RSS & Org-mode

This post will be a bit like ratatouille: thrown together with what's sitting in my notes file, as I've spent most of the day relaxing. My daughter had a longer orientation day at nursery today — which went very well — allowing my partner and I some time alone before she goes back to work part-time next week. (We did some reading and some cleaning; I know, I know, but the point was, we had — relatively speaking, anyway — near-infinite choice, and chose something. Pure luxury, as parents in the Fediverse well know.)

My Conky config is, dare I say it, done for now. I'm really happy with for the weather — augmented with my script grabbing the UV index from the Met Office — and, thanks to Reddit really continuing to embrace RSS, I'm much happier with the news section too: I had been using a (pretty ugly) desklet, but Reddit's support of what they've coined multireddit means I've got the latest from /r/Linux & /r/FOSS beautifully integrated in my minimal set-up with a simple script.

Why is RSS dying? I cry a bit inside every time I see a Subscribe text field for email.

I'm not quite ready to throw my hat in #screenshotsunday, however. I'm still using the notes desklet for my to-do list, which makes me sad. Syncing isn't a huge issue at the moment — especially in COVID-19 times — but I've got it pointing at a file on Dropbox anyway. I had been using Keep, but: a) I'm trying to pull my life out of Google, and b) I don't want to have to fire up a browser just to see and change my lists.

I've got space in Conky; I want it there.

I used Trello a long time ago, and while it does have a REST API, I want to go FOSS, if possible. Wekan has jumped up the ranks, after I randomly saw SuperDicq@cdrom.tokyo plug it yesterday. (There's a handy comparison on GitHub, actually.) Today — I can't even remember how I got on to this; must've specifically searched for Org-mode, as it's tied up in lots of Roam discussions — I'm thinking that the ease of exporting from Org-mode might be the way forward. Particularly as I could also see using it to publish here, and there are zettelkasten options for Emacs as well. A one-stop shop, dare I hope? More research required.

End of Day 32

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I'm writing this as part of the 100 Days To Offload project; join us at: https://100daystooffload.com/

I passed!

Got the confirmation this morning. Didn't cover myself in glory by any stretch, but I got some solid feedback to work on, and, most importantly, cleared the hurdle. Now it's only the exam between me and the title of Splunk Architect.

I really feel like I've reached the limit of what I can take by firehose. I've gotten by with informal methods and procedures to date, but, most recently, that was only with the benefit of an insight from my manager's stunningly-thorough runbook. That said, this realisation may dovetail nicely with my zettelkasten project, although that would be mean fully committing to the pursuit. On that note, a place has opened up on the Roam waiting list. However, you only get a certain number of days free now before the not-insignificant subscription fee of $15/month (IIRC) kicks in. My nascent plan is to really kick the tyres on Obsidian, and then, with my well-practised workflow, try Roam. A potential snag is this window to Roam closing in the interim, of course.

As if I needed another lesson in humility after the Architect lab, I spent longer than I care to admit debugging a 'problem' with tmux. Spoiler alert: the problem was solely between my keyboard and chair. In my defence, I was attempting to learn it for the first time. (Oh, how I wish I'd had it for my Architect lab, jumping around between eight different ssh sessions.) It looked like the key bindings weren't working: Ctrl-B, changing it to Ctrl-backslash — I can't even find a shortcut to that character in the current layout on my netbook; the nail in the coffin for that idea — had no effect; like the key binding was being seized before tmux got a look in. Enough with the suspense: have you guessed what I did? I didn't release Ctrl-B before trying to execute any of the various commands I tried. #facepalm

As with all learning, however, should you seek it out, a silver lining will usually present itself: showkey -a was new to me, and echoed all my keystrokes perfectly to STDOUT, you now won't be surprised to learn. Also, bind -p stunned me by showing the number of key bindings in bash by default. I was reminded of a few gems too: Ctrl-A for the beginning of the command line; Ctrl-E for the end. I was saving loads of time with Ctrl-R already, but these will certainly be in daily use now as well.

End of Day 31

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I decided to stick with the plan to take a week's leave, even though the wedding we were to attend has been postponed. (Because of COVID-19; they're still happy together, last I heard.) I need the time.

I've decided to make some changes to the site; let me know what you think. It's part of signing up to a free trial of a pro account on write.as. I'm lucky enough to be able to support the people who make the Internet a better place, so I've stopped making excuses.

