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Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

April 30
In addition to The Expanse, we're also working our way through Midsomer Murders which like several other things we watch is one of those shows we've sort of haphazardly consumed when it's on without taking note of series or episode since every episode is a self-contained thing. We're midway into Season 5 at this point, and my programmed recordings stopped at Season 6, and currently the various channels which broadcast this are off in the high double-digits somewhere (there are at least 21 seasons of it). It's satisfying brain candy, despite this small, fictional region of England having a higher rate of murder than your average city and, typically, an oversexed / drugged / cross-bred population as well (some part of which inevitably turns out to be the root cause of the deaths). The only thing against it, per se, is that the episodes are two hours long, so it's not really made for mid-week viewing.

I had a bunch of other random stuff captured on the DVR, so I watched The Heroes of Telemark, staring Kirk "Spartacus" Douglas and Richard "Dumbledore" Harris. The latter's haircut and general demeanour made him look like an outcast from a Beatles movie, which was slightly distracting. The movie wasn't great, to be honest. It sticks surprisingly close to reality, since it's based on actual events, but in at least one case this seemed to be used as an excuse to inject a moment of slapstick in the middle of a sabotage raid (the guy who can't find his glasses) and it was just jarring. The constant presence of bullet ricochet effects every time there was shooting was distracting - it was like the sound designer had this one track of bullet noises they kept reusing over and over. And, y'know, if you've got one guy on your team who knows where to plant the explosives, do you really have him lead the entire group into enemy territory? I'm no military strategist, but it seems like you'd keep him back from action until it's time to set the bombs... Anyway. It's not terrible, but mainly I only watched it because I'd heard about the last surviving member of the raid dying (in 2018, I believe) and some time after that noticed that the movie was coming up.

Backup completed, then spent a day or two telling me it was "cleaning up", which means that for the dozen or so failed backups it had created some directories full of files, all of which are basically duplicates, and it had to go and delete them. After the aforementioned "day or two" I got tired of waiting for it and told it to skip the cleanup, which means it'll probably wedge it on to the end of the next backup. As noted on other media the progress bar and progress logs for the backup process make no sense at all (unless, I supposed, you work at Apple) so it's hard to tell at any given point how long the backup has left to complete.

April 28
Casting about for something new to watch since we ran out of Ripper Street: we've decided to give The Expanse a spin to provide artificial gravity see how it works out. One episode in and: (a) I'm a bit confused as there's a lot of set-up going on; (b) they've put a lot of effort into their set design, and very definitely want to show off a lot of that, even if a goodly chunk of it is post-production greenscreen fills. Jury currently out due to insufficient data.

Mucking around with one of my stupid toys I was stupidly pleased to be able to knock together a macOS-like notification inline in a web page as part of a Tampermonkey script, so I don't have to pop open the console to see what it's doing. The notifications even fade in and out, although I stopped short of trying to capture the "slides in from left, then slides back out again" effect.

More on the nerd front: since I fixed the RAID unit and the random laptop crashes caused by a faulty battery, I turned Time Machine backups back on. This led to the discovery (rediscovery) of a NEW problem, which is that the Airport Extreme 5GHz WiFi channel spontaneously keels over after a certain amount of traffic has passed. Or time, I'm not sure which. It comes back again, but by the time it does, Time Machine has gotten upset and dropped its disk mount. After a couple of rounds of this I switched the laptop over to the 2.4GHz channel and it's been stable for the, uh, week or so it's been catching up on several months of not doing backups.

And in weird nerd tech: an email in my gmail account appears to have spontaneously deleted itself twice. Not in the spam bucket or otherwise pending deletion; simply Was No Longer There when I went looking for it. Didn't even show up in the trash the second time, but I was able to recover it by logging into the GMail web UI. I have no idea.

April 16
Drobo FINALLY completed its juggling some time before 11:00 this morning, so I am no longer in fear of random power outages. I still need to go figure out (a) whether all the crap I'm storing on the Drobo needs storing and (b) whether maybe it's time I invested in something that's not dependent on a Firewire 800 connection for shipping data on/off. And maybe (c) do I need a UPS and (d) should there be an offsite copy of any of this in addition to the current offsite stuff.

Wow. The final episode of Ripper Street was a bit of a stinker. Basically, everything they needed to do was wrapped up in the first 20 minutes or so, and then they just faffed around for anothr 40 minutes for no apparent reason. There were a bunch of flashback scenes which gave them an excuse to show a recreation of the Ripper's final victim, albeit only flashed on screen twice. There was the needless and pointless death of a character who had already been written out of the storyline. And, in the end, they just ran out of things to do, I guess. The whole thing felt like a massively wasted opportunity to go out with a bang.

April 14
Still finding a few sharp edges from the OpenHAB upgrade, such as autostarting not working, and discovering that the act of creating things in the semantic model leaves me with a duplicate set of items OH WELL I had nothing better to do than figure out how to clean that all up without breaking all the things.

