It’s November and I have yet to put the heating on. 🐶🔥
Will I make it all the way to December? No.
On Thursday night I started playing Watch Dogs: Legion and streamed my first few hours. It’s not good so far. The writing and voice acting are pretty embarrassing and there’s little to care about in the plot, characters or main campaign. As usual I feel confused about how & why so much time, money and effort has been spent on a game without anyone bothering to make it interesting. I suppose they have my money regardless. Mystery solved.
I had the most fun in the moments when I ignored the game’s missions and made my own pointless plan. I enjoyed failing to navigate around the part of London where I live:
And it was exciting to successfully escape Buckingham Palace despite having no reason to be there in the first place:
Maybe you’re meant to enjoy games like this by knocking around in the sandbox doing whatever stupid stuff amuses you. Or perhaps the campaign opens out later and encourages more of that sort of thing. I haven’t picked it up again but may come back to it between now and whenever Cyberpunk 2077 eventually releases.
We followed last week’s Canadian horror Antrum with the Canadian horror Pyewacket. It’s pretty good for what it is: decent performances, effective sound design, satisfyingly creepy vibes.
The day of Halloween itself was dedicated to spooky culture from several of the non-Canadian countries which are also available.
We started with the United States of America’s It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown which I’d never seen before and found slightly charming but not enough to make a tradition out of it. This show belongs to Apple now and that seems to have upset some people who are more invested in this tradition than I am, which as a reminder is not at all. I assume there’s something similar to Star Wars going on here: to the stone soup of Peanuts, Americans bring their childhood memories. (This is a good metaphor because Charlie Brown got a rock.)
After that we watched Japan’s One Cut of the Dead which was inventive and surprising and funny and just really entertaining. I particularly recommend it if you can bring yourself to watch it without reading anything about the premise. I knew a little bit of what was going to happen but still had a lot of fun.
Then to the Netherlands (mostly France actually) for The Vanishing, a thriller with a bit of horror sprinkled in. It’s occasionally laboured but I enjoyed it and felt uneasy right up until the shocking conclusion.
And finally back to Japan for Ring. I’ve seen this a few times but not for many years, and I was surprised to find that it wasn’t anywhere near as frightening as I’d remembered. I can’t tell whether it’s aged badly or been outcompeted by more modern horror, or maybe the real explanation is that my brain is trapped on some kind of chthonic treadmill where eventually the only experience capable of inducing even a glimmer of fear will be my own actual death. It’s still a good scary film though.
I used systemd for the first time this week and was impressed. I wanted to run a long-lived server process as a non-root user on a Linux machine and this seemed to be the modern way to do it. It’s a testament to my age or lack of intellectual curiosity that I’ve only ever used finicky pieces of junk like god or monit to do this, mainly because they were de rigeur last time I was directly responsible for keeping an application running on a server.
The only thing I knew about systemd before this week is that there’s a vocal contingent of angry internet men who dislike it because it’s Insufficiently Unixy or whatever. As is conventional for a Swiss Army knife tool, the official documentation is unhelpful if you want to quickly find out how to do something basic, but it did turn out to be reassuringly
simpleeasy to do what I wanted once I’d found the right commands in various blog posts and tutorials.
I set up a new service by creating & editing its configuration with
systemctl --user --force --full edit myserviceand specifying which command to run:
[Service] ExecStart=ruby myservice.rb
Then I could start the service with
systemctl --user start myserviceand check it with
systemctl --user status myservice. I really like that the standard output and standard error automatically go somewhere useful; the most recent lines are shown as part of the status information but I can use
journalctl --user --unit myservice(or simply
journalctl) to see everything if I want to.
systemctl --user restart myservicekills and restarts the process and I don’t have to faff about with pidfiles.
The only hiccup was that the service stopped running when I logged out, but that was easy to fix with
loginctl enable-linger. Nice. Who needs Unix‽
Now that I’ve had a couple of weeks to use it, I’m in two minds about whether I’d recommend the UniFi Dream Machine. The wifi signal is extremely good throughout my flat so I’m glad I haven’t had to deploy any mesh network bullshit, but the device itself is clearly an outlier in a much larger and more complicated ecosystem of UniFi equipment, and that makes it unnecessarily difficult to configure and understand beyond the absolute basics.
For example: since I installed it I’ve been seeing a consistently slower internet connection on speed tests. This doesn’t bother me in itself because my life doesn’t consist of running speed tests, but there have been a few instances of genuinely slow connectivity so I decided to investigate. Today I finally worked out that this was caused by a network quality-of-service feature called Smart Queues which… does something?… involving throttling greedy clients which might otherwise hog the connection?… maybe? Anyway, when I disabled Smart Queues my connection went back to pre-UniFi speeds, which is good I suppose, but it’s frustrating that this unexplained feature was enabled by default.
The UniFi ecosystem also makes a distinction between the “controller” software and the hardware device itself, which I assume makes sense for more specialised products in the lineup but is meaningless for the all-in-one Dream Machine. Despite its irrelevance you have to deal with the difference everywhere: the web UI makes you choose whether you want to configure the controller or the device before anything else; I spent a while being frustrated that there was apparently no Smart Queues documentation in the Dream Machine quick start guide, before realising that it’s mentioned briefly in the controller guide. And if you have any questions beyond those few sentences — who is this feature for? under what circumstances should I turn it on? what are the right values for its parameters? — you’re off down a rabbit hole of forum threads and Reddit comments full of contradictory opinions.
Basically it’s an impressive product but too complicated for someone who wants to plug a box into their broadband modem and get decent wifi without having to think about it. The dream of “simple IT that just works” is appealing but the documentation and feature discoverability is not there yet. If you like arguing with people online it seems perfect.
The huge bag of flour has unexpectedly paid off, firstly because it’s producing extremely tasty loaves of sourdough, and secondly because the imminent national lockdown will presumably make it difficult to buy flour again for a while. Until recently I’d been slightly regretting buying so much flour at once but in hindsight it feels like an accidentally clever decision to have made.
I really am enjoying both making and eating the bread. I’ve settled into a low-maintenance routine of feeding my starter once on Friday night and again on Saturday morning, making a leaven on Saturday night, making the dough during the day on Sunday and baking it before work on Monday. The resulting bread is always good for sandwiches and makes amazing toast: crispy on the outside, almost crumpety-rubbery on the inside. I had to make a second loaf this week to keep pace with toast demand. Don’t worry, I’ve got enough flour.
I feel so anxious about the US election.