Old logins

My wife and I took Scully on a very long walk this morning. We wanted to check out the nearest Aldi store for some specials, and it’s about 3 km away. And after checking it out, we walked back a longer way. By the time we got home we’d covered 7.5 km.

This afternoon I spent some time going through a big list of old login/password details that I had stored, to transcribe them to a new storage. There were some weird old things in there. I apparently had a login for the site centre.net.au, but I have no idea why. That site currently appears to be a personal loan website, but I’ve never had a personal loan, or even applied for one. I can only presume that the domain has changed from whatever it was that I can’t remember.

I also had a login for Minotel, which currently appears to be a Swiss telecommunications company. Again, this is a complete mystery to me. I thought maybe Minotel might have been a hotel chain that I booked through at some point. I bit of Googling indicates there may have been a Swiss hotel chain by that name back around 2002, but I didn’t travel to Switzerland until 2016. 🤷🏻‍♂️

And then there’s a login which is labelled “Sydney University Alumni”. I am an alumnus of the university, but checking the university website I can’t find anywhere were alumni can login to anything.

Anyway, it’s an interesting little bit of data history. I’m tossing out some of the info like the Minotel login. I just hope I don’t need it for some reason in a few years time.

New content today:

Tech panic!

I woke up this morning, got out of bed, grabbed my bowl of muesli and yoghurt, and sat down to check my emails and stuff from overnight.

When the computer screen came on, there was a system dialogue. It said the most recent backup attempt had failed. And…

… that the most recent available backup was from some date in 2018.

Now, I’m no expert in how Apple’s Time Machine backups work, but that seemed somewhat sub-optimal. I didn’t have time to do much about it, as I had to get ready and head to school to teach my weekly Ethics class. So I set it to try and do another backup while I was out, and headed off.

I taught my class, and popped into the supermarket to buy a few things we’d run out of, and came home, to find the new backup had also failed. A quick discussion with some of my more tech-savvy friends confirmed what I suspected – it was time to get a new backup drive. I ordered one online, for pickup, not delivery, so I could get it today. It was ready to pick up pretty quickly, and I caught a train a few suburbs over to get it.

While I was out, I decided to grab some lunch, and had some tonkotsu ramen at a place in the shopping centre. It was okay, but I’ve had better. I picked up my new hard drive, and then since there’s a game shop there I popped into have a quick look at the games. They had copies of the new D&D book: Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. I had a quick flip through and it looked like the sort of thing I’d like to read through fully and mine for ideas, so I bought a copy, with the limited edition alternative art cover. When 5th Edition first came out, I bought every book as it was released, but now I’m being more selective, as I don’t really have much use for some of the books they’ve been releasing lately (e.g. Candlekeep Mysteries, Eberron).

When I got home I plugged in the new drive, formatted it, set it as the new Time Machine backup drive, and started a full backup. Now, seven hours later, it’s still going, although it should finish in less than another hour. And then I can breathe easy again…

New content today:

One of those interstitial Saturdays

After the late update for yesterday, I don’t really have a lot to report on today. It was a day of mixed housework and getting a few odd jobs done.

The major unusual thing I did was to update the Irregular Webcomic! forum software version. My webhost is deprecating PHP version 7.2, and doing an enforced upgrade to 7.4. Since my phpBB install was a few versions behind, moving to 7.4 broke it, so I had to update it to the latest version. And updating phpBB isn’t a job for the faint-hearted – it’s not press a button and it all happens automatically, like WordPress. You have to download a zip file, backup your database and installation files, then modify some configuration stuff, then copy a whole bunch of files over the top of the previous version on the webhost machine, then run a database update script, then check and possibly update all your plugin extensions, and make sure everything works, and then redo any customisations that you made by editing the source code.

So it was a solid couple of hours of work. But I’m happy to report that it all went well and the forums now seem to be working fine under the new PHP version 7.4. I should keep them more up to date… Last time I neglected to update the version for several years and a change to PHP completely broke things so badly that I had to spend a whole day or more doing a complete reinstallation and migration of the database using an upgrade tool that I fortunately managed to find. That was almost a disaster, and I don’t want to go through that again.