April 13
Upgraded the home automation software (OpenHAB) to the newest release, which was only slightly terrifying (my overriding principle for home automation thus far has been "if it breaks, that shouldn't be a problem"). Had to manually reinstall MySQL drivers and couldn't find any indication that this would be the case; couple of other things needed kicking but it eventually stood up and worked. I'm a bit disappointed that some more of the new features aren't auto-configured; in particular, the sitemap seems like a great place to import a default model from. Oh well.

April 12
93 hours remaining. That's a bit under four days. Woo!

Trundling through Ripper Street Season 5. Kinda interesting that at this point they've abandoned all trace of the original "murder-of-the-week" approach in favour of what's essentially a six-part movie about the (presumably) Salvation of Edmund Reid.

April 9
Ripper Street Season 4 concluded, in which a major character is more definitively killed off than previous attempts to do similar might allow. Short season: only six episodes, and we had a four-day week. Only Season 5 remains, so that'll be for next week.

158 hours remaining. What, you expected a progress bar with linear progression?

We also watched Grosse Point Blank, a movie which I have on VHS for some reason (but don't ask me where the VCR is, and the tape's probably degraded anyway). Parts of the movie feel ad-libbed, and are more real for that. I also love the running joke about noone taking Martin's job seriously. "Do you get dental?", "It's a growth industry." etc. And of course The Music. There's so much of it, and so good, that it's practically a character in the movie by itself.

April 8
153 hours remaining.

So yesterday's fun and raspberry pi games: I got a USB WiFi dongle and wanted to have it active and connected on boot. I started out with a Raspberry Pi 2 (B? +?) which I'd installed some version of Raspbian on and upgraded to the latest of latests a few weeks ago.

This was probably my first mistake, since I'm sure the upgrade probably left a bunch of dangling legacy crap lying around.

I booted the Pi with the dongle plugged in, and then spent the next several hours arguing with wpa_supplicant, wicd, wpa_cli, wpa_gui, and a handful of other things that I can't recall. Files were added and deleted. Python was poked at. Eventually I decided that wicd is a piece of junk (that's the thing that was prompting me to select one of 15 or so types of WiFi encryption) and removed all evidence that it had ever existed. The system tray had a network thing in it that showed me that the ethernet interface was up and connected, but alternately suggested that either the wifi interface didn't exist or wasn't associated, even when both those statements were patently false. I can't actually figure out what piece of software presents this information so I'm stuck with it. I eventually manged to kick things sufficiently that wlan0 came up, linked to my AP, and got itself an IP address, but when I rebooted I discovered that systemd had attempted to bring up both a generic wpa_supplicant and a copy of same attached specifically to wlan0, and no amount of systemctl disable would persuade it not to bring up the generic one on reboot, and apparently running both caused the whole thing to Just Not Work. I eventually resorted to sysctl mask wpa_supplicant which I understand is about one step removed from forcibly removing the thing, and finally I got to the point I wanted to get to, viz. rebooting the device causes it to come up connected to my WiFi network. Needlessly, annoyingly difficult.

I am doing some local history research again. It would appear that New Wapping Street is in fact New; from looking at maps which I'd looked at before but not payed close enough attention to, it looks like "old" Wapping Street ran next to one of the railway lines and met up with Abercorn Road, while New Wapping Street came into being some time in the mid-1930s. Interestingly enough, it would appear that this is correctly shown on OpenStreetMap.

April 7
164 hours remaining.

I picked up a USB WiFi dongle to put in one of the Raspberry Pis, and I'm trying to configure it using the supplied software. It is incomprehensible in the finest traditions of "Linux is ready for the desktop". Instead of asking me for the WiFi password, like every other piece of hardware and software I've ever dealt with, it wants me to know that it's turning on encryption (WARNING!), and it wants me to tell it which of about a dozen different types of wireless encryption the AP uses (hint: ASK THE AP), and then it generates a config file somewhere I can't see and of course that config file doesn't work, and because I don't know where it is I can't figure out what it's done wrong. Brilliant.

April 5
204 hours remaining. I'm not bothering to see if this is actually on track, just noting it here as it proceeds.

And so we launched into Ripper Street Season 4. The opener was a 2-hour epic thanks to being on a streaming service rather than broadcast - I understand it was broadcast in two parts. The grim finality of the previous season's end is somewhat alleviated, there are a few more historical nods thrown in, and was that Howth Head in the bac... oh, never mind that bit. Really enjoying this, although the propensity for certain people to willingly put themselves in positions that will cause them trouble in the not-too-distant future is mildly annoying.

April 4
239 hours remaining.

April 3
Ripper Street Season 3 finale: wow, they sort of cleaned house, didn't they? May have decided they weren't getting another season until after the thing was made. Reid: retired. Abberline: retired. Jackson: unclear, but possibly under arrest for obstruction of justice. Drake: hinted that he's moving to parts other with new wife Rose (and Rose's former bethrothed just sort of ... disappeared). Susan: under arrest and presumably bound for the noose. Now I'm really curious to see how they spin two more seasons out of this.

April 1
306 hours remaining.

Getting on for the end of Ripper Street Season 3. Several laugh-out-loud moments this evening - it really feels like it's gotten into its stride.

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Worst AFJ Ever.