November 2020


There’s been lots happening this month, with the puppy growing, some IT failures, moving on from some previously loved products and services, more updates on streaming and VR, and a few things I forgot in October…


He’s done a lot of growing from the start of the month:

To the end of the month:

and seems to have less of a look of ‘hey, I borrowed this dog costume, but it’s a few sizes too big’.

He’s also allowed outside now, so walkies have begun.

More photos on my daily #pupdate.

IT failures

November hasn’t been a great month for my home kit behaving itself.

NAS drive failure

I woke up one morning to the dog whining, and when I got downstairs I could hear the NAS whining. A quick look at the admin console revealed a failed HGST 4TB drive :(

I’ve been seeing warnings for a little while about the volume filling up, so time for an overdue upgrade and a 4 pack of 8TB Seagate IronWolf Pros.

It took a couple of days for the RAID5 array to resilver, which isn’t too shabby.

I then had a little adventure upgrading the filesystem to 64bit in order to make all the extra space usable.

Interrupted Power Supplies

‘The WiFi’s not working’ turned out to be a failure of the coat cupboard UPS that runs the NAS, router and a few other odds and ends. I’ve written before about how ropey power can be in my neighbourhood, which means I have a bunch of UPSs, which also means that I’m too frequently dealing with failures.

It seems that battery failures take out a UPS even when it has a good mains supply, and I’ve never seen any warning of battery issues :/ Luckily this time around I was able to get a replacement battery in half an hour from my local ScrewFix, and everything was back as it should be.

I keep hoping that Eric Raymond’s UPSide project for an open source hardware UPS comes to fruition, but maybe I should just buy a Tesla Powerwall? Meanwhile I replaced the batteries in a Sweex UPS that died on me a few years ago, and that’s back working, and I proactively replaced the battery on my other PowerWalker 650, as that was a similar vintage to the one that failed.

Leaving Three

I’ve used Three for my personal mobile phone for over 6 years, and really valued their ‘Go Roam’ service especially when I’ve been in the US a lot. Unfortunately they’ve developed a nasty habit of treating existing customers like fools, and hiking up tariffs.

Last year I called them, and eventually got to a satisfactory deal (though still not as good as what they were offering new SIM only customers). It took something like an hour, and I vowed not to repeat the process. This time I just requested a porting authorization code (PAC) for my phone number and switched to PlusNet (a mobile network virtual operator [MVNO] running on EE’s network). I may return to Three when travel resumes. But for the time being it seems like they didn’t want me as a customer, in what seems like an exercise in reversion marketing. It’s not even like I’ve been using the service much – I’d expect the most costly thing I’ve done in the last year or so was that call centre contact for the last renewal :/

At the start of the year I had 6 Three contracts – 3 for my devices and 3 for family members. We’re now down to 2; and that’s not down to any antipathy or service issues – it’s been purely about avoiding exploitative price hikes.

So long Pinner, hello Pushpin

I’ve been using for bookmarking since the first demise of; so when I got an iPhone again almost five years ago I bought Pinner as the app to save and recall stuff.

Pinner served me well over the years, though it wasn’t perfect, and didn’t seem capable of syncing all 13,000+ bookmarks I’ve collected. But it hasn’t been updated in over 3 years, and it seems iOS 14 has introduced breaking changes. So time to move on.

I’m still getting used to Pushpin, but it seems to get all the basics right

We’re all streamers now

I’m talking next month at GitHub Universe and they sent me some kit to make sure that I can be seen and heard properly:

The Logitech Brio webcam is pretty amazing in terms of configurability and the sharpness of the resulting video; and the JLAB microphone seems to work better with my conferencing setup than the Yanmai mic I was previously using (following Terence Eden’s review).

Here’s what things look like on my side of the camera on my (messy) desk:

Since taking the photo I got a Newer mic boom, and I have a Stream Deck control panel on my Christmas list.


Prescription lenses

I’ve never loved the experience of using glasses with my Oculus Quest, so I finally ordered some lenses from VR Optician. They took a couple of weeks to arrive, and were dead easy to fit.

It’s a revelation not having to fiddle to get the headset around my glasses, or worry about eyelash smudges or fogging; though I do find I need to be very careful about headset placement to get a sharp view. It’s also weird to take off the headset and find myself part blind to the outside world.

I’d held off initially due to worrying about shared use of the headset, and constantly having to swap out lenses. But I’m now pretty sure I’m the only person using it, and having the lenses is a definite plus.

Beating Beat Saber

The quest continues… after finally getting Full Combo at Expert on all OST levels 1 & 2 I’ve been chipping away at OST 3 and Extras, with now only a couple remaining on each. Meanwhile I’ve got quite into the Camelia levels, though they’re much tougher, so I’m doing those on Hard rather than Expert.

Pi Stuff

I’ve written previously about using the High Quality camera as a USB OTG webcam, and now somebody’s written some Ansible scripts to automate the process :)

Things I forgot from October

Another Now

I’ve enjoyed much of Yannis Varoufakis’s earlier work, so his latest, Another Now, was an obvious one to buy, and I got the audiobook for my daily (pre new pup) walks.

The use of a connection between ‘many worlds’ to present ideas about alternatives to neoliberal capitalism is an engaging way of presenting ideas, but it didn’t leave me wholly convinced that he had a realistic way of tackling the status quo. But nevertheless an enjoyable read/listen.


The Starblinken recreates a little visual prop from the Millennium Falcon, and was on sale for May the 4th. But when it arrived the weather was too nice, and my spare time got expended outside. Once the cold dark days arrived it was time for some assembly.

It was a fun little project to put together, and I like how Dave managed to get a scene from the film into the PCB.

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