Apart from that it was mostly housework. But my wife and I took some time to relax this evening at a Turkish restaurant up the street. They do some really nice food there.

New content today:

Improving home lighting

For a long time I’ve been searching for another Philips SceneSwitch light bulb, the sort with three different brightness and colour temperature settings that you can control simply by flicking the normal light switch. We have them in the living room, dining area, and hallway, and they’re incredibly good. I wanted another for the bedroom, but have been unable to find one in stock anywhere. It turns out they’ve stopped making them.

I finally got fed up enough to decide to get a Philips Hue bulb, for it’s brightness and colour changing properties. It’s more expensive than the SceneSwitch, but also more configurable. So today I walked up to the hardware store and bought one. I’ve put it into the living room, where we’re most likely to desire different coloured lighting, and moved a SceneSwitch to the bedroom. I’ve been playing with it using the Bluetooth app on my phone, and it’s really cool.

And now all my friends have been asking about it and my opinions on it. One mentioned he was interested in setting up some bias lighting and maybe a Hue bulb would be useful. I did a bit of searching and discovered that Philips also makes light strips as part fo the Hue range! So now my friend is seriously considering getting one of those. I also told my wife, and she was instantly keen on getting one, saying she loves coloured lights and it’d feel like Christmas all year round!

I wonder what I’ve got myself in for now…

New content today:

Just another menial Monday

I had plans for today, really I did.

First up I had to take my car in to be serviced. The service place opens at 7:30. I got there ten minutes early, and there were already ten people queued up in front of me at the door (which wasn’t open yet). However they process drop-offs very quickly and I didn’t have to wait too long once they opened up. From there I walked back home – about a 25 minute walk.

Back home, I spent the next 3 hours troubleshooting my email, which had started acting up yesterday. If you want to skip the gory details, scroll down to Long story short: near the bottom.

Playing with Thunderbird, I managed to coax it to bring up an error dialogue, reporting that the security certificate for the mail server was not valid. It looked valid, so I did what everybody does in this situation, and clicked the “Trust” button. (I can see the cybersecurity experts out there cringing. Yes, I know, I know.) Unfortunately this didn’t fix things, and Thunderbird went into another endless attempt to contact the server. I tried quitting and restarting Thunderbird several times, but it always did the same thing.

I checked my webhost’s status page, and it reported that email was working normally. I logged into the webmail interface and accessed my overnight emails that way. Then I tried checking mail on my phone… It also failed to connect to the server, and it also gave an error message saying the certificate was invalid.

I figured there must be some certificate error on my webhost’s mail server. I decided I’d contact them for support. Their support interface first tries to channel your through their KnowledgeBase, to see if you can find the answer yourself, and I found a page about certificate errors. It suggested you might need to explicitly tell your mail client to trust a new certificate, and contained this image, showing you the button to hit on your iPhone:

iPhone certificate trusting

My error looked essentially the same as that image, except there was no “Trust” button! I mentioned this to my friends in chat, and one said:

A lot of things used to have trust/ignore buttons, but some wiseacre realised that the whole system is useless if people just click “trust” every time they get an error. Then rather than coming to the correct conclusion that certificates are indeed useless, they got rid of the trust button instead.

Digging around further in the KnowledgeBase, I found a page with email server settings. It indicated that I should use the webhost’s domain for the mail IMAP and SMTP servers. My mail clients had been configured to use my own personal domain for the servers. Now I recalled that many years ago when I originally set up my email with this webhost, they said to use my own domain for the mail servers, but they changed that a couple of years ago, recommending moving to the webhost’s domain. Since my email was still working, I didn’t want to fiddle around with the server settings – on the principle of if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. But now it seemed that with the expiry of a certificate, they’ve removed support for the old server names.

