Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

January 29
Hooray for BT Ireland, who ignored my letter (as in, actual printed text on dead tree) wherein I notified them of a change of address and a termination of service, and decided to issue me a bill for a service that they're no longer providing me (and haven't been for over a year) to an old address. Guess I get to write them another letter in the hope that this time they'll actually pay attention. At least I cancelled the direct debit when I cancelled the service, so they can't take money off me.

Oh yeah. We're hiring. We have somewhere around 100 open positions, mainly engineering roles (software, systems, networking) along with a few managerial and some administrative (project manager and such). The benefits are good, the office is nice, and there's a bucketload of smart techie work going on. Drop me an email if you're interested.

January 28
Happy birthday, sis!

January 25
The linkfarm toy has been broken for some time. Attempted to fix it tonight, and wound up... segfaulting Perl. Gah.

Eventually fixed by completely abandoning *DBM, which I think I was only using because I didn't know about Storable at the time (not that Storable is a great solution either, but it generally works for this sort of thing).

January 24
The UPC modem locked up again (my current theory on this is that it runs out of UPNP buckets), so I added a function to UPC.pm to reset the modem, and then
perl -MUPC -e 'my $upc = new UPC( password => '********' ); $upc->reset()'

It looks like my attempts to get the MRTG toys to cope sanely with this condition also met with failure. I'm considering replacing all that MRTG stuff with something more useful for my specific purpose (viz. how badly is my UPC connection performing today, and is it time to reboot it).

The latest in the Bins of Dublin foofraw is an absolute goldmine of choice quotes, and I really don't know where to start. Councillors complaining of a breakdown in trust in, er, them? Paddy Bourke ragging on the council's failure to cope with bad weather AND the rejection of the Clontarf flood wall, designed to cope with said bad weather? A vote, passed by the majority, to resume collections by the council, followed by conceding that said vote has no actual impact?

Also, go sign this: Stop Sopa Ireland. Don't let the music and film industries dictate the laws of the country just because they're backing a model that's past its sell-by date, and don't believe that this proposed legislation has anything to do with "Harmonising our laws with the EU" or "protecting artists". It's about protecting the profits of people who don't want to move with the times, nothing more.

(One might wonder why, if "Mr Sherlock said the Government was merely seeking to restate what existed already in Irish law" (Irish Times), there is need for more legislation, but that would be needlessly pedantic of me - I am aware of the High Court case that is being pointed to as justification for this.)

January 23
Tried out Apple's Remote Disc doohickey to rip a new CD. Due to (according to the Apple Knowledgebase) some unspecified DRM, this failed. Funny, that. No DRM on the CD, and after perusing the KB page further I even tried switching off the firewall on the drive-bearing computer. Oh well. Guess I'll find out if importing it to one iCloud-enabled machine will cause it to magically appear on the rest of 'em.

January 21
A choice quote from the whole SOPA/PIPA fiasco:
"It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products" - Lamar Smith, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee
Apparently Mr. Smith is unaware of a recent prosecution in this space, where an American "thief" was responsible for the "stealing". Of course, maybe I'm misinterpreting Smith's statement; maybe his intent is to allow such home-grown "theft".

In other news: I stumbled across an Irish "news" site, which I won't be revisiting, which consistently crashed the browser on my iPad. When I tried the same site on the laptop, it caused the CPU to crank up to fan-requiring levels. I've no idea what they've done, but they're not getting any more visits from me (never mind that the general quality of the site makes Youtube comment threads look like erudite discourse).

