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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onion identities

I’m a few days behind and feeling sleepy so I’ll let a meme do the talking for me.

Layer One – Outside

  1. What’s your preferred name? snail (with a lowercase “s”), though fine that some people prefer to call me Sean
  2. Do you wear glasses? Yes. Since first class. I have a stigmatism in one eye and the glasses are to keep my eyes balanced. I’m long-sighted in one eye and sort of short-sighted in the other. I can get by without my glasses altogether.
  3. How would you describe your fashion style? somewhat casual. I mostly wear jeans and sneakers. I prefer tshirts though am picky. For work I have a nice selection of shirts I wear with an open collar. I like variety and colour.

Layer Two – Inside

  1. What do you fear? Dying in a slow and horrible way eg drowning or burning.
  2. What is your guilty pleasure? dodgy scifi movies and soppy romance flicks. I also have a weakness for bland, poppy top 40 music.

Layer Three – Thoughts

  1. What was your first thought when you woke up today? Where’s the snooze button on the alarm. Stayed up too late reading last night, and thought a little sleep in was in order.
  2. What you think about most? Deep and meaningful…oh look, shiny thing :-) I think I think about just everything except what I need to think about.

Layer Four – Better?

  1. To be loved or respected? I’ll take both thanks.
  2. Dogs or cats? Neither. Like both, had cats at home for most of the first half of my life but I’m not good at looking after animals so I don’t have any.

Layer Five – Belief

  1. Believe in yourself? Some of the time. I also have occasional anxiety about my ability to get things done and no doubt have the occasional bout of imposter syndrome. Yet I know I can get stuff done and can do good stuff.
  2. Believe in love? Yeah, even when it hurts.

Layer Six – Talents

  1. Do you play a musical instrument? Nope. Also, I suck at singing. I have been accused of being tone deaf. There may be some truth to that accusation.
  2. Do you enjoy cooking? Not particularly and it needs to work according to instructions. I can fudge some but find it hard to tell when meat is cooked for example. With that said, I make excellent, restaurant quality mash.
  3. Are you any good at gardening? I’ve heard of gardens but generally refuse to acknowledge that it is a thing connected with me.

Layer Seven – Favourites

  1. Favourite animal? Duck, particularly in a slow cooked confit…when the meat is so tender that it can be spooned off the bone. Goes well with a good pinot noir. Very fond of lamb too and kangaroo is probably my third favourite – rich and tender, cooked right it melts on the tongue.
  2. Favourite movie? So many possibilities including Love Actually, The Great Escape, Blade Runner, The Sound of Music, Four Weddings and a Funeral and there’s likely a bunch of others.
  3. Favourite book? Horrible question, even worse than movies. I refuse to answer.

Layer Eight – Age

  1. How old are you? 46 – rapidly approaching 50. Fun times behind, fun times ahead.
  2. Does age matter? Meh. Irrelevant. Though I think it’s easier to say “irrelevant” now rather than 20 years ago. It may matter again in another 20 years.
Posted in flotsam, june | Leave a comment

back to the photos

One of the tasks that I have been putting off for a long, long, long time is sorting out all my photos. I did some of the job a few years ago and winnowed out the duplicates and reducing my photo archive from around 25 odd gig to about 6 gig if I recall. I also need to add a lot more photos to my public space on flickr, which apart from the occasional upload from the phone has been almost nonexistent. I have a few local holidays to add and I’m sure there’s at least one European trip I haven’t documented via flickr.

My photo archive is stored on my ageing mac pro, managed with iphoto, and backed up to the NAS. As the development of both has halted I had been wondering whether to upgrade to better options or fudge on. The mac itself still runs beautifully and is quick enough for my needs. I wouldn’t mind some better software and had initially considered Aperture (now discontinued) but think if I go down that path I’ll probably get Adobe’s Lightroom. However Lightroom is mostly sold as a sub these days ($10/month) and not so much as a standalone package. I’m undecided on this though am curious around the potential of running it on my various machines and devices. Running on stationary computer and mobile gadgets is only available via the subscription path.

snail at Keith Tulloch Wines For now at least, iPhoto continues to suffice. I’ve just finished loading all remaining photos from the multitude of SD cards I have accumulated, including this photo from my Hunter trip last year. Unfortunately the mac is not recognising my samsung galaxy s5 phone though it used to recognise the s2. I suspect I’ll need to transfer the files to my windows lappy, from there on to a USB and then on to the mac and into iPhoto. Now that I think about it, I have to do that anyway as my phone archive is stored on the laptop. I could also do the transfer from the lappy straight to the mac via the NAS but suspect sneakernet will be faster and more efficient. I will never escape format wars.

Posted in june, photography, tech | Leave a comment

filmfest done

A week and a half later, filmfest is over. I failed to be healthy but didn’t get too sick, though had nasty sneezing/sniffles/watery eyes for much of last week. 15 films that were mostly good; the Greenaway was disappointing, the Maddin was good but could have been a little tighter. “Foodies” was ok though didn’t really explore food blogging “culture” to any great depth. “People, Places, Things” was rather enjoyable and better than expected.

I loved Palio, and Sherpa. Mother was fabulous (this version was remastered in black&white though the original had been in colour) and I enjoyed Love & Mercy and Mr Holmes. Seymour and The Red Light Bandit were good.

I managed to chat to most of the folk I used to sit with, and chatted to some random strangers here and there. I am having to adjust, alas, to the glow of mobile phones as people regularly used then to check the time during movies, and in a few cases message people.

Though I saw less films than I used to with my subscription I enjoyed having to read the programme and choosing what I saw. I enjoyed the negotiation of making selections and working out what could fit and what couldn’t. I felt more engaged with the festival and saw films in several venues. Dashing between the Event cinema in George St and Dendy Quays was a little challenging particularly as it also involved navigating the crowds in town for Vivid. Still fun.

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