work-arounds weren't working well enough
Friday, December 5 2014
For lunch today, Gretchen prepared a makeshift Ethiopian lentil-based wat so we could try out using our new microwave oven to reheat injera. The new oven has a rotating platform measuring sixteen inches across, which is more than enough to accommodate a full sheet of injera (which typically measures 15 inches across). The oven worked great at this task, which is probably not an especially common one for Kenmore Elite microwaves.
After Gretchen was done with her mentoring session with that teenage girl who comes over most Friday afternoons, it was time for us to go to Woodstock to meet up with friends and partake of the village's monthly art opening day, which (as with Charlottesville, Virginia — at least back when I was there) falls on the first Friday of the month. It was about 5:30pm and a freezing drizzle was falling as we set out, though it didn't seem like much of threat, so we took the Prius. Our first destination was gallery called Lotus on Rock City Road. The sidewalk leading past it had been lined with globes of ice that had evidently started out as water balloons. Beside each of these was a candle that made it glow. We were only in Lotus briefly, enough time to note the presence of a woman dressed anachronistically in a fur coat and meet up with Susan (of Susan and David). From there, we walked immediately to the bookstore where Gretchen works. There was a signing for a cookbook written by someone Gretchen knows, and Gretchen wanted to hang out for awhile to support that. So Susan and I thumbed through books that caught our eye, behaving more as if we were in a museum than a bookstore. There were quite a few others there, some of whom were motivated to make purchases. Eventually David showed up, and then, in stages, we crossed the street to see a massive exhibit of flat art and low-relief sculptures limited to dimensions of five by seven inches. It was some sort of benefit, although additional money was being raised by charging $10 at the door. After bumming $5 off of Susan (I only had $5), I was disappointed to find that they were no longer serving alcoholic beverages. Some of the paintings were remarkable, mostly for the level of detail that had been achieved. Some, of course, were absolutely hideous.
Eventually we met up with Carrie and then had dinner at the Garden Café, which Gretchen swore was much better now than it had been only several weeks ago. I was in the mood for soup, and the southwestern bean soup sounded great. I was less impressed with the tofu sandwich I had, which was much blander than it needed to be. Dinner conversation, of course, was a series of stories and punchlines, all of which kept being punctuated by Carrie catching herself making verbal gaffes that she seemed to think were either senior moments or the fruits of lack of sleep. Three of also thought we heard her say "analingus" at one point when she actually said "Annie was like..." I forget what all we talked about, but subjects included the marshmellow experiment, Serial (the podcast), and our favorite episode of This American Life (mine is definitely "Mistakes Were Made," specifically the segment about cyronics gone bad, which I have actually listened to on repeat).
There was a little slush on Dug Hill Road for the drive home, but I took it slow and didn't feel the car slip even once.
Back at the house, I got sucked into the black pit of Archlinux hell when I decided to make the plunge of serving the contents of my NAS hard drive from a rooted Pogoplug 4 instead of the Buffalo router. (The problem with the router is that it does not set date modified on new files copied to it.) I'd rooted that Pogoplug back in August, so I thought it was ready to go. But after I put the big 3 TB NAS hard drive on it and tried to boot it up, I lost all contact with it and couldn't reach it by SSH. Not knowing what else to do, I found some instruction online, soldered a four pin header to the pads leading to a serial port. Those pads must have been made of an unusual solder, because it was very difficult to get the wires to stick, and once I did, I covered them over with a glob of protective epoxy.
As I did these things, I was listening to the episode of the podcast called Strangers wherein a lesbian who got pregnant with her first two shots of sperm bank semen decided to hunt down a fertile-looking woman so she could inseminate her with the eight shots she still had remaining. Gretchen heard something a little too reproductively-friendly wafting from my laboratory and poked her head in to mock it as I was trying to do some very tricky soldering on tiny pads that would not melt. I was startled and uttered a primitive primate alarm call.
Once I had the serial cable in place with the epoxy all hardened around it, I used a USB-to-TTL-level serial adapter to attach it to my computer. At that point, I could boot it up and see what was happening. Initially, I was having trouble getting the boot to go very far, but this turned out to a consequence of my attaching the VCC wire of the serial adapter to the VCC wire of the Pogoplug. The former delivered 5 volts (something I didn't know), while the latter delivered 3.3. This really should have destroyed the Pogoplug, but the only consequence was that it couldn't mount the USB thumb drive containing its Archlinux OS while that five volts was present on the main power rail. Once I'd detached the 5 volts, I saw what the problem had been: the Pogoplug kept dying in emergency mode. A Google search led me to suspect that the problem was in fstab, the text file that tells the OS what drives to mount during boot. Evidently if anything is wrong in fstab, your boot dies in emergency mode and there is no ssh. Fortunately, fixing fstab was a simple matter of installing a Linux file system driver called Ext2 Volume Manager on Woodchuck, attaching the boot thumbdrive to Woodchuck, commenting out the offending line, returning the root thumbdrive back to the Pogoplug and rebooting.
These things kept me up past 2:00am in the morning. I've been staying up late every night for the past several days, often after discovering something interesting related to my tinkering. The other night, for example, I stayed up late perfecting a script called touch.vbs that not only touches a specified file (by calling the existing program FileTouch.exe), but also touches the directory that file is in. (All of this was an attempted work-around of the Buffalo router's failure to set modified dates, though as you can surmise, those work-arounds weren't working well enough.)
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