I’m Still Alive

I haven’t written a blog entry since April of 2020. It’s not that I haven’t had much to say about all the horrible things 2020 has brought but I just haven’t thought the Internet needed more commentary about things that have been commented on to death. I’m still alive and really don’t have anything interesting to report but this blog needed activity, so here’s some randomness.

First, because it’s a substring of the title of this blog entry, Still Alive is an epic and moving piece of EDM by Ashley Wallbridge & Evan Henzi. He wrote it after narrowly winning a battle with meningitis. It, along with You’ll Be OK and Elise by Gareth Emery, got quite a bit of runtime this year on pretty much all systems I own that are capable of playing digital audio.

Since some of y’all know I love vintage Unix workstations and servers, I picked up an HP C8000 on eBay halfway through the summer. It was new in box and shipped from Germany. Due to problems with TnT (Track & Trace, owned by FedEx) it took a couple of weeks to arrive. The C8000 is a PA-RISC system and a model of the HP 9000 line of servers and workstations that were scrubbed in 2008. The machine has 2x PA-8900 CPUs @ 1 GHz, 8 GiB of RAM, and 2x Ultra320 SCSI drives. It was a top-of-the-line system for the early 2000s and still feels pretty quick & responsive (at least on the CLI and in CDE).

I spent about two weeks getting HP-UX 11.11 (unfortunately, it’s the last version with support for the C8000) installed and configured to my liking. The machine initially did not boot and after messing with it a bit I just decided to do a fresh install of HP-UX. I have a feeling there was something in the BCH that was wiped out when the CMOS battery died a few years ago. Anyway, after the installation I used LVM to split up /var, /home, /usr, etc. across the two SCSI drives because I didn’t care about redundancy. The HP-UX Porting and Archive Center provided me enough familiar FOSS packages to install so I could feel at home. The only thing I wasn’t able to get working was IPv6 (HP-UX_11i_v1_IPv6NCF11i_B.11.11.0705_HP-UX_B.11.11_32+64.depot) because I couldn’t get the patch installed due to dependency hell. I learned quite a bit about how swinstall worked and a little bit about the hardware during the process. Unfortunately, the C8000 pumped out much too much heat for my home office so during a warm week without A/C in September I decided to shut it down. I’ll mess with it again once I move some things around in the house.

I am NOT caught up with Star Trek Discovery. I lost interest toward the end of season 2 but, as with many other TV series, I figured I needed to probably watch it twice to appreciate it. So, I vowed that before season 3 came out I would re-watch seasons 1 and 2. Well, that didn’t happen. I’m on episode 6 of season 2 right now so I’ve got a few episodes to go before I can start season 3. That being said, I think I need to tell Google News and other sources that I’m temporarily not interested in anything Star Trek because one of these days I’m going to accidentally read a real spoiler.

I have been watching Lower Decks. It’s entertaining, so far. I think I’m a couple episodes behind on that, too.

My wife got me The Bartesian for my birthday this past August! The machine itself isn’t too fancy and does what it’s supposed to do—make mixed drinks. Similar to a Keurig, it can be a little bit messy. That might only be a problem for me, due to OCD. Depending on use, it’s a wallet suck through both the spirits required as well as the capsules. I stocked up, though:

Speaking for a second more about R3COH, my wife (wait, there’s a theme here?) got me a Christmas present last year in the form of a variety of mini-bottles leading up to Christmas Day. Most of the spirits I’ve encountered before except for a few, which included Green House Gin. Western Washington has more than a few distilleries that produce gin and I’ve tried many of them (Big Gin is usually my go-to). However, Green House is probably the best gin I’ve had—it’s got a ton of botanicals and the juniper flavor is just the right strength. I highly recommend trying it out if you’re into such things.

In other news, I upgraded my 2017 Retina MacBook from Mojave to Big Sur (11.0.2) a few days after it came out. I usually wait until the dust settles but I felt like going for it early this year. I always do a wipe and fresh install because I don’t want to deal with any leftover “garbage” or badly-migrated settings from the previous release. Anyway, most things work and I don’t miss any 32-bit applications. I think the only real applications I run on macOS nowadays are:

  • Microsoft Office 2019
  • VLC
  • Chromium
  • Kindle
  • Intel Power Gadget
  • Xcode (to support MacPorts builds only)
  • MacPorts
  • TunnelBlick

I usually make some minor hacks to macOS to get things to work the way I like, which include things like turning off some animations and making the DNS resolver always append the search domains:

% diff -ur /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.mDNSResponder.plist /Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.mDNSResponder.plist  
--- /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.mDNSResponder.plist	2020-01-01 00:00:00.000000000 -0800
+++ /Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.mDNSResponder.plist	2020-11-16 18:46:08.000000000 -0800
@@ -13,6 +13,7 @@
+		<string>-AlwaysAppendSearchDomains</string>

Most of these hacks still work in Big Sur, which is nice. That being said, net-snmp does not compile correctly due to Xcode adhering to C99 standards so I submitted a bug report to MacPorts. I use net-snmp as an include to my mrtg-rmt script, which allows me to report some system health information. At least iStats still mostly works:

% istats 
--- CPU Stats ---
CPU temp:               25.63°C     ▁▂▃▅▆▇

--- Fan Stats ---
Total fans in system:   0           

--- Battery Stats ---
Battery health:         unknown     
Cycle count:            107         ▁▂▃▅▆▇  10.7%
Max cycles:             1000        
Current charge:         4851 mAh    ▁▂▃▅▆▇  100%
Maximum charge:         4959 mAh    ▁▂▃▅▆▇  89.4%
Design capacity:        5550 mAh    
Battery temp:           23.8°C      

For more stats run `istats extra` and follow the instructions.

Also, I didn’t see Blink Lite in the App Store anymore, which was my SIP client on macOS. That’s not much of a loss since I probably only used it once or twice a year, max.

Local stuff. Let’s see, the West Seattle Bridge has been closed since March and only this month did Mayor Durkin decide to pursue the repair option. The expectation is that traffic will return to the bridge in early to mid 2022. Also, I bought westseattlebridge.com for no reason. No, I didn’t bother with an SSL certificate because I’m not really using the site for anything, at the moment. Well, that’s not true, it’s a bookmark for the official SDOT page, which has a much longer URL.

No blog entry in 2020 would be complete without some mention of COVID-19! My wife, a few co-workers, and I all believe we got a bout of COVID-19 in January. I have asthma and had what might be called a miniature to medium attack, which was very unusual. I, along with the others, got over it just fine, though. My wife works at Harborview Medical Center and goes into work every day but I’ve been working from home since late March with an expected return sometime during the summer of 2021. For many years I was diametrically opposed to WFH and still believe the lack of casual human interaction takes a toll on productivity and innovation but this year has taught me that it’s not as bad as I thought. I, along with the team I’m on, are still wildly productive. We have a virtual lunch once a week where we catch up on things that might happen in a hallway conversation. It feels forced but it works out alright. I still visit the office once or twice a month.

Speaking of, since I’m home a lot more lately I’ve taken up walking all over West Seattle. I usually just walk High Point, Gatewood, and Fairmount Park but once a week I’ll make it down to Lowman Beach and periodically will walk Highland Park. The beach is nice:

We put up the Christmas tree a few days after Thanksgiving, this year. I didn’t setup the train this year due to apathy:

I also didn’t do a time lapse as I’ve done in years past.

That’s it for now. Actually, a number of items above are now out-of-date because I left this blog entry in draft mode, untouched, for about two weeks. Sorry about that!

Have a fun and safe holiday season!