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hpr3829 :: The Edinburgh cohort of HPR hosts stops Mumbling!

Dave Morriss and MrX talk about various technical topics

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Hosted by Dave Morriss on 2023-04-06 is flagged as Explicit and is released under a CC-BY-SA license.
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Duration: 00:54:56




We recorded this on Saturday March 11th 2023. This time we met in person, first at a pub called The Steading close to the entrance to the Midlothian Snowsports Centre where we had something to eat and drink - though they only serve breakfast items before 12 noon. Then we adjourned to Dave’s Citroen car (Studio C) in the car park and recorded a chat.

The last of these chats was over Mumble in September 2022, so it was great to be away from home and to meet in person again after a long time of COVID avoidance.

Topics discussed

  • Google Docs - Dave and MrX use this to build shared notes to help organise these sessions
    • There are issues with cut and paste when using Firefox – it doesn’t work!
      • It can be fixed by selecting about:config in a new tab.
      • Change the attribute dom.event.clipboardevents.enabled to true.
  • Is email still relevant in 2023?
    • Google Wave - Google’s possible email replacement seemed not to have lasted very long
    • Alternative access to Gmail using the IMAP protocol
    • Folders versus labels. Tom Scott’s video “I tried using AI. It scared me.”
    • Dave’s experiences with email:
      • Digital Equipment Corporation’s Vax VMS used DECmail, which needed DECNet networking.
      • The UK Academic network (JANET) initially used its own Coloured Book protocols, including Grey Book mail. This ran over an X.25 network.
      • Gradual transition to TCP/IP and SMTP mail (over JANET Internet Protocol Service, “JIPS”).
      • In early Unix days (Ultrix) there was MH (Message Handler)
      • Later, this was replaced by nmh.
      • A GUI interface was available called xmh
      • A very flexible open-source front end called exmh was crafted using Tcl/Tk
      • Using procmail allowed an enormous number of capabilities, like sophisticated filtering, spam detection and automatic replies.
      • Now using Thunderbird, and has been for maybe 15 years.
    • MrX used Eudora in the past, but mostly uses Outlook now.
    • Both agree that many useful features of email, available in the past, have gone. Both of us still find email relevant however!
  • Calendars:
    • MrX misses the calendar on the Psion Organiser
    • Dave used to use an X-Windows tool called ical on Ultrix (no relation to the later iCalendar standard). Moved to Thunderbird and its calendar called Lightning.
    • Both have used the Google Calendar, Dave uses a Thunderbird add-on to share family calendars
  • Lifetime of storage media:
    • SD cards can last a fairly long time, but getting the right type is important. Using older-style cards in new projects might turn out to be a false economy.
    • Hard disks can last a long time if the right sort is used. One thing that shortens their life is getting them hot.
    • MrX has used Western Digital Passport hard drives for some time, and they have been very reliable – none have failed.
    • There are different drives from Western Digital which have different performances and they are colour coded. See the Western Digital website for details.
  • Complexity and single points of failure:
    • Chip shortages and lack of resilience:
      • Modern components that do a single job used to consist of multiple discrete components that could be replaced individually. Now, if a component fails it has to be replaced in its entirety, and because of the shortage of chips it uses it may be unavailable.
      • Older devices and components may still use older less specialised parts and so can be repaired.
      • Unnecessary reliance on GPS in devices, cloud services in Smart Home equipment, etc.
      • For example, managing enormous warehouses requires a lot of services that may not be too resilient, and could fail catastrophically.
    • Coronal Mass Ejection (CME):
  • Keeping systems up to date:
    • MrX has had problems getting various RPis updated and running.
    • Dave has had similar problems making the jump from Raspbian to Raspberry Pi OS.
    • In some cases the operating system on the Pis have needed to be completely reinstalled, and the work in installing and reconfiguring software has proved to be too much!
    • MrX’s PiFace Control and Display board is giving problems, as is the simpler PiFace Digital. It looks as if the company has gone out of business unfortunately.
    • Dave has a Pico RGB Base from Pimoroni, a 14-key board with RGB LEDs which could be used as a way of controlling things.
    • Dave’s Magic Mirror system (a Pi 3A+ attached to a monitor) failed because the Pi needed to be upgraded and then the Node.js code didn’t seem to be maintained any more! Needs work!!
    • MrX’s desktop PC is small and quiet, but since it’s in a cold room, tends not to get used too much in the winter! Dave’s PC is in an extension (addition) to the house and tends to get used quite a lot, but in cold winter weather, less so.
  • YouTube list:
    • We were going to mention a few YouTube channels we’d watched lately, but felt we’d already talked long enough!
    • Rather than just adding the list to the notes, as we discussed, we will leave this section to the next time we make a recording such as this.
  • Completing HPR shows:
    • MrX has a show he has recorded but is held up preparing notes to go with it.
    • Dave tends to write draft notes first, then build the recording around them, but this approach isn’t necessarily faster!


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