I had a mentally restorative day off on Thursday. The weather was reasonable, so I took advantage by spending as much time in the daylight as I could. I walked all the way to Peckham, picked up some ingredients that aren’t available closer to home, and browsed the charity shops. I bought a nice jumper for £10 in Crisis, then sat in their café with a coffee reading my book for a while. I walked back home again, and arrived just after sunset (so some time after 15:51).
It’s cold, it’s damp, it’s dark, and I didn’t do very much.
My mother came for dinner on Tuesday, as she was in London for one night to take a course on how to use her extremely fancy, capable, and complex new sewing machine.
There has always been a certain amount of garbage on the internet, but I feel like there was a time, not so long ago, that giant tech companies would have shied away from suggesting that we eat human brains.
On Monday night, we had dinner with my parents, who were in London for an event on Tuesday. We met near London Bridge, so I was able to take a relaxed evening walk along the Thames to get there.
If you have some tests that use ChromeDriver to run in a browser environment, and you’re seeing errors like
This version of ChromeDriver only supports Chrome version 114, and you’d rather do some useful work than waste time fixing stuff that worked last week, here’s a quick fix that worked for me on Linux. Something similar might work on Mac OS. I’ve no idea about Windows.
I underwent a gastroscopy and colonoscopy on Wednesday, but the procedure wasn’t actually the bad part. That would be the preparation.
For reasons that I won’t go into here, I switched my desktop computer from an X.Org session to Wayland. One thing that didn’t work was my customised trackball button mapping. That was never particularly user-friendly under X.org, but under Wayland it’s not supported at all. Or rather, it’s delegated to the desktop environment, and as I’m using Gnome, there’s scant customisation available.
But that doesn’t mean we’re out of luck.
When we decided to give up on the obviously failing London Solar Together scheme last year, I’d written off the £150 deposit/survey fee that was all we’d paid. The sketchy company that was doing (or, mostly, not doing) the installations has followed its inevitable course into failure, like many of the directors’ previous companies: dissolved after going into administration; same again; this one too; and this one; currently in liquidation; also in liquidation. In retrospect, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. The result, however, is that Solar Together have given us the deposit back, so in the end we haven’t lost anything at all.
Oíche Shamhna shona daoibh.
I tried – and succeeded – 3D printing with PETG filament for the first time. I wanted to use PETG to print a replacement mudguard bracket for L—’s bike where it had broken. PLA is excellent for many purposes, and easy to print, but it’s quite brittle. PETG is more flexible and robust and, I hope, more appropriate for this application. PETG is also water- and weatherproof, so I made a few useful hooks for the bathroom.
The notion then occurred to me that I could try printing a couple of inoffensive house numbers for the front door. I’d put a picture here to show how good they look, but you know, opsec. I’d intended to make some with the laser cutter, but I thought I’d have a go at printing while I had everything set up.
On my desk I have a full-size PC running Linux that I use for most of my work. I much prefer it to working on a laptop. What I don’t like so much is the increased power consumption, so I’ve set the computer to go to sleep after a fairly short period of inactivity.
Ever since we moved into our house, I’ve been inconvenienced by some websites insisting on the wrong postcode. If, for example, our postcode were actually ZZ12 3BB, they’d suggest ZZ12 3BA, and I’d correct the postcode back to ZZ12 3BB and carry on.
I did a welding induction at the makerspace. The last time I welded anything it was a job, over half a lifetime ago, in another country, in a different language, in a place that no longer even has the same name.
I’ve been getting to grips with FreeCAD. I find it both one of the most frustrating pieces of software I’ve ever used and one of the ugliest. I mean, just look at that logo! In keeping with the regrettable user interface trends of professional engineering software, the interface is made up of hundreds of tiny and complicated icons whose meaning you just have to know already. The icon for “clone”, the head of a mutant orange sheep, is probably the weirdest of these. The taxonomy is confusing: should you use the Part Design workbench or the Part workbench to design a part? (Answer: yes.)
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.
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.
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.
I started writing this on Monday, but it’s still late this week.
LRUG on Monday night was quiet and sparsely attended as the summer ones tend to be. I learned about the Brick gem, which dynamically instantiates an admin interface in a Rails application by inspecting the database schema. It was impressive, and I can see I might have a use for it in the future.
