19 November, 2013

A recent debacle

I was happily playing a game, and I was also talking on IRC. My wife was also on a computer game. June the 29th, about 3:30pm. The day when a DSLAM cabinet down on a nearby main road stopped working. I wondered what had happened, put it down to a normal outage. I got in contact with the local ISP a couple of hours later, only to be told the sad tale of a little brave green cabinet that decided to jump in front of a car, with catastrophic results to the internals. The left hand side ended up totally dead, the right hand side barely had voice capability. Trying to get it repaired didn't get us very far.

In the area where we are, we had a little bit of a disaster. As a result, several houses have already been removed in our local area, and lots more houses are expected to come down. Needless to say, that means that Chorus (our phone line maintenance company) won't be replacing the cabinet that got damaged. However, their solution was to move customers over to the next nearest street cabinet. This should have happened to us, but our connection wasn't made to Chorus's specifications originally, so we got completely missed. I had a chat to our ISP over the course of a few days, and we ended up with our DSL coming from the exchange instead, nearly seven kilometres line distance. And the stupid thing? Our ISP couldn't do a single thing better for us. I don't know if any other ISP could have done any better either.

Anyhow, I stumbled onto a website for New Zealand geeks, where a lot of telecommunication industry representatives also gather—there are often people from the major ISPs too, and one of those representatives also includes Chorus. That's right, the guys who maintain our phonelines. Once I got in contact with him, I put my story to him and asked what could be done. A few days later, I was informed about the status of our connection, and was told that they would have to put a custom solution into place for us. A week later (about seven weeks after the initial problem) we were finally back onto the Internet at a decent speed.

I don't know whose the original problem was, nor how many other people would have faced the same issue as we did. What I do know is that this issue would not have got cured for Joe Average who'd been connected up the same way we had. I shouldn't have had to go to a website like geekzone, even though they're perfectly great. I should have been able to hammer on my ISP, and my ISP should have been able to talk to Chorus and punt us to the next nearest DSLAM box as part of our contract. I'm more surprised at Slingshot's inability to kick a dog and get things moving, frankly—I've had no issues with Slingshot until then, nor have I had any further issues.

17 November, 2013

How long a blog post takes

What, you write blog posts more often than once a year?

Sometimes, yeah. I spent about five minutes thinking about this blog post by Sacha Chua that prompted this reply post from me, as I thought a post would be better than a comment. After all, her original post was made three years ago.

Thinking about what to write

This takes the longest length of time, funnily enough. It’s one of the reasons there’s such a long time between posts on my blogs. Of course, once I’ve actually got a subject to talk about, then it’s just a case of clawing together some details, which takes time. Most of it is definitely spent just plain thinking about how to write my subject matter.

An aside—selecting tools

Using a standalone editor—emacs, (g)vim, kate, TextMate or gedit—vs a web-based editor? It doesn’t matter, both of them work with getting words into a framework. However, with the standalone editors, I have to write in html source mode. Render mode won’t happen until I get it into the “render” mode of the blog, so it’s better to put some of the framework into place while I’m writing the blog entry. If I was really insane, I’d write in TeX and use a LaTeX renderer to output into HTML, PS, PDF or other supported output formats. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar enough with it to be comfortable writing in markup alongside of paragraphs.

I had a tinker with posting back ends—I wrote the bare text and headers, while the posting back end handled turning it all into HTML goo ready to be viewed by a browser. Most of these editors didn’t do what vim does—nor emacs, for that matter. Often, they were a bit simpler, providing clipboard operations and a preview-ish window.

Anyhow, I seem to have settled on using vim, writing my text out to a file to preview in a browser as I go. It’s just the tool I’m most familiar with. It doesn’t slow me down particularly, or at least no more than other editors would.

Working out what the text will be.

Adding material

Once I’ve got the germ of an idea, content writing takes a while in its own right as I’m not exactly a quick thinker. Waiting for thoughts to shuffle around and arrange themselves on the stage of my mind is simply a case of waiting for other thoughts to come out of hibernation and percolate around the original thought.

Cutting material

Sometimes, stuff just plain doesn’t need to be there. it either repeats what I already said, or it doesn’t fit and should be shifted somewhere else or removed altogether.

Correcting goofs, rewriting and adding new material

Thankfully, this doesn’t take long. Often the previous section happens in parallel with generating text just to make sure I don’t miss too much. I inevitably miss something, of course.


Shortest bit. About 3 to 5 seconds. Done. Now to check the post… oh heck, I missed that???

Posting again!!! after correcting goofs I missed the first nine times!

Even with “proofing” manually in a browser, there’s inevitably something I’ll end up missing by the time I post, so by the time I get my final content posted—and edits applied, it could be a little while longer. Especially if weblinks change, that can take a little while to percolate through. I hate dead links.

Minecraft got more loving

New Music by c418

I finally don’t have to feel guilty about playing c418 music any more. This guy here is responsible for the music in Minecraft, among other things. He released a new album last week, and some of that music worked its way into the Minecraft game recently. I was thinking it was about time, as I like his music. One nice thing that c418 did for his latest album was to provide stereo versions of some of the minecraft records, which had previously been available in mono. It seems strange hearing them, it’s like they’ve got this … extra dimension to them now. They occupy a distinct space which hadn’t been true before.

For all you non-audiophiles out there who don’t know what I’m on about when I talk about with mono/stereo, don’t worry, I’m not talking about your soundsystem getting a incurable virus. Stereo is two distinct channels of sound, mono is one channel. The modern take on surround sound contains 4, 5, or in some cases even 9 distinct channels of sound. With headphones, it’s a little harder to feel the music love, but don’t worry. You can still hear music just fine, as most of it is written for plain old stereo. After all, we have two ears.

Anyhow, ’nuff from me.