other parallel interfaces
Tuesday, November 18 2014
It was cold today, and by this evening it had become brutally so. I burnt through an absurd amount of firewood today. Good thing I have a lot.
Proving that being a landlord is not an entirely effortless way to make money, this morning the tenants called to report a suspicious leak from the boiler. So this afternoon, I showed up at the house to investigate (and also to try to improve the operability of the doors). I didn't have good contact information, so I came unannounced. The guy who works from home was in the middle of a long boring teleconference related to the website he works for. I overheard some of it and it sounded exactly like the sort of logistically technical conversations my Los Angeles guys have with me, with frequent mentions of "dev" and "production" and how exactly files from one are to be moved over to the other. I wonder how many such conversations take place every day in the world. As for the leak, it was a drain cock that hadn't been closed all the way. In attempting to answer the front door, my tenant had inadvertently pulled the handle apart, so I also had to fix that (in the process, hopefully I made it more functional). As for the door upstairs, I pulled the pins out of the hinge, carried it down to the back porch, tried to sand it, but when my sanding belt shredded, I had to use a power planer (good thing I'd brought both). Back on the hinges, it fit better and could now be closed, but it was apparent that the hinges should be mounted slightly further out in the frame. This was also true of the bathroom door. While I was doing these things, I noticed that the stain I'd tried to clean out of the carpet in the biggest bedroom was now back and both bigger and darker than ever. Something about washing it had just made it worse. I told the tenant I would be back for the doors and that I would also try to research what to do about that Edgar-Alan-Poesque stain, and then left him to his boring teleconference.
I went to the plaza around Herzog's and returned that USB 3.0 hub at the Radio Shack. There was a younger woman who processed my return and an older woman (that is, my age) who oversaw it, and I had the feeling the older woman was being flirtateous with me while the younger woman was trying to make her (not me) happy. Hopefully, that thirty-some-dollars found its way back to my credit card.
Back at the house, in amongst occasional web-development distractions, I continued improving the Visual Basic script I'd written to copy recent podcasts into a single flat directory. Having grown up in parallel with the evolution of computers, I find the hierarchical directory structure an intuitive way to organize information, and so it's logical for me to use that structure as the interface to such things as camera cards, MP3 players, and podcast downloaders. Evidently the people who make those things assume that most people these days will find a computer's directory structure too complicated or esoteric, and so they devise other parallel interfaces (all of which have the downside of being proprietary and one-off). Sometimes the assumption that users will use these other interfaces thwart the more natural interface of the file system. I saw that today when I was trying to debug my VBScript podcast consolidator. For the last several weeks, I've been using a program called Miro to download my podcasts (I used to use Juice, formerly known as IPodder, but it began failing for reasons I was too weary to debug). I didn't initially like Miro, because it is trying to do much more than be an podcast catcher, but it had the advantage of being able to import my podcast list from Juice, so it's what I went with. But today I noticed several problems with it. It had stopped downloading podcasts because I wasn't listening to them in Miro; it turns out that there is a setting for each podcast called "Pause auto-downloading when this many items are unplayed:" (the default is three). That setting is selected by default and must be manually deselected for podcasts to continue downloading unless they are being listened to from within Miro. Mind you, my intention was never to listen to anything in Miro, I just wanted to use Miro to get the podcasts into my file system so I could listen to them in the several different ways that I do. So I had to manually uncheck that unhelpful default for all my podcasts. And then I discovered that, for a reason that must be a bug, Miro often downloads podcasts without bothering to set a modified date. Without a modified date, my consolidator script has no idea when the file arrived and thus cannot include it in a list of "most recent downloads." So I had to modify my script to set (that is, "touch") every file without a modified date as it scans. Later, I also made it so my script would include text from a file's path in cases where its filename was too short to contain any human-readable information.
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