My new glasses and prescription sunglasses were ready, as were L—’s glasses, so we cycled up to the Barbican to pick them up on Saturday morning. Being able to see is expensive, but useful. I’ve only had prescription sunglasses once before, and I made the mistake of choosing very dark lenses. That was absolutely terrifying when I drove into a multi-storey car park. This time, I went for a fairly light 75% tint, which is more reasonable and doesn’t render me totally blind if I wear them indoors.
I went to a café for lunch on Friday and the barista complimented me on my jacket. “It fits really well!” she said. I had to tell her that I’d picked it up for £5 in a second-hand shop in Deptford. I usually have a terrible time finding clothes to fit me. Perhaps you don’t have to spend a fortune to look sharp, but you do need a certain amount of luck.
I got round to fixing my desk lamp. It’s a very useful lamp: an anglepoise arm attached to a ring of LEDs around a central magnifier lens, so I can use it as a general desk lamp, or for well-lit close-up work, like soldering.
This is a transcript of the lightning talk I gave at Brighton Ruby Conference 2023 last week.
For the third time, I did the Dunwich Dynamo, 180 km of overnight cycling from London to what little of Dunwich the sea has not yet finished reclaiming. I previously took part seven years ago, in 2016, and thirteen years ago, in 2010. Perhaps six or seven years is about how long it takes for my memories to fade enough for it to seem like a good idea again.
I went to LRUG on Monday night, and ended up chatting in the pub until closing time. Later than I’d intended, but I had a good time.
It’s been even hotter than last week.
Thursday was warm, Friday was cold, but the weekend was absolutely lovely.
’Tis an ill wind that blows nobody any good, and covid provided a convenient opportunity for organisations to stop doing things they didn’t like doing, and they see no reason to go back again.
I bought a Small Stone phaser that had been disassembled, had its wires cut, and was missing connectors and a switch. Despite all that, it’s not a complicated circuit, and I was (correctly, as it turns out) confident that I could bring it back to life.
There’s a portmanteau hashtag
#maykethat people use for things that they make in May, and that seems like an appropriate theme for this week.
As I wrote previously, I picked up a second-hand Squier Bullet Mustang guitar for £65 via Gumtree. It had a lot of promise, but it wasn’t achieving its potential. The fretwork was terrible (not level, sharp ends), the nut was too high, and the bright white single ply pickguard looked cheap and nasty. The bridge was too far back and not straight. The pickups were fine, but not stellar. So I improved it.
I found a defective Teenage Engineering OP-1 on eBay on Monday, and, after haggling down the price a bit, bought it. It was described as working well, but not holding a charge. That turned out to be true, as it would only last a few minutes on battery even after charging.
A man who was already king had an elaborate ceremony at great expense in the middle of a cost of living crisis. Everyone loves the monarchy, and you know it’s a harmless and benevolent institution with univeral support because if you think about saying otherwise you get arrested by the Met police, when they’re not arresting volunteers who already work with them for giving out rape alarms. Not a good look for an organisation that had two officers arrested for rape and kidnap only a week before.
For the first time in my life, I have an acoustic guitar. There have been times when I’ve had the use of one, and a flatmate at university was very complimentary about my playing, even saying that he preferred my playing style on acoustic to electric.
I spent the weekend in Yorkshire for a friend’s 50th birthday celebrations. L— and I travelled up with another friend, which made the travel more fun. We booked hotel rooms in Ripon, the nearest town. Technically, it’s a city, because it has a cathedral, but then, technically, most of the capital city isn’t a city, according to the absurd English technical definition of a city. Ripon is really more of a market town. Certainly less of a city than technically-not-a-city inner London. Ripon doesn’t even have a railway station: the train only took us as far as Harrogate, from where we got a lift.
I had a couple of vivid but weird dreams. In one, I was walking along a road near our house, when I met a group of anarchists in a flying bus. I went back to their squat/workshop, where they explained to me how the levitation worked. I said, like when you put a superconductor in a magnetic field? They said yes, it’s quantum locked.
