Still on lockdown.

Apr 05 2020

All of March and most of February were spent in lockdown in the Bay Area.  I've no idea what's still open or not because the last time I was able to go anywhere outside of the house was two weeks ago.  The walk I'd planned for last weekend was cancelled on account of rain, and all things considered I'd rather not risk lowering my immune system a couple of points with cold and damp if I can help it.  Plans for the next 12 to 18 months have been unilaterally cancelled.  I've already sold my Thotcon 0x0b badge even though the conference has been rescheduled, and I've unfortunately had to cancel on HOPE as well.  The reason is this: Even though both conferences are supposed to happen after the covid-19 lockdown is (theoretically) over, there probably won't be a usable vaccine inside of 12 to 18 months. (one) (two) (three)  As the being in the house in the fewest risk categories this means that there is a good chance that I might contract asymptomatic covid-19, bring it home and give it to everybody else.  That's no good (as if that need be said).

There's really no point in watching the news for additional coronavirus news.  The pandemic is here and finding out the latest bad thing isn't going to do anybody any good.  Additionally, there's enough bad information being deliberately spread (one) (two) (three) (four) (oh, fuck it) that it takes way more processing power than a lot of us have to sort it out.  Just knowing that misinformation is being deliberately spread is disheartening.  I strongly advise that everybody take Samuel L. Jackson's advice.

I've been way too stressed out and fighting depression to do much in the way of hacking.  No code's been written because I can't concentrate well enough to work on anything.  I've tweaked a couple of Leandra's maintenance scripts to optimize them a bit.  I set up a mirror of the NY Times' covid-19 dataset, though I update my copy only once every few days because I haven't automated the update process.  Let me tell you, setting up Gitweb is a royal pain in the ass because you just have to screw around with the config file (which is, in fact, a copy of the gitweb cgi-bin script itself with some of the executable stuff cut out) until it starts working, and then make an offline backup of the config file because you don't want to have to fight with it again.  As for whether or not that's actually good data... I don't know.  It's good enough for my purposes, which are basically keeping tabs on how fucked we might be.

I gave up on using rrdtool and collectd to monitor MySQL.  I don't have the compute cycles to deal with that kind of bullshit right now.  Mytop is working just fine and tells me what I want to know.

Due to how fast everybody and their backup are grinding through Folding@home work units for covid-19 research, the crew at hackers.town has set up a Rosetta@home team to support covid-19 research taking place on that massively distributed scientific computing project.  If you would like to join us feel free to do so, our team ID code is 18992.  Set up a BOINC node or two (or three, or four) and join the Rosetta@home project using these instructions.  BOINC seems to run nicely alongside the Folding@home software on the same machine, though you might need to tweak it a bit.  In case you're interested here's what I have in the /etc/boinc-client/global_prefs_override.xml file on most of my servers (overview here):

<global_preferences>
<ram_max_used_busy_pct>30.000000</ram_max_used_busy_pct>
<ram_max_used_idle_pct>40.000000</ram_max_used_idle_pct>
<cpu_usage_limit>75</cpu_usage_limit>
</global_preferences>

Mostly I've been trying to keep my hands and mind busy while I'm stuck at home by working on as many little-ish projects as I can think of.  I built a lego model of the TARDIS that I was given as a Yule gift a year or two ago. (one) (two) (three) (four)  It now has a place of honor in my trophy case.  I installed a new graphics card in Leandra, an Asus GeForce GTX 1660 Super because it's CUDA enabled, supported on Linux, and both BOINC and Folding@home can use it to accelerate processing considerably.

For sentimental reasons I still have all of my Construx building sets from when I was a kid; on Saturday afternoon I built another drive cage for Leandra, which I hope will be easier to use than the welded steel one her chassis has now which requires taking every expansion card out to get at the drives.  I still have a bunch of four terabyte drives left over from her last rebuild that I can add to her drive array, though I think I'll need another SATA card because her mainboard has one open jack left.  I need to figure out what size of cooling fans I'll need to attach to the front of the drive rack, though.

In other news, I've decided to repair and refurbish my old Commodore 64 and 1541 disk drive.  I've had them in my collection for years (they're nearly as old as I am) but I haven't been able to power them up in recent memory.  The most important thing to note is that old capacitors tend to fail after a couple of decades; most of the time they're quiet and unobtrusive but a few moments after you power up they tend to fail catastrophically.  This is a well documented phenomenon, however, so I picked up a couple of replacement capacitor kits (recap kits) from console5.com, one for my C64 and one for my particular (early) model of 1541 drive that'll get here eventually.  I also got lucky and found a source for a couple of liters of laboratory grade isopropyl alcohol so I can give the circuit boards a good scrubbing.  And believe me, they need it, even after taking some compressed air to them last week.  I haven't decided if I'm going to retrobrite the cases or not, mostly because a lot of the chemicals required to do it are kind of hard to get right now due to quarantine and lockdown.  I think I'll just take some of the extra isopropyl alcohol and a sponge to the cases once the circuit boards are fixed up.

If, for some reason you're curious about retrocomputing, I cannot recommend the Youtube channels of The 8-Bit Guy and Perfractic's Retro Recipes highly enough.  I've learned a lot from watching them over the years.

As for what I'll do after that - I haven't decided yet.  I'll think of something.

Stay safe, everyone.  Be good to each other.