Monday, October 09, 2017

new iPhone

Got the iPhone 8 here tend days ago or something.

Key reason I did the upgrade is inductive charging. I don't have that charger yet, but that's why.

This is is glass front AND BACK. Turns out that's not as good an idea as it sounds, although the reason is to allow for the inductive charger.

The issue is that now the back is slippery. The old one was not. This is slippery in the near-perfect sense that if you set it down on a sloped surface, it slides off. Onto whatever next surface is lower down, which might not be what you want AT ALL.

And it doesn't seem to matter what that slope angle is. I have set it down on what seem like near-zero angles and it does slowly slide down/off. For nearly flat, it may take a few minutes to actually do it, but I've watched it happen.

It's not completely frictionless, of course, or the slide would be instantaneous per physical inertia.

At first I was wondering if there was some kinda of internal vibration causing this, but I can't feel anything. It just happens.

That all said…

It's a much more responsive device. But not completely error-free--I've still had some web-pages reset during loading because there's some javascript error.

I'm not convinced I like the new "home" button…well, NON-button. The I-6 had a mechanical button--it felt solid when you really clicked it. This is a touch-click, which takes getting used to, and it's a LOT faster about fingerprint-to-unlock, faster than I'm comfortable with.

The last problem I had with it is that it requires a newer ITunes than I am working with. You have to have 12.7, which comes with a newer OSX than I am running right now. I am slowly going through upgrades to get there, while I try to figure out just what all applications are going to stay back with the older machine I may have to keep alive.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Ken Burns Vietnam.

Watched I think all but a few mins here/there.

Impressive. I learned a good bit.

I'm just enough too young to have turned 18 after we were completely out, and in that weird late-70s birthdate-window of about 2 years where you didn't even have to register for the draft  at all. So I didn't.

Young enough also that it mostly all happened when I wasn't really hearing about it. Plus, I spent a number of those years in several somewhat isolated places (Air Force Academy, for example, about as isolated as you could get and still have running water; I grew up in the military, my dad was IN Vietnam for most of a year).

So while I sort-of remembered a lot of the names of locations, I don't really remember why.

The whole thing was a huge cock-up. That seems to stem from a few factors:

1) This horrific post-WW2 Communist boogeyman fear. That messed us up all by itself, with HUAC and related crap. Some of us got convinced that anywhere something called itself communist was by definition going to end up being the equivalent of an eastern-european Soviet satellite/barrier/puppet state, sporting nuclear missiles like Cuba did at one point (and that episode we brought on ourselves, thanks JFK). The "domino theory" was stupid, although if you are fear-driven it seemed reasonable. You how it played out--no dominos.

2) WW2 was the last "good" or "clean" war. The veterans of that war were the parents of the draftees for Vietnam. And we'd created and heard endless stories about that having been a just war--where we were clearly "the good guys". So that's what we thought war was about.

3) Racism. This still haunts us. One required stage in war is the dehumanization of the enemy. There was plenty of residue of that from Korea (which was also really nasty, but not in the same way). So when both North and South Vietnamese "look alike" -- which is "enemy" ? And when they're all "gooks" (leftover word from Korea, or older?), smelly unattractive heathens who need the guiding hand of the white man who can help extract their country's natural resources for them and educate them in the proper ways of civilization and religion…well, we're starting out wrong. And our own racism in-squad about other Americans. It's a wonder there weren't more friendly-fire episodes (recall how Willem Dafoe dies in Full Metal Jacket?).

4) We really didn't understand the region. We understood/feared communism, or so we thought. Ho Chi Minh called the North "communist", but really the struggle was a fight for freedom from foreign invaders--and that included us, it was not a fight to become communist, that was just an excuse to receive guns and ammo from China/USSR. The NVA/VC were willing to fight to the last man/woman/child to get rid of us, which was not something we had ever actually experienced--all our experiences had had an "enemy" that was going to surrender at some point (well, except Korea, which in retrospect, wasn't that different from Vietnam). But while NVA/VC accepted military weapons from China and USSR, they didn't intend to be puppets of either one; this same bucket of Stupid got repeated by us a number of places in Latin America, except that we weren't committing troops, just money, to corrupt regimes that would more or less say "Give us money to fight off these locals who want to become communist leadership", but were going to fight them off anyway, they just scammed us for the money.

5) The South Vietnamese government, military, etc., one big corrupt kleptocracy (I sure didn't know that). They weren't good enough themselves to win--they weren't even trying hard. And we couldn't fight their civil war for them. (well, we *could* have, but that wasn't going to work.) 

6) The local situation had been badly handled from the beginning. Which is 100 years earlier near the end of the european-powers colonial period, which was driven by religion, racism, and greed and its own supremacy battles that had raged for centuries.

