Adventures in Time Machine backups

A few days ago my belovedest Dara got us a shiny new NAS to use as a backup server. I was prepared to get excited about this, as up until now our Time Machine solution has been to use an older Macbook in the house (and by older, I mean, it’s still running Snow Leopard) as a Time Machine server. That box has three hard drives plugged into it, and Dara and I both have been using this for years mostly without problems.

However, as we’ve acquired more machines and that backup server gets older and older, it’s meant that our backups have been… shall we say… less reliable than we’d like.

This is a post about that, in in-depth detail, so I can point at this when I put out calls to ask for help. Technogeekery behind the cut!

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My version of pandemic anxiety dreams maybe?

So this morning I woke up out of a very disjointed sort of dream, but a vivid enough one that it stood out for me. Here are the bits of it that I remember:

  1. I was starting a new job at an office somewhere in Seattle.
  2. Simon Beaudry of Le Vent du Nord was there, only working there as a day job. Note that at no point during this dream did I ever actually interact with Simon, in English or in French. He was just there as a coworker. Which is pretty friggin’ amusing given that a) he’s a musician, b) he’s Quebecois so even if he had a computer-based day job I’m pretty damn sure he’d be doing it in Montreal, and c) usually if my favorite musicians show up in my dreams it’s to play music, and Simon didn’t even have his bouzouki, so what the hell, me?
  3. The office had an open floor plan like most modern offices do. So I had a desk as part of a little rectangular-ish area of desks, all of whom were getting set up with new incoming workers. However, they kept rearranging who was going to sit where, and I mean, quoi? Pick a place where you want me to sit and let me just sit there, mmkay?
  4. Despite the office in question having a modern floor plan, once they finally settled on what was going to be my actual final desk, they loaded it up with something like six different machines. (Note: the most machines I’ve ever had on or under my desk in an office environment was four, at Big Fish.)
  5. Also, the machines were all ancient. I mean, ancient enough to have floppy drives. What the hell I was supposed to be testing on those, I have not the slightest idea.
  6. Also, absolutely nobody would actually tell me what I was supposed to be doing to provision those machines and get them into a testable state.
  7. Somebody finally came over to do machine setup, at which point I realized I could not actually see what he was doing, on the teeny-tiny Commodore-sized green screen monitor, because my glasses were gone. Not on my face where they belonged, not on my head, nowhere in immediate sight. I distinctly remember thinking I’d better ask everybody in the immediate area to stop what they were doing lest they step on my glasses…
  8. … but right about then I also remember thinking it was nearly 5:30pm and what the hell was I still doing there in the office when I had to get home?
  9. So I left, only to discover that the office was in a completely different part of Seattle than I was used to, and I had no immediate idea how to get to the busses I knew to get home.
  10. The only thing that really keeps me from calling this a pandemic anxiety dream was that at no point did it occur to me to worry about nobody in the immediate vicinity, not even Simon, wearing masks. Or me, for that matter.

One of those dreams that, in general, falls into the bucket of “aaaaaah everything is going wrong and I can’t fix any of it WHAT IS GOING ON”. I don’t have to stretch very far to guess this is maybe my version of a pandemic anxiety dream, though if it is I still have some questions about what my subconscious is apparently trying to vent.

  1. Because I mean honestly, me, you hate open floor plans, and right now you’re working from home in your very own home office setup that even has a window view, so what’s this all about then? (Best guess, maybe I just miss interacting directly with people in an office? Slack and Webex calls aren’t the same at all.)
  2. Also, I sure as hell don’t miss the commute.
  3. Okay I can kinda see the floppy drives thing being an example of “stupid decisions enforced on me by people further up the food chain at work” anxiety. Though i can safely say that at no point has any employer I’ve had in the last 15+ years made me have to deal with actual floppy disks to get anything done on my systems.
  4. Apparently I miss Le Vent du Nord concerts hard enough that my subconscious is resorting to sticking occasional members of the band into the background of whatever the hell I’m dreaming about, regardless of whether it has anything at all to do with concerts or music? Or maybe it’s more like “oh shit, Anna’s anxious, here, have a pretty bouzouki player, you like those, don’t you?” In which case, okay, subconscious, that was rather nice of you.
  5. I have had “I have no idea what bus route I’m supposed to be taking” dreams before, so having this show up as a side plot in the overall dream wasn’t terribly surprising!

