Wednesday, December 18, 2013

May Contain Nerds ...

So despite mùy moaning (sorry about that, Margo's learning Spanish) today turned out like it is supposed to in the tourist brochures - clear blue sky, sun swinging lazily golden through it, and no wind. These little details are important.

Whatever, made it a pleasure to take Shaun out for a trot at an ungodly hour of a Sunday morning, with the sun low in the sky and my boots crunching on the frost where the shadows still lay, the only noise the odd "Boom!" as a hunter, heavily fuelled by red wine, took a potshot at another hunter, doubtless mistaking him for a goat. Despite the camouflage jacket, which goats normally eschew, on the grounds that it would be unsporting. Also, inedible, which is very important to goats.

Anyway, I had occasion to head back up to Chambéry, and hopped on the Narbonne-Lyon TGV mid-afternoon. Left with plenty of time on hand, and as usual wound up hopping on board with only a few minutes to spare: don't know what it is with Narbonne, but once you get towards the centre of town it's always jammed. Note to self: next time, try taking the ring road up north and then coming back down to the gare by the back passage. Would have to be quicker.

The trip was enlivened by the presence of a group of burly Poles on their way somewhere from Barcelona, conversing jovially in their curiously vowel-less language. When we got off at Lyon I saw that the conversation had been animated, at least in part, by a now empty pack of 36 bottles of 8° beer ...

The next day was a "journée nationale de solidarité et d'action sociale", better known perhaps to you as a day of rolling strikes and go-slows, but in Ole Yurrup we do not care to use such language as it could offend. I'd feared the worst because these things usually start off with limbering-up exercises the previous day, but luckily I was spared any dérangement and the TER decanted me at Chambéry just in time to miss the last regular bus out to La Ravoire (par for the course), so I grabbed a kebab and a glass of red and tried to stay warm until the first night bus turned up, an hour or so later.

I don't know why it was, but when I dropped the hire car off on Saturday I ambled off to the gare and picked up the return tickets I'd ordered that very morning. Normally I just pick them up as I leave, it only takes a minute or so ... but whether it was prescience or just plain good luck, it turned out to have been a Good Thing.

Another one for the collection
For from La Ravoire to Elephants on a Sunday morning there is but one bus, which leaves at 11:06 and arrives at 11:24 - which leaves plenty of margin to catch the train that heads out at 11:39. Under normal circumstances anyway, for as I waited at the bus stop in the bright chilly air it became apparent that the buggers had changed the timetables for Christmas and had totally neglected to inform their bloody web site, and that the bus had absolutely no intention of turning up just at that moment.

I really hate cutting things fine, but Stacey got me to the station with all of a minute to spare, and most of that was eaten up by dashing up and down stairs ... made it onto my train, anyway. Flustered, and sweating profusely (I really should train more for just this sort of thing).

As usual, having booked the tickets I'd not bothered to actually look at them, apart from the headline articles like departure time - problems with correspondances happen to someone else, in my experience - and so I had it firmly in mind that I was going to get off at Grenoble and have an hour to grab a decent café-croissant and check up on spices and stuff at Carrefour d'Asie: somewhat to my surprise they've actually finished work on the lines between Grenoble and Valence (not before time) and the train chugged on and deposited me at Valence-TGV at the appointed time. On the bright side, I have to admit that the sandwiches there are a cut above the usual railway fare. Not difficult, I admit, but they are freshly made with a good crusty demi-baguette and not smothered in mayo.

Always think that at some time I can get away from niggling technical problems, such as why Margo's laptop won't send mail anymore (bloody Avast with bloody automatic update bloody breaking things) for a while, and every time I do I am inevitably disappointed. Somehow. Usually my own fault, let it be admitted ...