7) Women and kids as combatants. That was awkward for us--completely out of our experience, but not unusual for freedom fighting.

So the NVA/VC are freedom fighters. "One mans terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." They want to reunify N/S, with themselves in charge of course, after the stupid partitioning that occurred after WW2 ended, that let the French back in. The Vietnamese was in the 50s to get rid of the French didn't teach us anything, and USA looked way too much like more Frenchies.

And the whole thing was a big nasty episode from beginning to end, full of The Stupid, for which we have paid a huge price.

One thing I thought was interesting: The Revolution was televised. Unlike Ken Burns Civil War, where he did find a bunch of still photos (classic Matthew Brady), Vietnam seemed to have a film photographer in every squad and cameras running all the time. So some of those otherwise iconic photos we all remember vividly: the NV spy getting shot in the street, the burning naked girl…those weren't just stills, they were filmed for minutes. I had no idea. I didn't watch the news (didn't really watch ANY tv, same as now).

It was clear that we weren't going to win if we fought the limited war we tried to fight with inadequate troops, on the VC/NVA terms. Recall that last episode? Where NVA brings a long column of mechanized infantry down the trail, and gets the snot knocked out of them by B-52 firepower? Yeah, that was where they battled on *our* terms, and we clobbered them--because all our military thinking was still about how to fight a tank-battle in europe, and suddenly they gave us the opportunity to do so. They had no experience with that, and we had decades of planning and experience. (And, weirdly, that was till the planning approach for an expected direct conflict with USSR--a tank battle in europe: tank battle, Fulda Gap.) (And thus the massive, quick win in Gulf War 1991--Iraq was dangerously stupid about what they could/not do versus what we could do, they massed a load of mechanized ground forces, completely didn't understand air power, and we pounded them flat in a matter of weeks, and then made the same error we made in 1945: we didn't go to Baghdad and knock over the Iraqi gov't. (In 45 we should have rolled into Moscow…imagine if we had knocked over the USSR communist gov't: no cold war, no...Vietnam)

So of course we lost. It was really inevitable. 

Also a stark recognition: the similarity to the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was stunning. We learned nothing. The battlefield changed from jungle to urban, or rocky mountainous areas--no one could hide, and the fight was similarly nasty, a large guerrilla war (not a clean fight against nazis that behaved like a normal army), and the enemy looks just like the not-enemy, but we are still the foreign invaders.

And Vietnam divided us like nothing other than the Civil War--we learned that we can't trust the government. Can't trust the President. We don't all have the same definition of Patriotism--that continues to be divisive.

Glad to see that Burns used all the music from the era. You can't really separate that time from its music. Pressure creates diamonds, and there were quite a few. I was surprised to NOT hear Barry Sadler's song Green Berets.

We handled the return of soldiers badly. There was so much other social trauma going on here, and Vietnam was not separable from it.

I hope that for a lot of folks who were there that this sparks the cathartic opportunities they need to finally talk about it, and that they can achieve some greater personal peace as a result. The conversations seem to have been taking place. My father was in Vietnam 72/73. He died in 96 of pancreatic cancer. I think he probably got infected by nasty stuff from there, likely Agent Orange in the water, other crud like that. He didn't have a combat job, was in Saigon, at Than Son Nhut, which was occasionally subject to VC mortar shelling in the general area. He'd get under his bed and then go back to sleep. I never asked, but it sounded like no real persona trauma.

And I expect that in 20-30 years Ken Burns will need to do Irag/Afghanistan. Sand instead of jungle, but not much different, altho we didn't overreact against the returning soldiers. Feels like the same errors all made all over again, new actors, same script.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Older ITunes trouble

For various reasons, primarily that of not wanting to shell out hundreds of $ every time a new OS forces paid software App updates, I tend to allow the OS world to pass me by.

In the spring this year I had hardware failure on my Windows PC. So I build a whole new machine. Reinstalled apps, games (geez, turned out I had nearly a terabyte of game files, that took a while). This was on Windows 7; I never upgraded that because 8 was an atrocity, 9 never existed. So a couple months after this new hardware build (btw: 4.5GHz hex-core Intel, 16Gig RAM finally, this time I didn't build a tiny machine), Win 7 updates itself, then says "oh, I don't understand this fancy shmancy new hardware, I can't upgrade myself properly now", and my graphics updates are broken too. That means nearly no games work, and I wonder what else is goofed I will have to upgrade to Windows 10.

I mention all that because Windows isn't nearly as good as OSX about upgrades. In general, in the past, you were better off with a clean wipe and reload from zero. That's time consuming, but probably better for Windows anyway.

