Week 141: Upgrading the Mark of the Beast

A heron standing on a wooden structure in the Thames. Behind it is the
river, the north bank, and the point of the Shard.

The Heron and the Shard

I finally upgraded the operating system on my mobile phone. It’s a Pixel 2, which I bought cheap at the point that they were superseded by the Pixel 3, in 2019. It was thrown onto the end-of-life scrapheap by Google in late 2020, but it still worked fine, so I kept using it. I paid £55 for a battery replacement last year, which has kept it usable. However, using something that no longer receives software updates isn’t ideal, and the longer that went on the less comfortable I was.

Finally, at the weekend, I did something about it. I made sure all my files were safe (I love Syncthing), took a couple of Android backups with adb, and installed LineageOS.

Of course, nothing’s ever that easy, and I had to reflash LineageOS and the official image back and forth a couple of times before it would recognise a SIM card. And then I had to spend ages setting things back up. I think I wasted about five hours on this in the end.

I now have a phone with an up-to-date Android installation. Most things work. However, I can no longer use my phone for payments, because while a 3-year-old unsupported factory OS is “secure”, an up-to-date community build is “insecure”.

At least I can just use plastic cards instead, which is what I do most of the time anyway. But how much longer will the technofetishists suffer us to do that? How long until banks stop issuing cards on the basis that “everyone has a phone”?

I resent that it has become impossible to exist in society without depending on mobile phones, their operating system duopoly, and a web of proprietary software. I barely feel like I even own the device.

And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

Revelation 13:16-17 (KJV)

I don’t really think that mobile phones are the Mark of the Beast, not least because we don’t have any widely-adopted head-worn devices to meet the foreheads criterion. But maybe they are, just a little bit, and growing more so over time.

I repeated my Brighton Ruby Conference lightning talk at LRUG on Monday. It went OK, but I don’t think I did as good a job as the first time. In fairness, Brighton was a much bigger audience and I had practised a lot in the days leading up to the conference.

As it happens, the videos from Brighton are nearly ready for release. I’ve seen mine, and I’m very happy with it. I didn’t even cringe watching myself once!

I awoke on Tuesday morning from a strange dream in which I was trying to make a Sutton Hoo-style Anglo-Saxon lyre but I had erred and ended up with an instrument the size of a wardrobe. (A contrabass lyre perhaps?)

I looked into making one and even found some plans for sale. It seems that the doors of our soon-to-be-ex kitchen cupboards are a perfect size for such a project, so I will inevitably be doing that at some point in the near future.

I did some more laser cutting for my mandolin-banjo. My initial plan of reusing the old base of the pot had to be revised when it splintered while I removed it. Instead, I’ve cut parts for a jig that will let me steam-form a thin plywood disc into the slightly dished shape of the original.

I’ve also laser cut some discs of ply (using leftovers from last week) and cork sheet to make some violin clamps to hold the new base on. Violin clamps are expensive to buy but easy to make with some discs and coach bolts.

I’m confident using the laser cutter now. Perhaps too confident, because I forgot to reset the height after switching from 9 mm to 3 mm plywood, and ended up engraving v-shaped channels instead of actually cutting anything. I didn’t waste too much, though, and I had enough left to do it right.

On Sunday, I heard someone running past the front of our house. Then I heard someone else. Then another, except in the opposite direction.

I was able to discern from the maps they were clutching and the group name on one of their shirts that it was the South London Orienteers London City Race 2023. (What a great domain name!)

Some good links:


  • Week 140: Fun with lasers

    I had a chance to use the laser cutter at SLMS on Tuesday night to make some parts for my mandolin-banjo restoration. Apart from running off the edge of the sheet on one piece, it went smoothly, and I had enough spare ply to recut that part without needing another sheet.

    More …

  • Restoring an old mandolin-banjo, part 1

    I recently bought an old mandolin-banjo (also called a banjolin, although that term is a bit contested) for very little money on eBay. As well as the usual maintenance of needing a new skin, it suffered from the same fate as all mechanism-in-pot instruments in that the tension is supported by a wooden ring that distorts under pressure over time, leaving the neck angle too shallow.

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  • Week 139: Promenade

    I scored standing tickets for Jon Hopkins with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Proms on Tuesday night. It was the first time I’d been to the Proms in 18 years or so of living in London. I didn’t realise that you can just go. It’s very affordable – only £8 each – but they put the tickets on sale at 10:30 in the morning, which isn’t quite as accessible to people whose job isn’t being on the computer all day. I’m OK, though. I was ready with three browser windows to make sure I had an unfair chance.

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  • Week 138: Internot

    I started writing this on Monday, but it’s still late this week.

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Older entries can be found in the archive.