I woke up after the part where it got to the busses. Hopefully whatever I dream about tonight will be less fraught.

(Although, more pretty bouzouki players would be appreciated. Subconscious, get on that, kthxbye.)

Solving more computer issues, RSS Client edition

So way back when, when Google killed off Google Reader, I wound up flipping about a lot in search of an RSS reader solution that’d let me get the links I wanted to follow in all the places I wanted to follow them.

I finally settled on a solution that didn’t exactly satisfy me: using a Feedly account, plus two different RSS clients. I needed one RSS client to pull stuff down from Feedly, and it’s an RSS client I do like–but unfortunately it doesn’t support authenticated feeds. So I also had to install a second client to get at the feeds I wanted to read from Dreamwidth (and at least until everybody seriously bailed on LJ, LJ as well).

But I had to also keep the first client, because the second one didn’t talk to Feedly.

In other words: stupidly complicated.

(And this is also stupidly long for a post, so here’s a More/cut tag for y’all.)

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Solving some computer issues

The last few days have been pretty big for solving computer issues at the Murkworks. So here’s a writeup about what I solved!

First and foremost, I got crossposting to Dreamwidth working again. Turns out the root cause of the problem was Dreamwidth changing security settings under the hood, as per this post. The instructions they gave for generating an API key for the client Semagic also worked for the JournalPress plugin I use to crosspost off my WordPress blog. So whew, finally, that’s sorted.

Second tech issue solved: my secondary laptop Savah (the one with the dual partitions of Windows 10 and Linux) had to have its backup settings in both OSers rejiggered, since they stopped talking to the laptop we use as our Time Machine/general backup server. We’ve got this ancient Mac that our newer Macs keep talking happily to, and it’s got three, count ’em, three different hard drives plugged into it serving as backups.

But Win10 stopped talking to it and I don’t really know why. So Dara came up with the useful alternate plan of setting up Samba on one of our Linux servers, making a share on that, and letting Windows 10 do its backup to that share. This also necessitates excluding the directory that share’s in from the main server backups. But so far this seems to be working.

Third solved tech issue is bigger, and I’ll spend another post on that, because that’s all about finally finding a solution to my RSS reader needs!

Stir-crazy COVID-19 report from the Murkworks

Noting out of the gate: the entire Murkworks household is well. Dara, Paul, and I, along with George, are staying at home as much as we possibly can. We were doing so even before Governor Inslee issued the stay-at-home order for Washington state–and really, at least for Dara and Paul, being at home all day isn’t much different from pre-COVID-19 days. Dara’s “day job” is to be the landlady for our rental house, and Paul’s been working from home for months now, ever since his employer shut down their Seattle office.

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TechFail, December 2012 edition

Internets, I swear to gods, I am deeply grateful to have enough income to spend on Shiny Things. I DO love my Shiny Things. But wow, sometimes transitioning from one set of Shiny Things to the next is positively crazymaking!

As I’ve mentioned on the various social networks, I opted to get me a MacBook Pro rather than a MacBook Air–and among the many reasons for this was to allow myself budget to also upgrade my iPhone. The phone was still working okay, but as it was a 3GS, it was getting long in the tooth and pokey. I didn’t like the idea of being about to fall off the support queue for devices that could run current builds of iOS, and I was quite sick of the erratic performance of the 3G network in Seattle.

I swear on a stack of the complete works of Tolkien, though, that I I did not lose that phone just to have an excuse to get a new one. It was nevertheless deeply, deeply aggravating to lose my phone at work, pretty much necessitating me having to buy the new device. The old one, I note, never did make its way back to me.