OSX was not like that. Is not like that. New versions, if they are going to run on your machine, will install as clean upgrades.

But eventually OSX outgrows your hardware. This means you have to buy new hardware occasionally. So now I'm in the habit of not buying new hardware from Apple. EBay has used machines at great prices. So I've bought some older hardware.

In fact, several older hardwares.

I have a G5 machine, with older apps on it. Expensive Apps. That I can't afford to update again. So that one was also serving as music source, with a fiber cable to my fancy newer hifi that takes optical in. Works great. Runs 10.5, aka Leopard.

About a year ago, got a replacement machine with some newer App versions. That was nice. Came with 10.7 (Lion), the newest/lastest it could take.

Now the ITunes problem. Lion, at least on this machine, has either done something odd about virtual memory (actually another unix partition that you can't see) -- vm partition not big enough -- or ITunes is really flawed. ITunes uses VM partition space (I guess?) while actually playing music, and eventually exhausts it. If you pause music, it stops using space, and resumes when you un-pause. I normally just let it run continuously, and hit the mute button on the hifi remote.

So after a few days, ITunes fills virtual memory, and then it hangs, and OSX Lion says "you are out of application memory" but of course I'm not, it's just ITunes being stupid. This never happened on the G5 machine (and the corresponding software).

So I got a new used machine this month. A 3.5GHz dual-hex-core Mac Pro. Most powerful machine Apple ever made. Cloned the boot disk out of the Lion machine for safety. Installed original into dual-hex. Upgraded to Mountain Lion. Same thing just happened with ITunes--"out of application memory"

At this point the only thing that is the same is that the boot disk that had Lion on it now has Mountain Lion. Otherwise everything else is new. I don't know how to make the swap partition any larger here (at the unix level I could do it easily enough, not actually hard there, but I think that the swap-space is dynamic these days, and my knowledge is from the old static-swap days). This disk reports having 200 GB free. It's an SSD--could that be the cause? Don't know. (This is not a fully updated Mtn Lion, and it's ITunes 12.2. Later: fully updated, with version 12.4. I think 12.7 is the latest, needed for some IPhone 8 stuff.)

So what is going on?'s called a memory leak. It's a software bug. The likeliest situation I can think of is that memory is being allocated for the audio data and then not released--audio files are pretty big, and after playing for 60 continuous hours, at roughly 1 megabyte per minute, never de-allocated, ITunes has pushed 3.6 gigabytes into page space, and exhausted what it is allowed to have. OK, it shouldn't be using that much RAM anyway, but it's the de-allocation failure that is the issue. This is just about the oldest software bug there is after indexing off the end of an array in C. I suspect that what has happened here is that ITunes is not properly releasing a pointer to already-played audio data, so its hogging space, and eventually you're out. (And given how slowly new data is created/released in audio speeds, it's not like the problem about running out of file handles, which is A LOT easier to bump into if you aren't closing files that you've opened--which, I grant you, could also be a problem here, but decent code scanners will warn you about that.) I've been guilty of failing to close open files in my own code, but nothing I've written that had lengthy runtime had that problem (partly because you run out of "file handles" after a bit. (A project I called "The Fridge" was a distributed grid engine, and while it was self-recovering if there was a disaster, it really needed to be not ever having the need to. Altho there was this one error on Linux where a shelled sub-process crashed so very hard it would take down the grid engine node; never did figure out what was wrong there, and now I've forgotten what that sub-process was.)

Or, if it's the disk itself, there is something similar going in that space is not getting deallocated properly after use in the swap partition. That could be investigated by cloning this disk back onto a platter drive and using that for a while. I have some other trade-arounds I could do. OTOH, it's only ITunes that is screwing up. You could also imagine this being associated with the optical fiber digital audio out, I've never used that before in my life; at the same time, ITunes for Leopard using optical wasn't doing this.

Also: at some point here soon I'm going to upgrade this machine to Maverick. If there's an ITunes bug still there, one would hope it is gone. But maybe it isn't...

In any case, if you are doing what I am doing and are experiencing this crash on an older OSX, the simples approach is to totally quit ITunes at the end of the day (or first thing in the morning) and restart it. You'll lose your position in whatever playlist you were in, but that beats a full machine reboot...
slightly later: ITunes here seems hurt worse/differently: it reaches a state where it is still playing, but I cannot go to the GUI and do anything. I hid it, and it won't reappear, and "Force Quit" reports is as not responding. I hope it's not the case that that Lion original is messed up, I can't reinstall-from-scratch some of the apps, and I need to use them. Grrr.