Patron saint of facial eczema, with a client
Now I have three laptops, two of which are reasonably svelte and the third is an enormous brick with the firepower of a battle-cruiser (and about the same weight), and it is the main Linux development system about these parts. I also have various little Linux boxen at different stages of development (and all more or less in bits, held together with string), and all these things are hooked up to the home network. Those of you with long memories and a high boredom thresh-hold may recall that I set up RDP servers on the Linux machines, so that I could just log onto them from my Windows machine and let them do the heavy lifting, without any of the hassle of having to press a button to swap keyboard, screen and rodent between any of them.

And so it came to me, as I was heading out the door to go up to Chambéry, that instead of lugging around in my long-suffering backpack some 6kg of armour-plated Intel Core i-7 and a few boxen in various states of undress and disrepair - just on the off-chance certainty that at some point, if I didn't have them with me, I would seriously need them - that it would be so much easier, and much lighter on my back, if I could just log into the home network from wherever I happened to be, and do what needed to be done.

Your standard half-competent geek would probably have organised that with a few obscure incantations and a thousand-line shell script while the car was warming up, but I am not quite in that league and so I waited until getting back before plunging into the soul-destroying misery that is French "help" screens loosely translated into something approximating English that Orange choose to deploy on their Livebox ADSL routers. Because, dearly beloved, I was going to set up a VPN! (Wasn't that clever of me? Just say "yes", I will be insufferable but you never know, it might get me to shut up earlier.)

First step, fairly obviously, is to go through a dyndns service to get me a URL, so I don't have to go and check what the router's IP address is each day: I don't know why, but the front-end software on the Livebox offers me the choice of exactly two such services, one of which is no longer free. Suppose I should be grateful that I had the choice.

Alternatively, I suppose I could have hacked the Livebox, but such an act would probably have voided the warranty. As they say. (Not that that would have presented any major problems. Going on past experience, if you turn up at an Orange boutique with a Livebox that no longer, for some reason or another, actually works, they just look at it gloomily, try once to log on and fail dismally because I've changed the password - Doh! - and then say "Eh ben, c'est foutu", hand you a brand new one and toss the old one into the landfill.)

Having got through that I then had to go set up the actual VPN itself, which is an arcane process. There are doubtless people out there who actually enjoy arguing the merits of Diffie-Hellman elliptic wossname level 3 vs level 5 over breakfast, or working out exactly how long it would take, down to the nearest microsecond, for the NSA to break a 17-character message encrypted with AES-512, but I am not one of them. Quite frankly, it kind of goes over my head. So I gritted my teeth, and went through all that.

Anatomy lessons, C13
This being done, I now have to test it, as I'm sure something will foul up. Shall doubtless have to open holes in firewall, or something. Which means that I shall have to have access to a network other then the home one, preferably from the comfort of home so that I can make changes as required without a 10k trip from McDonalds (where the Wifi is apparently free, if you don't include the price of having to eat a Miserable Meal) back here just to change a single encryption setting to see if it works. Bummer. Ah well, put that one on hold for a bit.

In unrelated news, I was idly flicking through The Register and if you ask me, the Crown prosecutor should be hauled up immediately before the beak for grievous verbal harm, violence with intent, outrage to the public dignity and wanton cruelty to the private parts of speech -

I mean honestly, "will now be commenced"? What's wrong with plain old "begin", which has the added advantage of being short, simple, and Anglo-Saxon? Maybe it's true that lawyers don't speak the same language as the rest of us. (Or maybe I'm just being overly-sensitive. It could've been worse, like "will now commence to start" f'r'instance.)

Think I mentioned that Jacques got kicked out released from hospital after his operation, headed straight back home and sat down to a serious surfeit of morilles. They found a few left-over bits of cancerous tissue and so he's on six months of chemotherapy, which he reckons is a right bitch. I reckon the old bugger is virtually indestructible, so I'm not going to worry too much for the time being. See how it goes.

Anyway, I have things to do and although that doesn't usually stop me it does involve paying work so I'd better at least make an effort to look as though I'm on the case.

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