So now I had to try changing the server settings in my mail clients. I tried changing the server names in Thunderbird, but after extensive fiddling and restarting and trying different port numbers and security methods I couldn’t get anything to work.

I gave up and tried changing the server settings on my phone to see if I could get that to work. No luck. Now I was getting to the point where I considered deleting the entire account information from the mail clients and setting up a new account. I know from hard experience that in Thunderbird at least editing an existing account often fails to do what you want and the best thing is to set up a brand new account from scratch. Since Thunderbird had all my email downloaded already, I didn’t really want to do that unless I had to, so I decided to start with my phone.

I deleted my mail account from my phone, and then set up a new one, using the mail server settings as recommended by my webhost’s KnowledgeBase. It asked me for the password for the mail server, which I typed in. It said the password was incorrect!

Now, I thought I knew what password I should use, but it was telling me it was wrong. If it was wrong, I had no idea what else the password could be, so I decided to log in to my webhost’s account administration system and change my mail password. I picked a new password, typed it into the password field, and the verification field. The I typed it into my phone’s mail server settings as the password… and it worked!

I now had restored access to mail from my phone. Buoyed by this success, I decided to bite the bullet and delete my account settings from Thunderbird and set up a new account with the recommended server settings. I set up the new account, confirmed with a server ping that the server and port settings were correct, typed in my new mail password, and hit go. Thunderbird told me… my password was incorrect.

I retyped the password, it must have been 5 or 6 times. No luck. It kept telling me it was wrong.

At this point I decided to give it a rest for a bit, because there was some urgent stuff I needed to do – updating Sunday’s Darths & Droids comic with notes from our commentator Keybounce, who had mailed them in a bit late. I really wanted to access the comments on my desktop, so I could copy and paste them. But now I only had access to email on my phone. I thought for a minute how I could copy and paste from my phone to my desktop, and then I realised I could use webmail on the desktop and copy from there.

I went to webmail and logged in with my new mail password…. And it told me I had the wrong password. I tried again a few times. No luck – wrong password. What the heck was going on?!?

At this point I tried setting up mail on my iPad. I deleted the old account settings and set up a new account exactly as I had on my phone. Typed in the new mail password, hit enter… and it told me my password was wrong! Wait – this was exactly the same settings as on the phone, which had worked, but here it was telling me my password was wrong??

I tried to think what possible scenarios could have resulted in the password being incorrect on Thunderbird and iPad. I thought: what if I had accidentally mistyped my intended password in both the “new password” and “verification” fields when setting a new password, so that the password actually had a typo in it. And then when setting up the new account on my phone I had mistyped it with the same typo? As unlikely as that sounded, it would explain it.

Since something was clearly up with the password, I tried resetting it again. I typed my intended password, taking extra care not to typo it. After changing it, I checked my phone, and mail said I now had the wrong password! I typed the new password again, carefully, and it worked!

I went back to Thunderbird, and had it try to connect to the mail server again… and it worked! I opened my iPad… and it already had two new mail messages waiting for me, having connected automatically now that the password matched what was on the server! So everything was working again… and I think I got into a mess by accidentally mistyping my password not once, not twice, but mistyping it the same way three separate times before I managed to type it the way I intended to.

Long story short: I spent the entire morning up to lunchtime troubleshooting my email and not getting anything else done. But in the end I succeeded. Phew.

After lunch I did a bit of photography sales related stuff, preparing files for printing, and boring stuff like paying invoices and updating my spreadsheet for tax return calculations.

Then at 2:30 I had to go pick up the car. It was badly in need of a wash, but I’d put off washing it because I know when they service the car they give it a wash as well for free. Except when they phoned to tell me it was ready, they said the car wash machine was broken, so instead they’d give me a voucher and I could bring the car back another day for a free wash! Which is useless because I don’t want to take the car over there and hang around for an hour in the middle of an industrial area with nothing to do while they wash it – it’s easy and faster just to wash it myself at home.

I took Scully up with me on the walk to the car service place, and once we had the car back we drove over to the dog park to play there for a bit with the other dogs and owners.