Later: I created an Automator iCal alarm app in which I quit ITunes, wait 30 sec, restart ITunes, and tell it to start playing. That is set to repeat every day at 12.05 am, i.e., right after midnight. That way there's no opportunity to accumulate too much memory-leak trash.

That's gotta be better. I hope that the upgrade to Sierra eventually eliminates this bug.

Later later: the daily reset of ITunes seems to be working, but last night it crashed at some point. This is getting tiresome.

The quad-core Pro is slowly dying, so it's powered-down right now. I need to recover what I can there, but the machine is not looking good right now.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Weather worries...

In theory, I'm going to the beach saturday. Otoh, Irma might be saying no. Hard to tell where that's going, other than "no place good".

Don't want any of what Houston just got. That was insane.

And from what I'm reading these days, we may have already passed the tipping point--without knowing it--where the planet kills us off soon.

In reality, what we have is that the weather we all grew up with was "stable", or seemed so. Some winters had more snow, some didn't. Some summers were rainier, some were drier. Still, didn't seem like there was much variation.

So that's a stable point. "A" stable point. But hardly the only one. An equally "stable" point would be where there are Harvey-sized hurricanes every year. Eventually that means no one lives near the Gulf coast any more. Houston gets abandoned. Miami.

Or of course we figure out how to build better for those locations. Houses on stilts is a corny example, but not unusual in areas prone to serious ocean floods. At OBX, houses near the beach are all elevated one story.

But that doesn't fix the problem in Norfolk, where the naval base is already at 0 MSL. That's going under permanently before too long.

The elevation here at Hyde U is about 500 feet. Flooding here = end of civilization. Not too likely, but storms ARE going to get worse all over.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Common Core education

I had a conversation with an old friend ten days ago...visited for a few hours, we talked lots of stuff.

One of which was about the diff between our grade-school educations. He was in one school system the whole time, in Florida. I had eight different schools over the same 12 years.

My schools, as best I remember it, as that was 40-50 years ago, seemed an even-handed explanation of things. His made a serious effort to teach the same load of lies about the Confederacy that are still under discussion now. He said that for several years in a row, every fall the entire school would watch Gone With The Wind and teach that as the truth about history. Yeesh. I can't stand that movie*.

Later, while driving home, I realized something interesting:

All the squawk you hear against "Common Core"...the problem for the folks who oppose it is that teaching the same thing everywhere would mean they would no longer be able to teach the false narratives about all the causes of The War to Preserve Slavery--no longer able to teach the lies.

Don't know why that hadn't occurred to me before. But it's clearly the root cause of the complaint about teaching all our children the same thing.

Do they want to also teach some invented math? Who can invent a math that is properly consistent and completely new and different? No? Yeah, that wouldn't work anywhere. Want to invent some new science-y stuff? I know, let's redefine chemistry and physics, the combination of that plus a new math could probably prove that the Earth actually IS flat, IS the center of the universe, and that the Sun revolves around it.

I can't see that working, although they probably think the metric system is kinda like that. Well, ok, I do too, still have to think carefully about conversions every time.


*I love movies. I have watched A LOT of movies in my life. Thousands. But GWTW...Clark Gable played a riverboat gambler in every movie he ever made. Including the ones where he was NOT a riverboat gambler. Gag. GWTW is Part Two of the bullshit film rewrite of US history that began with Birth Of A Nation. Not actually sure if I've ever seen that all the way through; perhaps curious because as a student of film history, I do watch plenty of silent films.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Music tastes and online info

My favorite flavor of music is called "Progressive Rock."

If you know what it is already, then you know what it is. If you don't know what that name means, a short description is that it is rock music that has/is progressed beyond simple 2-or-3-chord songs.

Generally it's roots are classical music rather than pop songs. It's longer, more complex, listening rather than singing or dancing music. The focus is much more the unstrumental composing than the lyrics; lots has no lyrics at all.

And it is generally best described by a list of the performers. The category is broad and there are flavors of Prog Rock I'm not keen on (in general, newer and kinda derivative). So: ELP, Yes, early Genesis. The style originates about 1968.

My favorite online source for info is the Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock. I was casually involved with that back in the 90s, before it was even an online source. My participation was slight in the early-mid-90s, but it was there, when there was really just the thing (or whatever it was, been years). The web has improved the amount of info, but things have splintered. Things like FreeDB are good, but have zero meta-info beyond album name, track names, and track lengths--and zero cross-linking.

Anyway. GEPR. There was once a book of it. I bought that, it's a great item, but such a thing is out of date the day after it's printed.

The GEPR website has languished for about six years now. Fred Trafton was running it for years, still owns it, and hasn't had time for it, endangering the value and life of the content (granted, the Wayback Machine would still have it all if Fred didn't at least renew the domain name).

