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Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

October 31
I hooked up a little free ("free", meaning I'm the product) monitor to poke at the public-facing side of my internet connection and record latency and outages and the like, and one interesting thing is that packet loss increases, in some cases to 100%, when we're watching episodes of Elementary on Prime Video. However, last night's entertainment, coming to us from iTunes Apple Movies Apple TV did push the latency noticably higher, but didn't result in packet loss. Make of that what you will.

October 30
Finally caved and ordered myself an empty Synology 420+ chassis to replace the aging Drobo: I'm sure I've an entertaining month of data shuffling ahead of me but at the end of it I'll not be depending on an increasingly haggard Mac Mini and its creaking USB3 connection.

Rewatched American Hustle. I'd actually forgotten most of the details and had invented a shooting that didn't occur. It's a great movie, though, even without the gunplay I was expecting...

October 23
The humour in Riddle of the Sands was largely subtle and understated, unlike that in The Lady Vanishes. Having seen Hitchcock's version, I imagine I was a little spoiled for this, but it's the same sort of overblown "humour" that made me turn off The Producers about five minutes in - basically, people very quickly getting hysterical and literally babbling over each other's speech. This is, as I understand it, stock-in-trade for "screwball comedy" of this era. It's painful. Angela Lansbury's hinting-into-cockney accent was about the most subtle thing in the entire movie. And in case you missed the fact that Cybill Shepherd was somewhat underdressed (for the entire movie), they even gave Elliot Gould a line to point it out.

October 22
I read the source material for The Riddle of the Sands years ago, but for the life of me the only thing I could remember about it was the location - crucially, I couldn't recall if the hero(es) had found an actual plot, or were chasing a phantom. The movie turns out to be pretty decent all by itself and, according to what I'm reading, is a fairly faithful adaptation. There's a good deal of comedy in it, surprisingly, at least until it gets down to the proper business of intrigue and spycraft. A good yarn, and a well-made film.

October 16
Went to this thing called a "cinema" where a whole bunch of people can watch the same movie together. Cool idea except for the dork two rows back who apparently needed to explain to their companion either some details that just happened or some details from the previous movies. Not sure it'll catch on.

So, the much-delayed No Time To Die. Mostly, I enjoyed this. I found there were parts that dragged, and parts that were eye-roll inducing (M moralising about his pet weapon and the state of the modern world in general was particularly creaky; Safin's bad-guy philosophy was, well, the sort of thing you'd expect for bad-guy philosophy, so it escapes the eye-rolling to some extent.) Palermo's brief appearance hardly seemed to justify Ana de Armas' presence on the poster down at the end of the road here, but it was a lot of fun. And there was a good deal of fun in the movie, and not all of it the sly wink of previous Bonds - some of it was more in the vein of Indiana Jones, the sort of "now what?" expression of surprise / dismay when Bond runs into an unexpected obstacle to whatever his current goal is, although there was that stock "Action Hero Quip" towards the end that really felt laboured. And speaking of action, there was plenty of that as you'd expect, and some of it damned impressive. Land Rovers seem to roll over awfully easy, though - you could make a pretty good parody safety advert with cuts from the various scenes where they show up. Most of the surprises were already trailed in the run-up to the movie, but there were still one or two that I didn't quite anticipate until they were almost - or already - on-screen. And there was a run-through of previous characters that gave a "we're putting the band back together" vibe - the classic silver Aston Martin with the toys, the throwback to Casino Royale in the opening sequence, Felix, Jamaican accents, Blofeld, a cat, Q, M, Moneypenny, a disfigured bad guy, even a portrait gallery of previous Ms hanging in the background of one piece. Given where it all went to it'll be interesting to see what they do for Bond 26.

Oh, and there was one really jarring goof: Bond uses his fancy electronics-disabling watch to lethal effect, then immediately talks to Q over his electronic earpiece. I'm not normally one for being picky about movie consistency, but this one was jarring enough to be obvious in the moment it happened. They could've put in a single line of goofy technobabble to explain it away, but I guess chose not to? In any case. There were a few other things in retrospect that didn't quite work out when I thought about them, and a few things that maybe were a bit off when I was watching them that sort of worked out ok once I thought about them, but nothing quite as jarring as the watch gag.

Anyway. You'll probably want to see this.

October 13
(a) there was no other shoe; (b) somehow 46% of the people who reviewed this book on Amazon gave it five stars. I gave it a begrudging three on the basis that I have read far, far worse books, but wow, this was a bit of a stinker.

(I checked a few of the 5-star reviews. Several of them seem to complain about the same things I didn't like, but they still give it five stars. There's no accounting for people.)

Oh and of course as soon as I observe that the VM connection is stable the damned thing goes and bounces twice around 2am. Maybe they moved their unannounced but scheduled maintenance to a more customer-friendly hour.

October 12
Updates here have gotten sporadic, haven't they?

Chewing my way through Neal Stephenson's Fall or, Dodge in Hell which, ehhhhh. I can't decide if it's an author allowed loose without an editor or people to advise him, or a joke that ran away with itself, or what, exactly. It's basically "people get uploaded to the cloud where they recreate mainly Christian mythos" (which view probably mainly reflects the fact that I haven't expended much effort on seeing how much of that Christian mythos is based on prior art, so to speak). I am, as they say, waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I am beginning to fear there isn't actually another shoe.

We're into season 2 of Elementary, so that's good; we're contemplating going to an actual cinema to see Bond, and continuing to pick up episodes of Midsomer Murders along the way. Oh, and season 8 of Endeavour showed up. Three episodes really aren't enough to call a season, but I guess we take what we can get.

The Virgin broadband connection seems to have stabilised somewhat but whether this is due to less people working from home, lower temperatures, or some other random factor I have no idea. I did find some temperature readouts on the gateway box, as previously mentioned, but they don't appear to correlate usefully with either a known temperature scale or the random reboots.

I did have one interesting WTF moment recently where I plugged the laptop ethernet cable into an otherwise unused powerline connector, at which point the entire network promptly lost its mind. The only thing I can think of is a broadcast storm of some sort, possibly caused by the fact that we have a non-mesh wireless network and the aforementioned powerline connectors and maybe something created the logical equivalent, in this topology, of a spanning-tree loop. I don't know, and given that it happened during working hours the expedient fix was "turn things off and on again until it works" rather than diagnosing the problem. Might be getting on for time to pack in the franken-networking and replace it with something like a bag of mesh WiFi devices.

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It's Q4 and I'm not carrying a pager!