More Post-Vacation Blues

It’s Summer vacation time again. Or nearly the end of whatever passes for it, since during most of the time we were effectively stuck at home, and for the first few days “vacation” effectively meant I wasn’t spending time answering e-mail or sitting in calls all day (at least not any work-related ones).

Recreation

I did, however, manage to watch Umbrella Academy (which somehow I was hardly aware of) and spend a couple of afternoons plodding through the original Halo campaigns on xCloud.

We also went to the middle of the countryside for a few days, and I took the opportunity to resume my reading habits (reading seems like the best way to escape the whole year, really, and I’m slowly getting back to it after nearly half a year without finishing a single book).

As always, I started with “junk” sci-fi to unwind, and then moved on to technical stuff like Rust (which I’m starting to take a fancy to), the old BGP specs and Abrash’s Black Book. In general, I’m feeling the need to go further down the stack and back to essentials, most likely as a backlash to all the insanity going on in the industry right now, and old, “classical” tech books seem to be much better than current fare, so…

Technology

Although I spent a week almost completely removed from any substantial tech stuff, I really needed to catch up on some of my personal projects (largely to compensate for the fact that my job these days is, sadly, more about managing and consulting than actual tech), so I spent a few intense days hacking at semi-random stuff.

Video Hacks

All the mucking about with video calls and OBS plus my ancient streaming hacks led me to go down various video streaming rabbit holes and investigate ways to use all the H.264 encoders I have lying around–which are mostly inside Raspberry Pis.

Although I’m still far from one of my key goals (HD streaming via NDI from an HQ Camera, which I don’t yet have either), I’ve been tinkering with a few things, namely:

This means I have three slightly different HomeKit cameras running now, and lots of ways to tap into their video streams1.

I also got a $10 HDMI dongle from AliExpress that is UVC compliant and pops up on my Mac as a standard video input, and that has already paid for itself almost a dozen times over in terms of the amount of time I usually spend hooking up devices to monitors for quick tests:

Checking if one of the cameras was booting up successfully - QuickTime Player's title bar and controls go away after a couple of seconds, so this is pretty seamless.

Resurrecting Plan9, Again

Another thing I’ve been tinkering with (again) is Plan9, partly due to sheer ennui and partly because this timeline is so hopelessly messed up that merely setting up plan9port on my Elementary laptop felt like reaching out to a better, alternate timeline.

And installing it on a Raspberry Pi completely blows you away from the very first boot:

This is how fast Plan9 boots on a Raspberry Pi Zero W.

It’s still weird and wonderful and limited, but I’m starting to see the absence of a browser as an advantage, given the rise of “doomscrolling” and other distractions.

In particular, I’ve been looking at Acme again and wondering how it would make sense to implement some of its functionality into a “modern” environment, like an iPad.

So I fired up Xcode and decided to spend a little while delving into SwiftUI to build a basic text editor (which is easy enough) and am now trying to figure out how to subvert the UX into something that I can feel productive in.

Since I’m not using Xcode 12 yet, I’m trying to use Catalyst the “old” way, so am still going through various stages of mind-bending…

Music

I spent a little while tinkering with Logic Pro X and a few other things I’ll eventually write about a few months down the road, but a notable “new” thing is that I finally picked up SunVox, went through all the low-latency hassles of getting it to work halfway decently on a Pi and spent a little while doodling with the notion of building a Zynthian (or equivalent).

However (for reasons I will get into in another post), I decided to not get any more physical hardware for the moment (other than what is in my Wishlist, which I’ve been keeping updated).

I do “need” more control surfaces, but I also need to focus and spend more time doing actual music to benefit from the hardware I already have.

Most of my quests in this realm are about structure and melodics and rhythm, and I suspect I will eventually start looking into things like extempore again soon, given time.

Overall

I managed to relax a bit (save for a persistent back pain resulting from some kind of sprain), sort of managed to forget about the pandemic (more on that next week, perhaps), but I overall feel extremely driven to find something truly interesting to do.

I’m pretty sure at this point that vacations are my most happy and productive time by far, so I’m clearly doing something wrong career-wise.

More on that later as well, I think.


  1. I’ve been thinking of placing one on the landing to track deliveries, but that’s not a trivial endeavor in a condo. ↩︎

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