Meanwhile, I got the new laptop yesterday! Which was shiny and lovely and all… but then things started getting aggravating when I tried to migrate data off the old laptop, Winnowill, onto the new laptop, Aroree. Mac OS provides a lovely Migration Assistant utility that’s supposed to let you hook two computers up and slurp data from one to the other. I had this going over an ethernet connection last night, and it was chugging happily away… until it hung at the “40 minutes left” mark.

It stayed that way for well over an hour, up until I finally decided screw it, I had to go to bed. So I put the laptops in our guest room, so that their cords would be out of the reach of the cats. And I went to bed.

Got up to discover that Winnowill’s hard drive had gone to sleep–but that when I woke her up again, she was still stuck at the “40 minutes left” mark. AUGH, I said, time to break out of the Migration Assistant and try Plan B. Aroree was happy to do this and return me to Mac OS.

Winnowill, not so much. When I broke out of Migration Assistant on that box, she froze up. I had to power cycle the box. At which point it completely refused to boot, and I got a flashing gray folder with a question mark in it. Mother Google informed me that this is Mac-OS-ese for “your startup disk has vacated the premises, your file system is fucked, and you better pray you have a good backup”.

AUGH, I said. But, my belovedest userinfosolarbird, possessor of wit and wisdom, proposed the plan of grabbing the external drive off our Time Machine server and slurping data out of my last backup directly from that. We enacted this plan. THAT worked, and I have as of this writing recovered the vast majority of my data off of Winnowill. I’m happily typing away on Aroree. There are still some kinks to be worked out, but by and large, I’m back in business.

Winnowill, though, is toast. Dara further cleverly proposed tonight that we take Winnowill’s hard drive and try to boot it in her older laptop, Kiliandra, just to test whether another computer could boot the same drive. This test failed, though conversely, Winnowill was able to boot Kiliandra’s drive. Relatedly, I had just replaced the battery in Winnowill; it was starting to bulge with heat damage. Our working theory at this point is that perhaps the battery going bad in Winnowill adversely impacted the drive, and I happened to get just lucky enough that the drive held out long enough for Aroree to show up AND for me to recover data out of my last Time Machine backup.

We have no way of knowing at this point, but that’s a real plausible theory.

And in conclusion, HOLY CRAPWEASELS, damn good thing I had a working Time Machine backup, innit?

Now to let Aroree’s first, gigantic backup (214.17 GB, baby!) complete. Then I’ll need to finish smoothing all the other little rough edges left over from the data transfer–and THEN I can get back to work.

Couple all of this with how a major project at work has been making my entire team kind of crazy, and I swear, I’ve been spending this entire week trying to remind myself that no, it is not advisable to throw ALL OF THE COMPUTERS OUT THE WINDOW. It only helps a bit that I was also amusing myself by bitching about this in French too. Because some things are irritating enough that you need a whole extra language to contain the bitchery!

Aren’t computers FUN?

More fun with studying French in SuperMemo

Here’s an unexpected side effect of doing the prepositions lesson in SuperMemo: I’ve been able to catch certain examples where the written sentence presented to me is NOT the same as the spoken sentence that the speakers in the lesson deliver. I’ve caught at least three examples like this–one of which actually affects the preposition I’m being asked to fill in! Which is NOT helpful when I’m struggling with telling the difference between “de” and “à”, I can tell you!

Here’s an example where I’m seeing this happen.

Sa mère est très têtue, alors je doute de savoir la convaincre. This is the sentence I see as the written example. The speaker saying the sentence, though, does not say savoir! She says pouvoir, which I’m pretty sure is the actual intended sentence.

And here’s a sentence I’d like to someday be able to say about myself–well, after swapping in the correct pronouns:

Cet écrivain est devenu si populaire qu’il peut maintenant vivre de sa plume.