There was something for everyone to celebrate this weekend: Easter, Passover, Ramadan, and the anniversary of Margaret Thatcher’s death (the tenth anniversary, no less!). I’m not sure that will happen again in my lifetime.
I liberated a confused and angry bee that we found buzzing loudly in the relative warmth above the landing light. (It’s only an LED bulb, but still probably the warmest place it could find.) After trying various contraptions, I eventually succeeded in capturing it in a tall plastic food container attached onto a wooden beam with rubber bands. I was then able to safely relocate it outside the house, and we were able to sleep in peace.
I’ve had a quiet week, enjoying the relative novelty of being at home after three weeks away, and of cooking instead of dining out for every meal.
When I bought one of my electric guitars, many years ago, the shop threw in a Fender Frontman 15G combo practice amp for free. It was never an expensive amplifier, it doesn’t have a good reputation, and it didn’t sound particularly wonderful.
We spent the last three days of our holiday in Brisbane. We got a lift to Nambour (from where most of the trains terminate) and took the train to the city. It’s not a particularly regular service, but it was comfortable, inexpensive, and, most importantly of all, air conditioned.
We spent our last day in Melbourne exploring the area to the east of the CBD: Fitzroy, Collingwood, and Abbotsford Convent, which isn’t a convent any more, but a community of artists. Most of it was closed, but we saw a couple of video installations.
It’s not even six days since we left London, but it already feels like a very long time ago. I’m mostly over the jetlag.
I spent quite a bit of time last week debugging a problem that was stopping me publishing anything. Although I eventually solved it, it was a problem which Netlify had accidentally introduced and which they fixed the next day. I could just have gone to bed instead.
I went down to see my parents in Weymouth for a few days. It’s a convenient enough journey by train, as long as there aren’t any strikes, which there weren’t. The train was briefly delayed at Dorchester while they fixed the track in a tunnel. I wasn’t in a hurry, so I was hoping that it would be at least fifteen minutes, enough to trigger Delay Repay, but it took less than five.
I got around to sorting out my electronic components. I had a system, with a spreadsheet listing what I have, and some boxes in which I store components in a few categories. But I’d been a bit lax in recent months, and had a lot of secondary boxes full of unsorted components, taking up much more room than they should have.
I’m feeling much better. I don’t have a cough any more. My nose only runs every time I go out into the cold, as usual. The ezcema that broke out all over my face simultaneously with my cold seems to be on the mend. On the downside, where I thought I’d pulled a muscle coughing, it now seems more likely that I’ve cracked a rib. But it’s on the side and it doesn’t hurt unless I lie on my side. Or roll onto my side in the night and wake up in pain. Or fall on my side ….
My cold has lasted a solid fortnight. I can’t remember the last time I had anything as tenacious as this.
I’ve had a cold since Tuesday and I feel very sorry for myself. I thought it would be better by now, but if anything I actually feel worse. My nose is running, I can’t stop coughing, and my throat hurts. This is much worse than covid was for me.
Executive summary: 9 mm open rubber grommets are readily available in the UK and work well. 10 mm might be even better if you can find them.
Monday’s LRUG meeting was excellent. Daniel Magliola’s talk about queues was extremely comprehensive and answered every question that came up in my mind during the course of the talk. I was glad that Matt was able to make it this time (weather and strikes having prevented it in December) to remind me why I’m very grateful that other people are doing the hard work of incrementally improving the C Ruby implementation. It’s really fascinating stuff.
I soldered together a computer. It uses a Z180 CPU, which is a compatible successor to the Zilog Z80 that requires slightly less external plumbing. It follows the RC2014 modular architecture and I used kits from Small Computer Central and Z80kits to make it, specifically, the SC203 system, Compact Flash module, and Real Time Clock module.
For work, I needed to run some analysis on a fairly large MySQL database of document metadata, to find information about the distribution of data, to visualise it, and to sample it for deeper manual investigation.
We ate the eleven-year-old Christmas pudding that I found in the cupboard. I opened it to check first – it looked fine – and soaked it all day in a glug of supermarket own-brand brandy to ensure that it was adequately hydrated. After an hour of steaming, it was delicious. Can a supermarket Christmas pudding ever be too old? We have not yet discovered the upper bound.