I didn't go through with deleting my bookface account, in the end. My partner was understandably saddened by the idea of losing all the associated photos, and comments on posts like our birth announcements. And I'd forgotten that I'd scanned and posted loads of my mum's old photos for the enjoyment of her circle. So the account has been reinstated, but locked down. Only they can see it, and I won't be posting anything new with it. This feels like a good compromise, and, happily, I don't feel any pull to go back to that space (for now).

End of Day 30

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I've been furloughed

It's official now, so I'll simply say that I've been furloughed. I'm certainly not alone, even in my company, and I'm still better off than many. It's worrying, but that isn't why I've been away.

I completed my Architect practical lab yesterday. (Or around 3am today, more precisely. I needed 18 of the 24 hours, in the end.) That's my shorthand for what Splunk calls their Splunk Enterprise Deployment Practical Lab Public Class, by the way. Quite a mouthful. It'll be a few days before I get my results. There isn't much feedback, apparently. And, they are completely upfront about it being a subjective evaluation, just as it would be with a customer, waiting to be paid.

I'm disappointed, regardless of the outcome. The whole process has highlighted some glaring gaps in my knowledge, particularly around apps and technology add-ons. I was deep on trying to extract fields from syslog before a colleague pointed out that putting the *nix TA on my search head would do the job for me. (I'd only installed it on the universal forwarder that was gathering the data.) And my regex is pitiful: I tried to use the Add Data wizard on a custom XML data source, and was so thrown by the stream of gobbledygook it spat out that I lost hours and never properly parsed the stuff, in the end. I tried to justify that point, amongst others, in my report to the 'customer'; we'll soon see how it all went down.

It was a real blow to my ego. Especially now, seeing my manager finish the same lab in seven hours today. I'm so impressed by her intelligence, work ethic and thought process, but, try as I might, I still use moments like this to knock myself down. Ah, well, I'm a work in progress, as we all are.

End of Day 29

(I know I've missed a few actual days, but I've decided to ignore the gap.)

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I'm writing this as part of the 100 Days To Offload project; join us at: https://100daystooffload.com/

Community, in the 'multiverse'

Not across universes, literally; I can't think of a good word for an association that transcends the fediverse, and to IRL beyond. I don't know why I keep coming back to this idea. It'll probably be the first topic in my zettelkasten, when I finally decide on a medium for it. If I could (non-disruptively) give my 20-year-old self anything, it'd be a zettelkasten; an actual piece of furniture, I guess, as Windows 95 was the height of innovation back then. But, man, I know this post would be an order of magnitude better for it.

Clay Shirky talks about how you can have a small community — on the Internet; I'll explicitly reference IRL when I mean otherwise — and, particularly with a dedicated core of a few friends committed to your vision, the centre will likely hold. (I recently rejoined IRC, and TooCool@EFNet pointed me to a piece that also explored this idea.) But, with success, comes danger: there is a size, beyond which, your vision will be threatened. This came back to me while reading about Cooper coming on as a community manager @Fosstodon, so I want to say it's around 10000 members (but don't quote me on that). And this is where I reference the cliche of an ellipsis, followed by the Shangri-La of 'profit'. Seriously, though, there are probably tens of thousands of examples for every birdsite. (Not that I'd hold that up as my ideal, mind.)

I joined Lemmy(Net) yesterday, curious about the ReverseEagle project that bubbled up in /r/Linux. I liked the message, and the tone. I'm a sucker for humility, and the opening apology regarding a perceived lack of professionalism really struck a chord. I mean, they sound very measured to me, and they're talking about simply offering genuine alternatives. That seems far more professional than, say, the early days of Slashdot, where Bill Gates as Borg was considering the starting point for any conversation outside of FOSS. (I can't resist bragging about my five-digit user id: 68393; yeah, it was mid-morning before I realised CmdrTaco had opened registration.) And then you have other models, like Tildes' sponsorship (lite) one.

I want to know my IRL neighbours (I think). But I'm not good in meat space; particularly after some of the difficulties I've had in recent years. Years ago I tried Streetlife, but that registration process alone was far too intrusive, especially for the limited benefit of what became a local Gumtree knock-off, from what I could see, before closing. Freegle was OK, pre-COVID, but, again, fairly intrusive, and a mixed bag of, well, exactly what you'd probably get IRL if a bunch of people came together for the primary purpose of barter, in effect. I had some positive experiences with Meetup, but the clue is in the name, for me: too heavy on IRL; I want a community that is rich here, and naturally extends beyond that over time.

