Sunday, March 24, 2013

Killing Machines ...

Easter is i-cumen, and here in Ole Yurrup we is eagerly a-getting ready, burying small rabbits and the occasional chicken around at strategic spots in the paddock. So that when the day dawns, sullen and rainy as is traditional in these parts, and the air is full of the happy laughter of children at play, we can smile knowingly as the screams start, when they unearth the first zombie Easter rabbit from its final resting-place and its yellowing fangs sink into their necks. Then the flowers tremble as the earth splits ...

Olympic farting, for the athletically inclined
Damn sight better for them than chocolate anyway, if you ask me. Also, teaches them a healthy - albeit usually brief - respect for our furred and feathered woodland friends, which may come in handy for the survivors, later in life.

So, first day of Spring and what happens? It bloody goes and slushes, that's what happens. No wonder the daffodils are still lurking under the leaf-mould, too damned frightened to show their faces if you ask me.

Also, I would like to take this opportunity to point out, if I may, that Chambéry is slightly less lively of an evening than a shuffleboard game at the funeral parlour. Margo had the car that day as she had to head off at some point in the afternoon to go and do stocktaking so I was on public transport, and through no fault of my own I wound up working late and of course missed the train.

Never mind, I thought, just quickly check the horaires and see what's up ... no problem, a bus to Modane at 22:16 which pulls into St Pierre half an hour later ... so I turn up at the gare routière somewhat before the appointed time and commenced to linger.

The time drew closer, and still no sign of a bus, so throwing caution to the winds I penetrated the dismal halls and rather to my surprise found a bright-eyed and cheery young woman behind a guichet, so popped her the question - is there, or is there not, a bus to Modane tonight? So she tapped busily at her keyboard, rising to a crescendo of tippity-taps at the end, before telling me - very cheerfully, which made it seem so much better - that I had neglected to read the fine print in which it is clearly stated that yes, there is indeed such a bus but it is apparently related to the Flying Dutchman or something because it runs only on even-numbered Fridays in months with a "B" in them, when it seems there's more demand.

I suppose that will serve as a lesson to me. Sadly, probably not for long, for I am one of those in whom hope always triumphs over experience, and somewhere in the innermost dank recesses of my being I really want to believe in public transport.

Then, just to piss me off, Margo had a salon south of Grenoble this weekend so on Saturday - not of itself a bad thing - so as I fled the house at some ghastly hour I grabbed the coat of many colours from its hanger and quickly shuffled the contents of various coat pockets, hung the camera around my neck and headed down to the gare.

Mobster's last bike ride
So far so good, and the SNCF did its usual job (it not being a Thursday night) and got me to Chambéry, and I trolled around the market carelessly tossing more and more produce into the bag which got heavier and heavier ...

Now the battery life on the Olympus is really not too bad - a full charge does more than 500 photos, which for me is about six months of snapping - and ever since I realised that I'd done something stupid when I failed to order, when I bought it, the little optional battery pack into which you can slide a couple of AA cells should ever you discover, out in the wilderness, that the battery is dead, I'm quite paranoid about taking the charger with me whenever we go away. Which totally did not help when I unslung the thing yesterday, turned it on, and saw the dreaded Red Flashy Icon of Battery Death. Bummer.

Then, as those 20 kg of assorted greenery and fruit weighed on my arms, I discovered that I'd left the weekly bus pass in my other jacket pocket ... OK, it's not really that far to the station, but it certainly feels like a good ten kilometer hike when a healthy pineapple is jumping up and down humping the mandarins, cheered on by assorted leeks and an aubergine or two.

Whatever, just to cap things off nicely, I thought I'd better fire up the laptop and get a few things done - now on Wednesday as I was chatting with a client I could not help but notice that the Dell suddenly did a BSOD and gracefully rebooted all off its own bat, until it told me that there were no available boot devices and what did I wish to do about this. Basically, you panic, but turning it off and then on again fixed the immediate problem and I thought no more of it, putting it down to one of those little Windows idiosyncrasies that seem so often to crop up after Patch Tuesday.

Maybe I should have paid more attention, because it now refused completely to boot. No message, no nothing, just a blank screen with a cursor blinking sullenly up in the top left. It's the sort of moment when you wonder if you've included absolutely everything in your backups, and start feeling a bit sick ... luckily, I still have a couple of bootable USB sticks with Fedora on them, so I stuck one of them in and rebooted.

I must have been a Good Person at some point in my life because up came the boot menu and for some strange reason I thought I'd try the "Boot from local disk" option, and up came the familiar flying window with the reassuring message that Windows was restoring my session and lo! there I was.

All this probably goes some way to explaining why, even as I write, there are sparks coming from the Ethernet connectors down here in the catacombs as I try to push 50 GB of photos down the wires and onto the trusty old W2K desktop machine (for I have discovered, the hard way, that the shelf life of a DVD can be as little as five years - give me spinning rust any day) and various external hard drives are whirring happily.

And why Windows has its reassuring file copy dialog up, telling me that the further it gets, the longer it's going to take, and at this time I can reasonably expect another seven hours or so to go by before its managed to get the projects workspace onto the drive. Mind you, that's down from the 23 hours it announced at the start, so I guess I'm coming out ahead if you care to look at it that way.

Truth to tell, I've never been able to fathom just how the system estimates how long it'll take. I do remember, back in the days of Windows 3.1, looking into the matter and discovering that there was actually no smart algorithm involved: the progress bar just shifted right at a speed inversely proportional to the time actually taken so far. Which was, I suppose, a not-unreasonable heuristic given the hardware of the time and had the happy side-effect, should ever the copy actually finish (not, back in the day, a given), of impressing the user with the speed at which things finished.

Of course, that was wayback-then, and I'm sure things have improved. A bit, anyway.

And once that's done I can start copying over a decade's worth of email (maybe I should clean that up a bit, I'm sure I don't need all of it although I must admit that it does make a handy, if accidental, archival system for old files that I've exchanged) and then there are a couple of Linux virtual machine images and the manual backups of the workspace folder from the actual real Linux machine (for I have not yet taken the time to get rsync working with the Synology backup server, mea culpa) ...

With any luck all that will have finished some time before midnight, and then I can try turning the Dell off and back on, just to see if I can get by without carting the USB key around until I find the time to order a new machine and go through the delights of reinstalling all the ancient software that, for some reason, I still use. Mainly because it actually does something useful, without being cheerful about it.

Just saying, but wishing me luck would be a Nice Thing to do. Whatever.

And just whilst I think of it, have to love this. And, slightly scary, the people who are planning on buying this place are willing to pay 200K for it (considering we bought Russell St back in the day for about 50000 NZD, I suppose we've moved up in the world), of which they're sticking in 15K equity. I mean, 7%? I find this rather frightening.

1 comment:

  1. I'd left the weekly bus pass in my other jacket pocket

    That's pensioner talk right there. You'll be voting for Winston Peters soon.