And I like this one just because whose wife wouldn’t like a black jaguar? (And sure, the example’s probably talking about the car, but I’m pretty sure my femme would prefer an actual jaguar. ;D )

Je pense acheter une jaguar noire pour ma femme.

I like this one just because it pings in my brain off the Le Vent du Nord song “Les larmes aux yeux”:

Pendant la cérémonie de mariage, les larmes me venaient aux yeux.

So, fun! I’m getting better at listening comprehension though as well as general reading. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t keep up with an actual full-speed French conversation yet… but I’m pretty happy with the bump up in my comprehension. We’ll see how things proceed!

Good news everyone!

This is definitely one of those times where I need me an icon of Professor Farnsworth from Futurama, because he’s totally in my head right as I type this!

But the news, oh, it is good. It is SHINY. Internets, I’m getting promoted! QA Engineer II, baby! This comes from an excellent year of slurping up Python and finally bending my brain around class-based coding–this is what I get for having learned how to code long enough ago that object-oriented programming wasn’t really a thing yet, so it took me a while to get the idea down. But it’s in there now and WOO! PROMOTED!

*does a little dance*

There is compensation involved, a raise as well as a bonus, and oh, there will be a Shiny Thing. A very, very Shiny Thing. It’s about time to upgrade my Macbook, and this news is going to let me do it!

Winnowill, mind you, has served me well (and only those of you who are fellow Elfquest fans will understand the number of giggles I get out of typing that phrase, ha!) and does hold the record to date for longest-operating laptop I’ve ever owned. I got this MacBook back in December of 2007, which means that as of this December, Winnowill will be hitting her five year mark.

However, that’s an eternity in laptop terms and Winnie IS getting a bit long in the tooth. Specifically, she is just a touch too old to be able to run Mountain Lion. So I want a laptop that’ll let me continue to be upgradable along with the OS, at least for the next five years or so! The only question is going to be, whether I commit to a higher-end Macbook Air (because SO SHINY), or whether I go with a Macbook Pro.

There must be much comparison of specs. And thinking hard about what I need out of the next Laptop of Awesomeness to join the Murknet.

Though I gotta admit, if I wind up with an Air, that box is totally getting called Aroree. <3

As to what I’ll do with Winnowill–actually, I’m not convinced yet I’ll be decommissioning her. Winnie DOES dual boot between Lion and Win 7, and having Win 7 around is handy sometimes, not only for testing purposes but also just for playing our games! And as Mac OS continues to develop, it’ll be handy as well to have a somewhat older version around. So we’ll see. If I wind up with an Air, Winnie could also continue to be my iTunes box since I DO have a certain number of bands for whom buying physical CDs is still absolutely essential! (Great Big Sea and Le Vent du Nord, of course!) So many choices before me!

And SHINY THINGS! And promotions! And another awesome year to look forward to at Big Fish! Which, I might add, is now the longest job I’ve had EVER, as I’ve passed my previous record of 3 years, 7 months–which was how long I was at Attachmate. This coming January will be my four-year mark!

EEEEEE! \0/

Taking a net furlough for a few days

After this weekend kicking me in the teeth, I’m not feeling up to dealing with the Internet for the time being. I need some me time, people. So I’m going offline for a few days.

Anybody who needs to talk to me, please send email, text, or call. If you don’t have the means to get hold of me in any of those fashions, I’ll talk to you when I come back later this coming week.

Thanks.

Anna vs. H. pylori, or, the Very Bad No Fun Not Good Weekend

A lot of you who follow me on the social networks and/or who also follow userinfosolarbird got all this in real time as we were posting about it, but for those of you who might have missed it, I was in the hopsital from Wednesday night until yesterday morning. What put me there was a bleeding stomach ulcer which turned out to be the kind caused by a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori. Which fortunately means that this is a very easy type of stomach problem to deal with; I’m on a big honking fleet of antibiotics at the moment as well as an acid-reducing stomach med and I should be fine in a couple more weeks as my system recovers.

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