it’s in the mail

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered a book or two…or 5 from Amazon. Having heard good things about Jessica Jones I thought I should read the original comics before watching the show. Thankfully, they’re bundled up in an omnibus. Then I thought I should get hold of Gaiman’s new Sandman. And it seemed silly not to throw in a few more things.

a pile of booksWhen I unpacked all my books in the new place a year or so back, I realised I couldn’t find my old, old copy of K&R’s The C Programming Language. I had the pre ANSI (just) edition when I learnt C for Computer Science at Wollongong Uni way back in 1989. 1989 was a really bad year for me as I used to spend 2.5 hours each way commuting from Bankstown to uni. That year, there was a landslide of the railway at Coledale and the line was reduced to a single track for much of the year. My commute increased to 4 hours each way and I ended up failing most of my subjects. I like to blame the commute though part of me suspects I was still working myself out too and trying to find my direction. I eventually took a year and a half off uni, worked on a loading dock at Grace Bros (now Myer) to pay off a car and then returned to uni.

I eventually passed everything I failed that year including C. Ultimately I never quite finished my compsci degree though I did finish all the core components. I never went into programming as a profession though part of me misses the intensity of a good coding session and part of me never wants to return to that single minded focus. I’ve kept most of my programming books, along with Fortran and Pascal, and so forth. Well ok, not Forth :) However, I missed having a copy of K&R C on the shelf, moreso than the books that are there.

So I grabbed a copy…and have been dipping in already. Once I dipped, I started re-reading some of the earlier examples and all of a sudden I’d opened an editor and typed one up. Except I didn’t have a c compiler installed so I’m loading one into cygwin. Oddly, I’m not editing in vi this time and trying out Microsoft’s Visual Code Editor. It’s nice, it has a dark background which has a lot less glare. I’m also liking that the template recognises that I’m writing c and provides colouring for keywords and commands.

And it worked. I also made a couple of changes and they worked too.

NTS: shutdown cygwin while installing new software. The installation went a bit wrong so I had to uninstall cygwin altogether and re-install from scratch. However once all that was done, the c code compiled without errors and worked first go :-)

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drive update

After many years living mostly alone, living with teenagers, aside from the regular challenges of living with teenagers, has some unexpected issues.

The hard drive on the PS4 was full! We had to delete stuff to add a game.

I’ve never had a full hard drive on a console before. I don’t buy enough games and I tend to play in spurts. Back in the day, I bought a second memory card (8MB per card) for the PS2 just in case, but never used it. The PS3 continues to power on. The Atari’s games are standalone cartridges, no save files whatsoever.

The PS4 has 500GB and Sony have just released an upgraded model doubling the hard drive to 1TB. However, I had heard it was possible to install a new drive yourself and sure enough Sony even provide instructions. Somewhere along the way, I came across someone who had installed a 2TB drive as they figured 1TB wasn’t big enough. Given we’ve filled a 500GB in less than 12 months, they might be right.

On Saturday, I popped down the road and bought a 2TB drive for the princely sum of $175. This thing was about the size of a credit card and as tall as a few stacked. Got home and did a full back of the current drive which alas takes several hours.

On Sunday morning,

  1. I slid the cover off the PS4
  2. undid 5 screws
  3. took out old drive
  4. put in new drive
  5. initialised and installed system from USB
  6. restored backup, which also took several hours

All went well. The instructions were easy to follow and the hardest bit of the drive swapping was finding a screwdriver small enough.

Then I installed the new Assassin’s Creed :)

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a memoir from welly

I nearly bought a bookmark today, remembering when I used to stockpile them; many bookmarks for the many books I had on the go. I saw some nice bookmarks at the market this morning.

This evening, on holidays, I was reading a book of essays I got for my birthday. Admittedly I had already skipped the first two essays, otherwise known as the forward and the introduction. I was not in the mood for reading essays about essays.

Just the essays.

I should have mentioned that this was a paper book, printed on paper. One day the need to explain such will be rare. Perhaps. I finished the first essay and realised there was no bookmark button. No buttons at all. Nor did I have any bookmarks, being away.

So I resorted to the flexible cardboard that had encircled the socks I did buy at the market this morning. And I recalled that, despite having piles of bookmarks, I never had one close to hand to insert between the pages. Scraps of cardboard or paper usually sufficed.

Some things don’t change. Not really.

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coding time

Last November, I played around with some coding stuff and wrote a few perl programs from scratch. That was a successful experience and I was able to modify the programs further to take CSV files from proxy logs, and run some simple regular expressions, to produce monthly reports on usage by a dozen or so user centres. It outputs the data to a screen and I grab the numbers and update another spreadsheet.

I read this article on Library tech pipeline issues today and it addressed a range of things, but two points in particular or rather two approaches to the one thing: how to develop useful coding skills in libraries. The usual answer has been to either do it in your spare time, or go elsewhere eg work for an IT company for a while. The article covers the various issues around the availability and utility of “spare time”. 20 years ago when I was studying computer science, I had oodles of spare time. Afterall I was a single, white male with no kids. Staying up half the night, or all weekend was fine. I learnt lots, did lots, and played lots. These days I’m still a white male but with responsibilities and “spare time” is a very different beast.

image of a tablet running a unix programming environment That coding I did in November, I managed to do at work and it was useful for providing ongoing statistics around remote usage. A question came up this week as to whether I could use the same data to provide some other stats. I went back to the code, made a couple of changes to definitions and it worked on the second attempt. As is ever the case in programming, typos are my enemy :-)

But I’m still not doing much coding and I’m a little rusty on the coding I did last November. It was at least easier to get back into it, having done it once. In that general statistics thang last year, I saw a problem and I was able to use it as a springboard to learn some code. The hard bit for me is finding stuff to make that more regular so that I can keep learning and keep practicing. Finding time is also a problem but that’s another sort of problem.