January 20
I'm currently learning Python, or trying to learn more of it than I forcefed myself a few years back when trying to figure out Red Hat's Linux installer. As I've gotten to grips with more of the language, and because I'm vaguely familiar with the strong design choices that have gone into it, I am finding the occasional bit of incongruity in its behaviour. Nothing earthshaking, mind you. The thing I dislike most in principle - the whole "whitespace is meaningful" crap - is not really an issue in practice as it's handled by Emacs. Well, most of the time. Having to manually unindent lines and then correct again them because they unindented too far is a bit annoying, and the sort of thing that enclosing code blocks with some sort of non-whitespace syntactic marker guards against. I'm sure I'm probably just doing it wrong, though.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest is a nice conclusion to the Swedish TV/film conversion of Stieg Larsson's books. As with the second movie, they retained the bulk of the book, but as with both the first and second movies, I felt that some of the departures from the original plot weakened the story. To recap, the first movie suffered badly from pacing more than anything else; the second movie was tight, but the conclusion at the farmhouse was a bit lacking; the third movie, well, the bit where Erika basically bottles it was disappointing, as it weakens her character needlessly, and while I appreciated the technical versimiltude of Plague's infiltration of Teleborian's laptop, the book version of the (not quite the) same events made for a more entertaining setup for the trial - it didn't need the added edge of "will they get the information they need?". When all's said and done, though, a good piece of work. One final note on the trilogy: Noomi Rapace really sold the role. I found myself believing every second of her performance at the end of the second movie, despite the somewhat fantastic nature of her survival (I actually found the movie more believable than the book in this respect), and the continuation into the start of the third movie had me recalling the closing sequence that preceeded it as if it were fact rather than fiction. A truly excellent performance.

January 19
Happy birthday, Hannah!

January 17
Real-world fun and games:
Greyhound Recycling said it will provide a seamless service for the council's 140,00 former customers. (...) Bins are to be collected on the same day they are now in each area. (Irish Times, January 14th 2012)
...except for the bit where they moved all the bin collection days around (ours is now apparently every Thursday, if you look at the FAQ, or every second Thursday, if you look at the collection calendar) and where they failed to make the Monday collections on the day of changeover until well into the evening. Greyhound's response was apparently to say that DCC were supposed to collect the bins in my area this week, which seems at odds with the notices on both Greyhound and DCC websites.

And real world fun and games part II: one of my perennial sources of irritation/amusement (irritmusement?), Vodafone, sent me a text today to tell me my latest bill was available online; it further informed me that the bill came to (4-digit code used to access my bill via the online billing service) and that it was due on (some amount in euros). I suspect someone didn't update their template in step with the parameters being fed to it.

January 10
Moment of stupidity, realised. I had set up the Aiprint hack on the laptop, and couldn't figure out why it wasn't working; turns out it's because I was telling the network to send print jobs to the laptop. Either I need to figure out how to get dns-sd to advertise someone else as the location for the service I'm publishing (if that's possible), or I need to run the republisher on the same server as the printers are shared from, and filter the list of printers I'm republishing.

NetFlix are off to a great start in Ireland; I've not yet committed anything to them until I get a handle on whether it's worth my while trading in ScreenClick's awesome customer service for a demand-download service (particularly since I have access to the iTunes demand-download service already, and I've never used that), but so far: website barfed when I tried to sign up (all I'm specifying is an email address and a password), worked on the second try, and then the Apple TV reported (after a lengthy timeout) that "Netflix is currently unavailable. Try again later.". It suggests I visit www.netflix.com/support to find out more, but that turns out to have no information.

Oh, and a small thing; it wouldn't have hurt, surely, to have either registered "netflixie" or even "netflixukie" instead of just "netflixuk"? (as of this writing, "netflixie" is unregistered. Last time that happened I got to be the voice of Luas for the day...)

Working on the princple of "Better is the enemy of Done", you can find my AirPrint-ifying efforts in the Perl workshop. Note that you'll also need the patched Net::Bonjour in the same directory. Place it all on your printer-serving machine in the same layout as it is here, and run it. As it notes in the script, it leaves a dns-sd process running for each printer it airprintifies.

Almost forgot (ok, I did forget): So I Married An Axe Murderer is as funny as I remember it (not "very funny", more like "enjoyably funny"), and Selene also enjoyed it. It hasn't aged too badly, although some of the music is very much of its era, and of course noone has a cellphone. Still, good for a laugh.

