A notch above a monkey

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.

Conference programs

We went hiking and exploring north of Spain after this year's EuroPython. Predictably this also involved a lot of frustrations with available WiFi connections. Mobile networks often worked better, but far from reliably so. It is amazing to see how poorly most websites and apps still work in such (common) scenarios with rare exception like Gmail Android app. Keeping all our devices powered required significant planning and spare batteries where possible.

I complained about this before and while it is sad to see how little has changed, this post is not about failing services. It is about web conferences which I believe contribute a lot to this sad state of affairs.

Beyond a talk or two on ServiceWorkers or PouchDB there seems to be little interest from conference organisers to help educate developers on how to develop services that continue to work well when connection is spotty and battery low.

It is certainly not because users wouldn't care. According to Google there are hundreds of battery apps, downloads of which go into 100+ millions. In my own field work I saw that when given choice mobile users will pick services that work better. By which I mean those that use less bandwidth, work more reliably and are easier on battery. I can only think of very few services that have network effects strong enough to be safe from removal, but even their use can be negatively impacted by users limiting or changing their use of the service.

My talk proposal on web's energy use has been widely rejected. It happens. But more disappointingly I failed to find other talks on this or similar topics. Every conference has a right to decide which topics it finds important, but when one is ignored by all of them, it may be correct to conclude that it simply does not matter to community.

If that is true and web developers expect to punt this problem to OS (Android and iOS), then that is a mistake. First, because this is our job that nobody else can do equally well. And second, because operating systems are getting better at pointing out problematic apps to users who are willing to remove them.

My hunch is that most developers are simply not aware of these issues. A good conference program for me is not just about what is currently pertinent, but also what should be. Maybe we could have fewer talks on web game development to find space for topics that affect billions of people every day.