So he and I were having an email chat a few weeks ago. I argued that it needs converting into a Wiki existence, so that others can participate, and he doesn't have to worry about maintenance. I offered to do a chunk of that initial setup. In particular, to scrub the existing website and strip out all the raw info from the web-pages (regrettably, there's no database in the background, just hand-managed HTML, and aging HTML at that).

So I've been working that. Did a large data-mine off another (actually dead) website a few years ago, so I knew what I was up against in attempting it. I don't expect or intend to achieve a perfect extraction, no way that is even worth my time to attempt; because it's hand-made HTML there are a lot of little tiny variations all over, and I'm not writing special handlers for each one.

At this point I'm approaching 2/3 completion. Some of that is done via correcting HTML flaws in the source rather than writing special-case handling for singletons.

The hard thing about doing this kind of extraction is that people who make pages like this treat HTML as a structural content organizer, rather than just as visual markup. And then they aren't consistent about what they do, so the structure is casual rather than strict. This is possible because web browsers tolerate a lot of slop in the HTML. That's really not a good thing any more.

The extraction is going into a database now.  Once I can read everything I want from the HTML into the DB, then I have to make a simplistic form for getting it out again, so that I/we can test to be sure there's no content-rip disasters in there.

Then I have to figure out how to dump that database into something that is wiki pages. I really have no idea how I might do this. Maybe I don't even want to do that, exactly. Maybe I want to push the DB into a wiki DB.

My involvement here is to get to the point where there's a wiki full of as much content as I can manage without spending forever on it. I don't want to own it after that.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

EMail programs

It is possible to use your web-browser to do your email work. I am currently doing this with Chrome and GMail. Can't say I like it, but it more-or-less works. I regularly press control-R to reply, only to have the browser window refresh itself because I forgot that that was what control-R does.

I used to use Seamonkey. That's a Mozilla product, and I was using it because of the set of tools it integrates, and is the real successor to Netscape's unified product (whose name I now don't remember, sorry Jamie...Communicator?)

Anyway. Mozilla products have problems these days (see earlier blog on this topic). There's something wrong on there somewhere that causes/allows memory leaks, and those always turn into problems at runtime eventually; not a BSOD or equiv, but exhausting memory, VirtMem, disk space...

Mozilla's alternative standalone email is Thunderbird, but it's still Moz, which means that the HTML rendering engine inside is the same as Firefox and SeaMonkey. Which means it is going to have the same mem-leak issue. So I can't be using this.

(fwiw, Chrome has some memory issue, too, I don't yet know quite what, but the way it runs means that if a window has a memory problem the others are not affected--Mozilla craters in toto if any one window is the source of the leak)

So I gotta try some other tools. I've used Outlook, not really interested in that. Going to start with things listed here:

The real question is what HTML engine is in use?

On my Macs I'll be using Apple Mail. That integrates nicely with my phone, ipad, and the multiple machines I use.

I liked Seamonkey. I just can't deal with the memory leaks.

I'd take suggestions for email programs from readers...


Update: Opera Email is working pretty well for me. It's not as fancy as I'd like, there are some behavioral tweak I ought to be able to do, but can't. The alternative would be for me to write my own email program...which, now that I think of it, might be an interesting thing to do.

A new toy

I got a couple of new toys in the past week.

The first is an HP 9050DN printer. Why? Because it will print 11x17 double-sided. I am doing some documents work these days where the target is 11x17 and although I'm not do the final deliverable printing, it's darn sure good to be able to proof things at final size. Already I've caught a couple of changes that need to get made that I wasn't seeing otherwise, and I receive one of the final printed copies. This is a "on-loan" item, paid for by the group I'm doing the docs for.

The second toy is much more interesting, and a lot less common:

a laser cutter. (yes, that's two laser things in the last week)

It's a VersaLaser VL 200. 25 watt, 12x16 cutting area. Bought it from the guy who was actually cutting for me 10 years ago, for $4K.

Why? you ask. Well, because once I am well familiar with how to use it, I can make things for myself better/faster/cheaper than paying someone else to do it.

(OK, thought you were retired and therefore a cheapskate, you also say. Well, yeah, kinda true, but this has been in the works for months, or years if you go back to the larger one I almost bought from him over 2 years ago. Plus, I am getting a new big riding lawnmower tomorrow. Expensive week.)

What will I be doing with this? Model railroad stuff is the target. I'm figuring if I use it to design/build 100 things that averages $40 each, which is a pretty good deal.

Expect new blogs on this topic over the next months. And I hope some magazine articles that pay $ which will help with the cost.