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Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

March 31
331 hours remaining.

ESB Networks left a card to indicate I'd missed the meter reader. Given I spend all day in the room next to the front door and the doorbell is audible all over the house, I find that hard to believe. In any case, when I tried to submit a meter reading via my supplier, they said it was too close to billing time to do so, but the ESB Networks site was happy to accept it. It annoys me that this stuff is broken the way it is. I should be able to submit a meter reading at any time, and fine, if it's in whatever their close-to-billing window is, just accept it and tell me that it might not reflect in the next bill. Don't second-guess the core system.

March 29
RAID saga: I've horfed (technical term) about 2.5 terrabytes of data from the RAID array off to another drive, bringing the drive use below the safe capacity for the number of disks in it. That has allowed me to cleanly unmount and power down the Drobo - probably the first time I've ever done this - and reboot the Mac Mini to which it attaches, then bring everything back up. The Drobo initially came up with the same blinking red light on the replaced disk, but has now recognised the disk and started doing its replication dance, which is slightly terrifying since it insists I not turn off the drive until it's done and I know from previous experience that that's gonna be ... a number of days. HOWEVER, everything is certainly looking improved and I may take this opportunity to both rationalise what's actually being stored on the drive and investigate SAN options to replace the Drobo outright.

I also discovered that maxing out the USB bandwidth on this box by moving data from one drive to another is a good way of causing the USB-connected home automation bridge to simply stop working (timeouts? who knows?) which eventually caused all the home automation toys to go offline. Probably time I invested in a dedicated piece of hardware for that.

Drobo finally updated the dashboard: it will be "protecting data" for the next... 389 hours. That's, like, more than two weeks.

March 26
I've had O'Casey In The Estate sitting on the DVR since it broadcast last year, and I finally got around to watching it last night. Spoiler: COVID stops play, so to speak. But screw that: this was an excellent little docu, almost all filmed within a few hundred metres from our house, about people in our area preparing to put on a production written by a playwright from the area about people who lived in the area. It's a shame they had to cut it short: it looked like they were working their way through individual vignettes of each of the cast members, and they'd only done a small number of them when the lockdown landed. One of the things that really jumped out at me was the director: during a rehearsal of a scene where a woman comes in to tell others of a man's death, she speaks to - I presume - the widow; the director interrupts her and asks her, "do you think she'd be talking to the women?" That was one of those obvious-in-hindsight details that I'd not even have thought about had I seen the performance, and showed a knowledge of the play and the time it was set in. In the end, denied their Abbey performance, the players took to the streets of East Wall and performed solo pieces of O'Casey's work to the camera, which you can watch here (assuming YouTube hasn't figured out how to monetise and block the clips).

March 24
Another finale: American Gods season 3. Alarmingly, there's no sign of season 4 despite there being, well, a bit of story left to tell. Also, it felt a little rushed; after all the slow dragging through the season, it's like they got to the last episode and realised how much needed to be tied up, and just threw everything in. Having said that, I'll still be looking for Season 4 although I guess it'll be next year at the earliest.

March 23
Ripper Street, season 2: complete. A ripping, pardon the pun, final episode. Apparently the Beeb announced they were wrapping up the series here, and then LoveFilm stepped in to pick it up, and there are another three seasons. I don't know how it wasn't popular enough for the BBC to continue making it but we'll see if the quality continues.

March 22
I am continuing to operate with an unsafe RAID array because that's how I roll but mainly because I'm trying to safely clear enough space on it that it's got enough spare capacity to restore the 'R' in RAID. This means, peculiarly, that while I'm removing files from it, it's claiming the space thus freed up to provide said redundancy, so this afternoon it was telling me it had 100GB free, and now it's down to 70GB. Sigh.

March 17
Apple's Podcast app is a constant source of perplexity to me. Just now I spent five minutes tapping around trying to find out - again - how to change a just-subscribed podcast from "Play Latest" (the default, for some reason) to "Play in Chronological Order". Ideally, this would be found at Library → Shows → …, except the way the UI works, the "…" menu for a Show looks like it's actually for the next episode for the show, so I kept either skipping past it or looking at its contents (which includes "Play Next" and "Play Last", without indicators for whether that means "Play Entire Show Next/Last" or just refers to the latest episode) and not recognising that it's the menu I was looking for. I don't add shows very often - my current tally is five, and one of those is a personal "to watch/read" list that predates Apple's Read Later menu - so I am all but assured of encountering this same problem the next time I add a new show. It used be that Apple were pretty much unbeatable at HCI stuff, which is generally why you can pick up an Apple Thing and figure out how to use it without needing instructions, so sharp corners like this always catch me by surprise. Or maybe I'm just unique in my inability to figure this out.