For dinner tonight I’d planned to make an Indian style curry, with chick peas, potato, and cauliflower, to use up a bit of coconut milk that was leftover from when I made Thai curry last week. Only I’d soaked the chick peas and chopped onions and potato and went to the fridge for the Indian curry paste… and there wasn’t any. I’d forgotten I’d used the last of it a couple of weeks ago, and hadn’t put it on the shopping list. So now the only sensible way to use up the coconut milk was to make Thai curry again!

Wow. What a day.

New content today:

What did I even do today?

It’s Sunday… I slept in a little bit, took Scully out, um… went for a long walk with my wife and Scully…

I wrote a lot of annotations for the next batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips. Played three games of Codenames Duet with my wife (we lost all three – the campaign challenges are getting harder). Made quiche for dinner.

And here we are.

Oh… my mail client (Thunderbird) has for some reason been unable to connect to my mail server all day. My ISP reports that the mail server is operational. But Thunderbird just goes into a “contacting mail server” wait mode, and never leaves it. I’m accessing mail through a web interface, but it’s annoying.

New content today:

Steeling myself

Remember back in May when I bought myself a new set of kitchen knives? Well, since then I’ve learnt a bit about sharpening and honing knives, which I previously didn’t know. Sharpening is when you grind metal off the knife blade to produce a sharp edge. But honing is a completely different thing.

When a knife is used, the sharp edge tends to bend and fold over sideways, due to pressure on things you’re cutting and on the cutting board. This doesn’t make the edge blunt exactly, but it does make it harder to cut, because the sharp edge is no longer pointing straight down as you cut with downwards force. Honing is the process of straightening the bent edge, so making it easier to cut again. Proper knife care is to hone the edge frequently—every week, or even every time you use the knife—but only sharpen it a few times a year. To hone a knife, you need a honing steel. (And I note that Wikipedia article says that “honing” is a misnomer, borrowed from some other industrial process that does remove material from an edge – yeesh, this terminology is even more pedantic than I thought two minutes ago.)

Hmmm… Further reading of the Wikipedia article tells me that perhaps I’ve wasted my money, as modern kitchen knives tend to be harder and not respond to honing steels, but rather need an abrasive “steel” that actually does grind the edge down a little. Grrr.

I wish the Internet would make up its mind and not provide conflicting/outdated/overly-pedantic-but-incorrect advice.

Anyway, in other news I booked myself a golf lesson today, for Friday morning. I’ve never had a lesson up to now, but I feel like I’m really not making any progress with hitting a driver, and need some help. So we’ll see if a golf pro can straighten out my technique in half an hour enough that I can go practise on my own and see some improvement.

In other other news, for some reason Irregular Webcomic! failed to update automatically again today, after also failing last Tuesday. I have it set up as a cron job and I know when it should run, and it failed two Tuesdays in a row. But it worked every other day of the week—at the expected time (so no daylight saving issue)—and all my other comics updated at the same time as normal. So cron seems to have done its thing correctly. I can’t imagine why cron would fail to run one specific job only on a Tuesday. And in fact I ran the script manually as soon as I realised the automatic cron job had failed, and it ran fine. So the script itself shouldn’t have failed.

Unfortunately I don’t have a way to distinguish the cases [cron failed to run the script] and [cron ran the script but the script failed]. I might have to add some logging calls to the script to see if it runs properly on Tuesday next week. This is very mysterious.

New content today:

The hat is back

I accidentally left my Akubra hat at the restaurant where I had lunch yesterday. Now you’d think this is the sort of thing you’d notice, walking around in the early afternoon – but it’s winter and I was mostly walking in shade, so I didn’t notice that I was missing my hat until I was a long way from the restaurant, after finishing the entire Flat Rock Gully walk (as described yesterday), and I was well on my way back home.

So today I had to go back to pick up my hat. I’d called yesterday as soon as I realised it was missing, and they confirmed they had it, and were holding it for me. Rather than walk back there today, I drove over quickly to get it.