January 8
Gave up on AirPrint Activater and did lots of googling and hacking about instead. Result: a perl script which picks up a printer and makes it airprintable. Currently it uses dns-sd to publish the airprint-enabling data, which causes some problems with program flow (dns-sd never exits, and if you interrupt it it withdraws the record it published), so I'm not going to throw it in the workshop just yet - I'll see if I can clean it up somewhat and publish it later this week.

I will note in passing that the obvious replacement candidate for dns-sd, at least where Bonjour networking is involved, might be Net::MDNS, but it won't build on MacOS out of the box and I don't feel like debugging it right now.

January 7
Cowboys and Aliens: Daniel Craig makes one awesome cowboy. In fact, I would pay good money to see him doing more cowboy movies. This is a fun outing; Stranger arrives in town and Makes An Impression; Bad Man With Heart Of Gold shows up; Aliens interrupt the inevitable showdown. And then it's got horses (including one blatant riding trick), outlaws, indians (er, I mean "injuns"), feisty wimminfolk, a pitched battle of 19th century technology vs. advanced culture (no need to guess who wins), the obligatory touching scene where Bad Man Reveals Heart Of Gold, and the more-or-less Happy Ending. Great fun.

January 6
The Girl Who Played With Fire (again, the Swedish version) is a much tighter movie than the first of the trilogy. Plus, while they bent the story a bit to fit it into the two hour duration, they retained a bunch of key scenes, such as the one where Lisbeth kicks the crap out of two bikers... the only minor failure was, I think, in Neiderman's closing scene, since he leaves when he's got no real reason to do so. The reason given in the book would be hard to convey in the movie, so I'm not too bothered by this. Keen to see what the wrap-up in the third movie is like now.

January 5
Various net.voodoo and a reboot and my server appears to be back again, so I can turn back to the task I was engaged in which is to try and restore iPad printing to its former working state. Airprint Activator was doing the business, but when it stopped and I dug into its innards a little I found problems and a few bothersome things (such as writing to a known path in /tmp, always a handy spot for a security hole). I've more of an idea of what's wrong, but I don't quite know how to fix it yet.

January 4
Mac weirdness abounds: while trying to reinstate my AirPrint setup (using AirPrint Activator) my Server Admin connection went all weird. I restarted it, and it was still weird. So I rebooted the Mac Mini, and it came back all weird: DHCP and DNS running, but serveradmin says they're not, and the MRTG launchctl file doesn't load automatically, and manually loading it gives an inscrutable error, and the web server isn't running, and so on. So now I'm doing that most voodoo of Mac operations, "Repair Permissions" which will no doubt break some other stuff, and then maybe I'll try rebooting again, this time with my fingers crossed.

January 3
So apparently this is how it works:
  1. Hear Michelle slagging off Robbie Keane on Pure Morning.
  2. Send text to station agreeing with the sentiments expressed.
  3. Receive phonecall from Phantom asking if I want to play "Bandy About"
  4. Play, and win tickets to a gig in April
The game is easy enough: the DJ spells out a band and you tell him which band it is. The only one I missed was on account of my zoning out while he was spelling it - no idea what happened, but the Luas was just arriving at Heuston when it happened so I'll blame that.

And this evening the Internet is determined to amuse me further:
This account does not require an additional signatory to set up a Direct Debit : Yes/No
(Apparently the correct answer is "Yes", and the site also broke on the first password I offered it with a generic error suggesting I start over from scratch.)
Sorry, we've temporarily run out of users similar to @name elided. We're out there looking for more right now.
Who knew that Twitter kept users in stock, to be dispensed to other users on demand in response to searches?

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Swedish version) is nowhere near as slick as the remake. In fact, it's more slack than slick, it takes liberties with the story that are more jarring than the remake, and in general it's an inferior movie - and it's nothing to do with the difference in budget. Oh well. The second movie arrives tomorrow, in theory.

January 1
Happy New Year to you all.

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Looking nervously at the Mayan calendar