Plateau


This is most likely to be the last post I will be doing on PhpWiki, and it seems fitting that it should cover a number of things that have been going on. Let’s start with some Apple notes, shall we?

On Apple (Perceived) Hardware Reliability

This morning I fired up my MacBook and did a full backup of my home directory to an external disk.

Why? Well, because last evening, while coding, I noticed an odd little click coming from the bottom right-hand side of my MacBook, recurring every ten to twenty seconds or so.

I would normally pin it on Spotlight or some other background process, but it sounded uncomfortably like drive heads being parked, and the power saving scheme set (Normal) wasn’t bound to trigger that.

The SMART status indicator for the disk showed nothing of consequence, but like most people who know anything about storage out there, I don’t trust SMART one whit – it is an industry-driven doohickey/feature that is about as reliable as a donkey at a rodeo, and it tends to only point out problems after they occur.

It might be simply my recurring paranoia regarding data loss, sure, but my main point in writing this is to make it plain that there are plenty of horror stories out there regarding the reliability of Apple’s Intel-based hardware, and that pretty much all the people I know that went for 1st gen hardware got bitten in one way or another.

Some (like Melo) are fairly resilient where it comes to having their computer manufacturer chewing off significant portions of their productivity through trips to technical support, but considering that Portugal still isn’t a place where you can find a “true” Apple store (even if local support was there for me when I needed it), I am somewhat leery of any (even merely anticipated) problems with this machine.

After all, a laptop that has never left the house since it was bought and is carefully put away in a padded drawer every evening really oughtn’t have any disk issues after only a few months. Never mind if it is a bit on the toasty side of comfortable and if its power supply has managed to throw the circuit breakers a couple of times when plugging it in…

And I happen to have a heavy-duty circuit breaker panel, plus earthed sockets everywhere. I don’t kid around with home infrastructure, so I blame it squarely on the MacBook’s power supply design.

Ah well. At least I got the 2nd gen one, and a moderately cheap one at that. But still, these niggles are a significant put-off.

Let’s hope that it was just a fluke, and the hard disk doesn’t die on me during Summer (a time when Portugal as a whole shuts down shop, and when the MacBook’s penchant for warmth is sure to be an even bigger put-off).

On This Wiki, Blogging and Yaki

Like I said above, this is bound to be the last post I do on PhpWiki. I have decided to switch over to Yaki as soon as I have RSS feeds working, and the current status is more or less as follows:

  • Most of the content has already been migrated. There are a few incorrect titles, some UTF-8 blunders, and quite a few missing images, but all of the important bits seem to have made it through my migration script, and there is no point in waiting for all of it to be neat and tidy – that will come in time as I find broken stuff and fix it.
  • Some navigation niceties will be broken for the foreseeable future. One example of those are the blog archives, which have always sucked and which I seldom use. I’d rather improve full-text searching, although an Ajax-only page like K2’s is very likely.
  • The photo album will be The Next Big Migration. It will run off my ancient PHP scripts for a good while yet, but I have been fiddling around with iPhoto and Python to reasonably good effect, and thanks to MacFUSE I think it is reasonable to attempt having a separate iPhoto library stored directly on the server and have a web front-end go through the library’s XML and render a web view of it.
  • Yaki itself is at a point where I can seriously consider releasing most of the code. Since it runs off Snakelets and uses a number of extra libraries, I will probably have to gut out some of the nicer bits, but there is always the possibility of putting up the whole thing and add a LICENSE file that explains which are my bits, which are the bits licensed under the BSD license, which are the GNU bits, which are the MIT bits, etc. You get the idea.

So, basically, I’m adhering to the “release early, release often” credo and applying it to the web site’s infrastructure.

Where blogging itself is concerned, however, there might be a few changes. Not only has work started to have a different impact on my life, I have also grown rather tired of keeping up with what is an increasingly childish and pointless barrage of technology “press”.

Yes, I’m tired of iPhone news, of asinine speculation regarding Apple’s future products, and of the high-school fanboyism that seems to be rampant on mainstream, “hip” sites.

Even considering that my Bayesian news aggregator is now a consummate success (it now throws out roughly 70% of all my RSS items, which is a close match to the 75% of garbage I estimate to be present on the feeds I track), I have better things to do with my time than keep up with an industry that seems to have nothing better to do than cry out every time they find a new piece of lint in their collective navel (or even an old one that they think people have forgotten about).

So I have of late started considering doing a regular column on some kind of “real” press. You know, the kind where dead trees are involved. Or some other place that actually has some backbone for an editorial line.

That doesn’t mean I won’t keep posting here (if only because I find this site supremely useful in keeping track of the stuff I’m interested in), it’s just that it’s bound to turn into something less hectic.

On Health And Other Things

Today marks the date where I can, again, fit comfortably into the suits I wore at the time of my wedding, some nine-odd years ago. I have spent most of the past year changing my habits, my diet, and (considering the kind of medicine I had to take) a significant portion of my baseline chemical composition, and it seems to have had an effect.

It was not pleasant. Although I can now sleep comfortably and have not experienced significant pain or discomfort for quite a while, I still have to monitor my heart rate and blood pressure (if only for informational purposes, thankfully) and mind what I eat. There were a few rough patches here and there, but, on the whole, I am fitter, more alert and generally much happier than I was a while back.

Work stress has remained unabated, but I have found ways of dealing with it. One of them is, clearly, doing radically different stuff at home. That doesn’t mean that I won’t reply to work e-mail or touch up some random document overnight or during the weekend, but I now do it because I am a part of a working, integrated team and know that those people are counting on me, not because I can’t unplug from work.

Because I can, and do.

In that sense, the past few weekends have felt like short tours to an entirely different planet – there’s a wider separation than ever between what I do at work (and what I consider my priorities to be there) than the technological tinkering I do at home (plus, of course, the “real life” stuff like going out and enjoying the weather), and it’s a massive help.

The bottom line is that the recent return to Marketing has had a tremendous impact on my quality of life, both due to the change of environment but also due to the extra motivation that comes from doing something that will actually be seen by people outside the company. I am still leaving the office at 8PM on occasion, but the satisfaction I get from it is vastly superior than what I had before (it’s nearly as good as the old times when… ah, never mind).

Not to mention, of course, that instead of having to slog it out solo on a bunch of overlapping projects I am now on a single, big project alongside folk that I can constantly discuss things with.

Context, as always, is key (and solo leadership is way overrated).