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on beer

I grew up not really liking beer much. Particularly the basic beers in Sydney. Wasn’t fond of pubs either. I even went to Belgium and had no beer. Afterall, Brugges was the mecca for good chocolate. On my last night there, I had a taste of dad’s beer and was pleasantly surprised. I’ve come a long way since then.

I tend to prefer darker, stronger beers, though I’m slowly coming around to hoppier flavours and particularly good american brown beers. Or at least tasty Australian interpretations of american brown beers. Current favourites in that respect include Perth based Nail and Sydney based Batch.

My favourite beer however is stout: a strong, black beer. The most well known example of which is probably the standard Guinness. I don’t mind Guinness but not fond of the bitter aftertaste. When travelling around Ireland far too long ago, I discovered other irish stouts that I preferred, my favourite of which was Beamish, followed by Kilkenny. Closer to home, I’ve also had a soft spot for Cooper’s Best Extra Stout and recently Batch’s “Elsie the Milk Stout“.

I’ve slowly become aware in recent times, that there’s a subset of stout called imperial stouts, or russian imperial stouts. These are even heavier stouts, with a higher alcohol content (Batch’s Russian Imperial Stout was 8.7%). I’ve been trying these out of late and unfortunately, I really like them. Unfortunate as in they’re very expensive; prices seem to start around $25 or so for a 640ml bottle.

Pouring a russian imperial stout is a little like pouring treacle. It seems to ooze slowly from the bottle to coat the innards of the glass. It takes time to drink and it’s certainly not an everyday sort of beer. But oh so yum. Full of flavour, almost a meal in and of itself.

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sciffy bits

I started #blogjune with high hopes of a daily whinge and occasional rant.  I started well enough but then got caught up writing another response about blogging relevancy in response to conversations about blogging as a thing. It was mostly finished in one hit, with good stats on the “golden age” of lib blogging, it just needed a paragraph or two more. As per my usual practice, I had to put it off because life, then procrastination, thus it became a bottleneck and nothing else got blogged. It still sits unfinished and the conversation has moved on though I think it’s still useful to point out that I was whining about my own erratic and infrequent blogging back in 2001 :-)

So sciffy stuff. Con posted an article on 10 SF books that people pretend to have read. Of the list, somewhat surprisingly, I’ve read 4. Top X lists can be interesting beasts, and Con commented that such lists can be good for finding authors you haven’t heard of. I blogged a list of top 100 SF novels in 2012 of which I’d read 32 with plans to read more. 3 years later, I think I’ve only read one or two more. Oops. Both lists have good stuff and I should read more of them. Some books are in common to both lists.

I have however been reading lots of stuff that doesn’t appear on top X lists…or perhaps I’m looking at the wrong lists. I decided to re-read all the Raymond Feist novels…which ended up being a wee bit exhausting and I eventually gave up around Book 15. I’m now re-reading the Vorkosigan Saga and on to book 4. Perhaps I should be looking at fantasy lists, though of course the real answer is the lists themselves shouldn’t matter beyond Con’s original point to find new stuff to read.

The reason I’ve been re-reading series’ stuff is that my other reading had slowed for a while and it’s nice to be able to steadily chunk through novel after novel. Lying in bed reading novels rather than playing handheld games or reading endless article feeds. Revisiting old friends and stories has been fun too and it’s nice to discover that the writing still sucks me in. Have been meaning to re-read Dune too, though I think I’ll do it as a standalone.

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lotsa toys

I dug out an old friend last night, the Psion 5mx, and can happily report that it still works. I bought this back in 1999 on my first trip overseas. I borrowed $10k from my dad which I mostly used to spend 4 months backpacking around the world. Mostly. About $1,000 of it was spent on the psion 5mx which was released shortly after I arrived in the UK. 16 years later and it’s still amazing: light, portable, around 19 hours battery life, and packing a full computer. Some even ported linux to it. It remains an impressive piece of engineering, particularly with a keyboard that, while small, was still comfortable to use. It even had a touch screen with a stylus that locked into the case. For me, this was the height of portable computing. Connectivity was either cable or infrared and I used to use the infrared connection to connect to a mobile which in turn, I used to for dial up internet. With that, admittedly clunky, setup I was able to live blog conferences many moons ago.

These days, I have all the power of a reasonable computer in my mobile phone, which is not much smaller than the psion. A little lighter but not much lighter. The psion is smaller than my 7″ nexus tablet and 6″ sony ereader, but thicker. It is dwarfed by my 11″ vaio laptop, which in turn is only 2.5 times heavier. I’ve had the vaio for two years and it still impresses me, there’s not much on the market that can really match it. Those few that can are usually heavier than the vaio’s 800g.

The vaio is my main machine these days, with the mac pro tower mostly gathering dust though I’m currently using it again to manage my photos…and play angband. The tablet is great for casual reading, newspapers, a tad small but bearable for magazines, and general browsing. I use it for reading occasionally but prefer the dedicated ereader. The ereader is super light and I can comfortably hold it in my hand for as long a I need, whereas the tablet was a touch heavy. As all my devices are so light, I tend to have most with me most of the time. My work bag has the vaio, tablet and ereader. The phone is always in my pocket. On weekends, I change over to a satchel and usually have at least the ereader, and sometimes the tablet.

Interestingly, you can still buy the psion 5mx.

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