I'm going to end it there. More to come, though — fuelled by my zettelkasten, I hope!

End of Day 28

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I'm writing this as part of the 100 Days To Offload project; join us at: https://100daystooffload.com/

The elephant in the room

It's been a tough day. I'm still not at liberty to explain why. Mind you, I don't imagine it would take much of a leap to guess the reasons. Still, I'll leave it there, as an apology for what will probably be a lacklustre post.

More practice today: the Splunk Enterprise Deployment Practical Lab test is this Monday. So there goes my weekend. I'm up to almost 90% of my monthly EC2 usage on the AWS free tier, so I switched to GCP today. I have to say, I like the interface more. It's still early days, obviously, but it's a better experience, so far. For example, they explicitly state that you will not be billed for your free kit; period. It will just stop working at the end of the trial period, presumably, if you haven't made a payment. I like that, as I've had a low level of worry rumbling along this week about waking up to a bill from Amazon. (Although, probably a very small one, in their defence.)

A word of warning if you're thinking about using Keybase's private storage heavily: don't overextend yourself. It's obvious, with hindsight, that performing lots of writes and deletes on a (remote) encrypted filesystem is a bad idea, but it took being in a real mess to open my eyes. Actually, it was my sloppiness that included the path for what would be the synced copy of those files (in my home directory) in the actual copy I was making to Keybase's storage that kicked off the facing mirrors, reflections ad infinitum, hard disk drive thrashing itself to death. Obvious, as I said, but this cautionary tale is the single benefit I can wrestle out of that agonising spell yesterday.

End of Day 27

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How cheap IS disk space?

What's on my mind? Keybase. I saw that they offered file storage as part of my general tour of their services upon first signing up a few weeks ago. Today, I noted that — thanks to FUSE, coincidentally on my radar for the second time this week — the desktop client provides simple access to this storage. And then I thought something went wrong, because Nemo told me I had approximately 248GB of free space on that filesystem.

The documentation confirms it: every single user gets 250GB of free storage space. I do not understand how this is good business, but, then again, I've never had a head for business. (Still, I can't help but wonder whether Zoom will revisit this policy.) Regardless, it's very generous. (Thank you, Keybase!) More than ten times what Google offers, while foregoing the profits Google makes by selling our data to boot.

So I've been playing around with rsync and cron today, adjusting my backup solution to take advantage of this bounty.

Oh, and I created a team — beardlovers, for fans of YouTuber Wheezy Waiter — so I could play around with that feature as well. Pop in, and I'll tell you all about the wonderful show that is The Good Stuff.

I had some news at work today. I'm not at liberty to share it right now, but let's just say I'm a bit preoccupied at the moment. I'm also worried about my upcoming 24-hour game show of a test that is my Splunk Architect practical lab; I keep running into indexer cluster issues, and so haven't had much time to practice field extractions, creating sourcetypes, or dashboarding. Oh, well. A fun weekend activity, I guess?

End of Day 26

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I'm writing this as part of the 100 Days To Offload project; join us at: https://100daystooffload.com/

Great expectations, and coping

I was hoping to share a screenshot of Conky today, with the weather conditions beautifully displayed. Instead, I'll have to settle for the results on the command line, conditionally formatted:

weather script output

I failed to account for the necessary transition to pixels when working with Conky. I think I'll need to manipulate the returned JSON directly — as opposed to calling a script to parse it — or reconsider how I want the results formatted. A decision for another day.

I'm a lot better at dealing with disappointment these days; and on a much bigger scale than some failed hacking, let me quickly add! Not long after I first moved to the UK — more than a decade ago now — I blew a PSU.

And completely lost it.

It's embarrassing to remember, frankly, and really scared my ex at the time. Most of that embarrassment is due to the extent of my overreaction, but a small part of it is because, while I did read the instructions on the PSU, I failed to take in that its wide tolerance of voltage was predicated on throwing a (very prominent, in their defence) switch on the back of it. Unbelievably, it was the only casualty of that mistake: the motherboard, and all the attached components, served me well for another eight years. (In fact, the hard disk drive is still working well in my current tower.)

Fast forward ten years, and that reaction seems completely alien to me. Part of that is having young children: things get smashed, lost, they explode; life loses much of its predictability. Part of it is one of the many happy consequences of years of psychotherapy. Part of it is simply getting older.

