Getting my feet under me again.

21 March 2024

I'm still around and kicking, just taking it easy (or as easy as feasible right now). As I write this, we're well into March and I'm trying to be gentle with myself - not forcing writing if I can't string words together (which is annoying when ideas come in the shower), not really looking for anything specific to do, just letting things unfold for a while. I don't have any big projects lined up, nor am I looking for any (I do, actually, but it's going to be one of those "pick at it off and on for a while" kind of things).

Mostly I've been just doing little stuff, keeping my hands busy and trying to give my brain a rest. Not too long ago I realized that I didn't know much about how warded locks work and I hadn't quite been able to wrap my head around the principle, even after watching one built from scratch to match a specific, pre-existing key. It's also remarkably difficult to find a crappy warded lock when you really want one so I resorted to ordering a couple (affiliate link) for the express purpose of cutting them up to see how they worked. This involved using a Dremel and a bunch of grinding bits to remove one of the ends of the pins that hold the locks together 1/8" titanium drill bits to finish the job (which work well in a Dremel, I should note), and a set of metal punches and hammer to get them loose. 1 I highly recommend not buying cheap tools because you'll wear out at least one grinding bit and two drill bits per lock if you do this. I also advise caution because the springs that move the shackle will throw parts everywhere if you're not careful.

Maybe I'll post the pictures I took later. They might be of interest to someone. I've been wondering why nobody's made a transparent warded lock along the lines of other clear acrylic locks. It seems like the sort of thing you could do with acrylic or lexan sheet and a laser cutter (which, it seems like everybody but me has these days). I'm probably vastly overstating how difficult it would really be.

The structural failures that aircraft manufactured by Boeing are having on a regular basis definitely have me not wanting to go anywhere right now. Suffice it to say that I don't think I'm going to be going to any conferences this year.

I seem to be back to catching up on sleep on the weekends. Twelve hours appears to be roughly average, with about eight a night during the week. I'm not quite sure why this is so, but I suspect that it's mental exhaustion from the work week. Without going into too much detail (because I don't particularly like writing about work) fighting with Terraform is probably why, largely due to how... well, let's call them 'assets' because I don't know off the top of my head what all the stuff hosting providers offer might be called, and 'products' is not helpful in this context. Anyway, Terraform has the annoying habit of not naming things in a sensible manner (or at all most of the time), so when it comes time to clean up or replace something you can't tell what a thing might be used for, or even if it's in use without a lot of detective work and reverse engineering. For example, a set of firewall rules called ab683988-8d7e-42d4-8064-dce4f5b4c446 2 doesn't tell me anything, nor does it tell me the last time they were used (if ever). In some ways it's like trying to do brain surgery with a forklift, because everything is tiny and the only tool you have is several orders of magnitude larger. 3

One of the thing I did was figure out a replacement for my wiki because I needed a few more features. Don't get me wrong, I really like Pepperminty Wiki - there's nothing wrong with it. It's a great wiki, it's easy to use, and it's resource-light. I just needed a little something more. I spent about two weeks playing around with PmWiki and found that it seems to make what should be reasonably easy needlessly difficult. Some of the features I need that are part of Pepperminty Wiki (or even Mediawiki) require unsupported hacks and tweaking, like basic Markdown support. After a lot of poking, prodding and swearing I gave up on PmWiki and went back to searching for a replacement. After messing around in a lot of demo instances I eventually set up a test instance of Bookstack, which has a very nice user interface, runs well on A2 Hosting, and is even mobile-friendly without needing an app (just a web browser). Suffice it to say that I'm quite taken with Bookstack and that the WYSISYG editor is just as comfortable as the Markdown editor. I can even upload pictures into pages from my phone without a whole song and dance, which lets me use Bookstack as a sort of collaging medium in much the same way Warren Ellis uses his notebooks. If nothing else, it makes it easier to drop diagrams into pages without having to redraw them.

I wrote some research code in Python that will upload a directory full of Markdown files into a Bookstack wiki. It's not a polished utility, has no online help, and needs edited to configure it. I hope the comments are useful.

Which reminds me - I have a couple of directories of photographs that I keep forgetting to upload. I think I'll get on that. 4

  1. Yes, I wore protective gear. You should, too. Goggles, disposable earplugs rated for 32 dB of noise attenuation, and a respirator. 

  2. No, that isn't the real name of something at work. However, it's not that far off, either. IYKYK. 

  3. It's a metaphor, just go with it. 

  4. Once I shake the jet lag from daylight savings time, that is. Grr.