(I have other problems with this app, such as the fact that said "Play in Chronological Order" doesn't appear to actually work for at least one of the podcasts because some notional "podcast season" thing that the author didn't use correctly apparently overrides chronological order; or the fact that searching for an episode by number doesn't work, because the episode number is apparently not considered an interesting field to search on; or the fact that the keyboard overlaps the last entry on search results so you can't see if it's the one you want without exiting the search... it goes on.)

March 13
Figured we'd watch a Midsommer tonight, and noted that of course our DVR is up to its old tricks so that of season 2, we had episodes 3, 4 and, er, 4. You'd imagine, aside from "season record" actually recording a season, that there would be some mechanism whereby you don't end up with two recordings of the same episode. But then: this is Virgin Media, who used be UPC, who used be Cablelink, and the track record has been consistent, and the only reason I'm not with an alternative provider is that they're all equally terrible.

March 12
Ripper Street, Season 1: done. Really enjoying this, including the location-spotting (oh hey there's the chapel at Trinity that I went to see The Mornington Singers in). I did think the death of a minor but recurring player in episode 7 was a bit telegraphed in as much as the episode lead in with a bunch of stuff to encourage you to be more invested in said character, which was unnecessary since if you've been following the series you'd already have that investment, so really - for me, anyway - it only lead to drawing attention to the fact that Something Terrible Was Going To Happen. That aside, we'll be launching into Season 2 next week, I think.

March 10
So recapping: after last week's power outage, my venerable (i.e. ancient, clunky, obsolete) Drobo restarted with a bright red light next to one of the drives. The current array is 2x 4TB and 2x 2TB, and I have a couple of spare 2TB drives lying around for use in case of failure, so of course it was one of the 4GB drives which failed. I ordered two from Elara and got them in three "business days" (meaning I ordered on Friday and they showed up mid-week), but replacing the apparently faulty drive did not make the red light go away. It's possible that powering everything down and ... oh all right, TURNING IT OFF AND ON AGAIN ... will reset this in some way, but right now there's more data on the array than it can provide safety for, and Murphy's Law says that if I turn it off that'll be the last time I see any of that. So, I am carting the data across to whatever storage I can scrounge elsewhere. This is going to take some time, because the Drobo itself is connected via USB, and any outboard drives will also be connected via USB, and there is in the order of 5TB of data on this device. A good deal of that data is duplicated elsewhere, mind you; I'm not completely dependent on the survival of this device, I'm just not keen to see it go CLUNK. Once I've cloned the data off it I'll try a few power cycles or whatever else the doctor ordered, and then see if it's time I replaced it (it was probably "time I replaced it" back when I bought it second-hand from someone in the office).

March 5
Ripper Street is moving along nicely. Occasionally: "hey, that's Dublin!" (apparently parts of modern-day Dublin look more like 1890s Whitechapel than, well, modern-day London. Also, I assume, Tax Breaks).

The Lady Vanishes: not sure what Hitchcock was aiming for here. There's a mystery trying to escape from this, certainly; however, it seems to be wrapped in a bunch of slapstick and stereotypes punctated periodically by a piercing train whistle. The core plot is so-so, the add-on pieces make it kinda cruddy. To add to the fun, there was a snippet recorded before this of an interview with Hitchcock where he was basically proclaiming his own brilliance. It's not on display here, in any case.

As noted elsewhere, my RAID box decided that one of its 4TB drives was no longer fit for purpose. Annoyingly, I have spare 2TB drives but no spare 4TB drives. So now I cross my fingers and wait "2-3 business days" for a replacement drive plus a spare. Mind you, I really should just replace the RAID box itself since it's way past its sell-by date and only connects to things via either USB or FireWire, so it's slooooooow. Maybe a birthday present for myself.

March 2
Watched S1E1 of Ripper Street, in which stalls are set out and potential backstories hinted at. We've decided to give this a try out. Midsomer is pretty decent but 2-hour episodes aren't really conducive to week-night watching.

In other news, my Electrical Supply People have decided I don't need any of their product between the hours of 10am and 3pm on Thursday. Guess I'll be taking a day off work...

March 1
Finished Becky Chambers' last Wayfarers book. I did not know it was the last until I got to the afterword. This was a real page-turner; I also re-read books 1-3 before cracking this open and the only thing I don't like about the whole series is that it ended.

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Still March 2020, eh?