It feels good. Particularly in the light of the criticism I've been levelling at myself recently: what could, ungenerously, be deemed a regression in my anxiety levels as lockdown has continued.

End of Day 25 — a quarter of the way!

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Filesystems and grey-matter systems

What. A. Day.

My head is spinning. I've learned so much, and yet I have so many questions, as I close out my work day. I can't remember a more recursive day in recent memory: where you park your reading on a topic to delve into another subtopic, return, continue reading on that topic, then delve into another subtopic, and a deeper subtopic from there, etc. There were some functions I didn't even call — to stretch a metaphor to breaking; I just made notes in the list of questions that always sits on my desktop and ploughed on.

FUSE was one of those. I don't know how this passed me by; what an elegant idea. I was trying to get an SSH private key from my desktop to my Mac, so I could continue working on my AWS indexer cluster from there, but ext4 is a mystery to Catalina. ext4fuse to the rescue, along with some, well, magic, from my point of view to make sure my user was in the proper group for mounting filesystems. I need to get more comfortable with macOS; it feels so alien, compared with Ubuntu and Mint.

The good news is, it all worked, and I've made notes about the research I still need to do, in slower time, before I'll be able to properly explain the process to anyone. (My ultimate goal, these days, as I want to be a mentor in our company, somewhere well down the road.)

Also, quickly, I hit Yes on a support page — you know, that, typically annoying, “Did you find this useful?” bit at the bottom — for the first time in ages today: it was a short, clear, spectacularly useful page, hosted by Amazon, on how to grow EBS volumes and partitions, and then resize the associated filesystems. Within ten minutes, my indexer cluster stopped complaining about the walls closing it. Result!

Finally, HN pointed me to a wonderful, beautiful piece by Eugene Yan on zettelkasten and Roam. I can't remember... Gosh, is it a bad sign that a post of this length is causing deja vu, about forgetting things?! I was so excited by this piece. Just, beside myself, really. I'm so unhappy with my knowledge management system right now; nothing's joined up. It's like an archaeological dig, going back through old notebooks, text files on old backups. Making connections is serendipity, at its most frustrating.

Until now.

Or, it would be, if Roam wasn't closed to new users. (D'oh!) The bright side is that the application form for their wait list was a lot of fun. I'm not joking. I really enjoyed it. It didn't make up for not having access to the software, but it certainly took away some of the sting.

End of Day 24

— jlj #100DaysToOffload

I'm writing this as part of the 100 Days To Offload project; join us at: https://100daystooffload.com/

Full on

Boy, I'm beat. I finished Phase 1 of the (practice) Splunk Architect lab tasks today, and got well stuck in with editing config files as part of Phase 2. Happily, I learned — just moments ago — that the AWS free tier includes 750 hours of t2.micro instances per month, so I'm leaving all my hard work up and running overnight; then it'll be ready for me to pick it up right away tomorrow morning. (Even with eight concurrent instances, I'll be good for a few days.)

Late last night, I decided that I'd park the Python code I was working on to parse Met Office JSON. I will come back to it — when I finally decide on a course — but, for now, a script calling jq will work fine. (I only want a few elements from the current, and following, day to display in Conky.) I was pretty chuffed with my progress last night, although it meant I was late getting to bed.

It was tough seeing my partner leave this morning, double pram full of the most precious cargo in my world. My boy is back now, though — I can hear him squealing downstairs — and seems very happy.

This is a bit of a non-sequitur: I was reading the latest Brain Food (No. 371) from Farnam Street and an excerpt from a Bloomberg article on Musk caught my eye. It was so simple: he acknowledges that he shoots from the hip on birdsite; that's why he likes it. No press releases or faff — just his mind, to the public. Which, he also acknowledges, means that lots of his tweets are “dumb.” And, that if that's the price of doing business in this way, he's happy to pay it.

I don't think that having that policy, as such an influential person, occurred to me. My sleepy brain can't fathom the pitfalls of such a policy at the moment, but I can certainly see its benefits. My tendency is to think that good communication is based on expectation management: knowing what your intended audience expects, and them knowing what to expect from you. Putting a message like this out — an implicit caveat to every tweet — certainly sets clear expectations.

End of Day 23

— jlj #100DaysToOffload

I'm writing this as part of the 100 Days To Offload project; join us at: https://100daystooffload.com/