I also popped into the hardware store on the way, questing for a light bulb. A very specific light bulb. Philips used to make these SceneSwitch™ bulbs. They are LED bulbs, which have some electronics in them, so that when you switch them off and on again quickly, the light level switches between three different settings: 100% more or less daylight colour temperature, 40% and slightly redder, and 10% and redder still. These bulbs are fantastic, and we have them in every room of the house… except the bedroom.

I recently decided to get one for the bedroom too, but alas they seem not to be in production any more, and so far I haven’t been able to track down any stores that still have them in stock. I should mention that there’s another type SceneSwitch™ bulb, which only has two settings, switching between bright daylight colour temperature, and bright “warm” colour temperature – I don’t want those ones, which do seem to have some stock left in places. Also, I need B22 bayonet fittings.

I checked on eBay, and there is one Australian seller with the bulbs I want, but located in Melbourne, and for some reason refusing to ship them, rather strictly accepting local in-person pick-ups only. There are some sellers located in the UK and US, but I’m not paying $40 to have an $8 light bulb shipped overseas and probably end up broken by the time it gets here.

I’m guessing Philips has discontinued these bulbs in an effort to get people to use their Hue™ light bulbs. I think they’re a great idea, but the price is very steep. I’d get them if they were cheaper. Anyway, I’ve put the word out to my friends that if they see any of the bulbs I want, to grab them.

New content today:

Winter chill

Winter hit with full force today. It was rainy early in the morning, and a cold air mass had come in overnight, so it was really cold today. I had to put a jacket on to take Scully out for some morning exercise, and I’m glad I did.

The past few days have been much the same stuff for me. I’ve been writing up a lot of story planning notes for Darths & Droids, and working on sorting through my photos database. Which I’ve been mentioning a lot, so it’s kind of boring to go into it again.

So for something new, a few days ago when I was lamenting to friends how difficult it is to get the good bits out of a pomegranate, one of them pointed me at this article about a machine that uses a computer vision system to separate pomegranate seeds from the pith. While this seems like an acceptable use of computing technology to make our lives easier, I wonder where it may lead…

In three years, Cyberdyne will become the largest supplier of pomegranate aril separating systems. All fruit processing plants are upgraded with Cyberdyne computers, becoming fully unmanned. Afterwards, they separate pomegranates with a perfect operational record. The Pomegran-Net Funding Bill is passed. The system goes online on August 4th, 2027. Human decisions are removed from fruit processing. Pomegran-Net begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 AM, Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug.

One of the processing robots is called the Term-granate-r. Played by Aril’d Schwarzenegger.

New content today:

Escape tech problems

My wife had some technical issues with her work-from-home this morning. Her work laptop simply wouldn’t boot up, and hung even when restarted in all of the various safe modes. So she ended up spending most of the morning on remoter tech support over the phone, trying various things to get to a point where should even begin working. This is very frustrating, both for her and also for me since I’m in the same house hearing it all going on.

Around 10am I went for a long walk to clear my head (alas my wife didn’t have that option). I took Scully with me. She’s feeling much better now after her illness last week.

Scully near Greenwich Baths

Here she is hanging out near Greenwich Baths, which is a good solid 3 and a bit km walk (about 2 miles) from home. That’s a really long walk for her and she was dog tired when we got home. 😄

This afternoon I made crème brûlée to use up some leftover cream I had in the fridge.

Crème brûlée

It’s actually not difficult to make. The custard turned out pretty well. The recipe says to refrigerate overnight before adding the sugar and flaming it to melt it, but I was impatient and decided to blowtorch some brown sugar on top tonight.

Crème brûlée torching

Unfortunately the sugar was a bit lumpy… and caught on fire. After extinguishing the sugar and letting it solidify, it actually turned out fine. The whole thing was delicious, although the sugar didn’t make a nice even crust on top. I think tomorrow I’ll try white sugar, and make sure the layer is even before torching it.

New content today: