambling responsibly and what not, but really your core aim is to separate people from their money. And people believe your line that it could be them, so they give you their money, and look at the numbers that "almost won", and think, "maybe next time". (Hint: in a random selection lottery, the distance between "almost won" and "didn't win at all" is negligible, and the distance between "almost won" and "won" is, by corollary, astronomical.)

So what does this have to do with socialism?

The general premise of socialism is to share good fortune with others. In other words, taking my "hard-earned" cash, and giving it to someone who, well, didn't earn it. So what you do, as a non-socialist politician, is sucker the people into thinking that the next big financial success, the next big winner, could be them. In fact, it's probably enough to convince them that they'll never need the social safety net proposed by socialist politicians, no matter how modest that might be; convince them they won't need it, and they'll convince themselves that anyone proposing it is proposing to take their hard-earned cash and give it to some undeserving other.

The above is half-baked and could probably do with some more thought, or an actual polsci person to critique it, but there you go.

Anyway. Michael Caine and Michael Gambon are, I think, where all the money went to on Midnight in St. Petersburg which mostly comes across as something Caine did to get out of a contract he signed to do a bunch of Harry Palmer movies (this may or may not be the actual case). The plot's a bit of a dud, the acting is hammy, and even the ADR is questionable. Probably not worth seeking out.

December 6
So, ah, end of the Man in the High Castle. There's a line somewhere between "don't treat your audience as idiots" and "be inscrutable" and I think this is a bit too far towards the latter - or maybe I'm just being a bit Dunning-Kruger and everyone gets it except me. I don't know. Certain things worked well - Smith's fate, and his wife's, for example, but not their daughters; some things were a bit more murky, such as how Smith cut the deal he did with Forgettable German Guy #27, and Kido's outcome; and some things I really didn't get at all, like what exactly the mass exodus at the end was supposed to mean. I could sort of see what they were doing, but it raises too many questions whatever way I look at it. Really felt like a little more actual exposition could have helped wrap it up more tidily, you know?

Oh, and trying to make Robert Childan a sympathetic character when he's been the weakest, most unbearable shit for the entire series? Bold move, but I think maybe doomed to failure. We're supposed to be having this tear-jerker outcome on the docks and I'm thinking, "who cares? the guy's a complete shit. He'll turn around and double-cross everyone, including his new wife, if it gets him what he wants." Previous character arc doesn't really sell him as someone who could have a late development into someone with integrity, so I just wound up waiting for the other shoe to drop, and in the end he's just sort of quickly written out of the story. "There! Loose end, tied up!"

December 4
Man in the High Castle Season 4 really feels like the showmakers have finally found their stride, just as they're wrapping the whole thing up.

December 2
Ok so I have one question about the Mr. Robot bank hack: why did they need all the phones, if there was only one 2FA code sent? Or do we assume that 100 were sent, and the one Eliot sends to Darlene is because she'll have captured the other 99 herself?

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Fading out 2019...