A notch above a monkey

Audacity to run an email server

I normally don't write about foreign politics on these pages. Those who know me should already know what I think and others would be smart to ignore pontifications of a random Internet stranger.

Still, I have been following US presidential elections closely this year. Main result of this unhealthy obsession was waste of my time, nerves and that my already low opinion of news media has been further lowered.

Reasons for this are many, but at the top of them it has to be how the "story" of Clinton emails was and still keeps being reported. Matthew Yglesias at Vox explained it better than anyone else I read.

However there are a couple, to the story tangential, parts that bug me:

...But while the use of a private server is legally irrelevant, it’s certainly unusual. And it leaves people wondering: Why did Clinton go out of her way to set up a private server?...


...Hillary Clinton — who is, again, his wife — also set herself up with an account on the same server. This is a bit unusual, but a lot about being married to a former president is unusual...

This is what many of us, non-presidents, do too. However it seems obvious from hysterical reactions of last few months that most people actually do find it unusual. It is a view which in its essence is not any different from "why are you hiding it if you have done nothing wrong".

When did we screw up development of Internet so much that it became more normal to be suspicious of running your own instance of a service that was designed and intended to be used thusly?

I can only describe it as sad that distributed, democratized infrastructure is not just too complex for everyone to run, but that doing so has now been legitimized as cause of suspicion.

DVD backups

Yesterday I finished backing up about 200 DVD disks to a drive, most of which are about 10 years old. Took me about 10 days and 1.5TB of space. I just copied data as it was the quickest and doesn't lose any information. Drive may complain and require change of a DVD region, but once they are copied, computer doesn't care anymore. Glad this part is over now.

Some of them needed cleaning, but I really had problems only with three, two of which remains not copied. As it happens it is also one of those on which I can find no visible scratch whatsoever. It used to work, because I've seen it. It does make you wonder what life span of disks really is, even when they were professionally produced. If you have any, I heartily recommend making a backup of them on some other medium. Unless of course they themselves are a secondary backup.

Flipping disks regularly for 10 days does make you notice their cases, especially hubs that keep disks in place with varying degrees of zeal. It is astonishing how many designs have been used over years and how few of them are actually pleasant to use.

Crown of teeth is probably the worst. Like a pitbull unwilling to release a disk until it is visibly bended or a tooth broken. Unless case is made of hard plastic there is really no excuse for using this design. Or any other "pluck" hubs.

Thank god there are patents (as there always are) to prevent everyone converging to those few "push-to-release" that are actually nice to use. How could I after all value my life appropriately without it being spiced with needless hassle.

At some point I intend to process them into a different, smaller formats that require less space and are easier to (re)use. I am not in a hurry as this step still seems laborious and may also result in some content being lost. I am also thinking of making an additional copy together with file hashes so I could, in principle, recover if any of files gets corrupted.

Next: processing our CD collection.

Long vacations

I like long vacations and by long I mean those lasting 3 or more weeks. This makes me employable only in Europe which is fine.

Two weeks or less do not seem to be enough to rest my mind and certainly are not enough to get to know the country we happen to be visiting. We almost always visit just one at a time and while a month is not enough either, at least you get a sense of scope and size of your ignorance.

It occurred to me today that benefits to my employer(s) go beyond me being more productive and creative when properly rested. Most organisations, even dysfunctional ones, can muddle through a two week absence of almost everyone. Some tasks might be delayed a bit or done slightly worse than usually, but few things are generally really time sensitive or can't tolerate a short dip in quality.

Longer absences however expose faults and cracks and test the real bus factor of a missing person. They will expose which bits can or are picked up by others and which suffer. Also how much strain team can bear or would need to if that person suddenly left.

You can't really buy this kind of learning other then by encouraging your employees to take long vacations.