Exercising My Inner Geek

I have been hosting this website for a long time on a series of computers. There has been a succession of computers in the 16 years: my old PowerMac 7600, my Titanium PowerBook, a Grape iMac, a blue and white G3, a Windows computer bought from Esri, the 2009 Mac Mini, and most lately the 2013 Mac Mini. I upgraded the hard drive in the 2009 Mini back in 2014, but it’s been doing a light load of odd jobs.

I have been using MacOS Server for the web server stack for years now, but I found out lately that the new version of Server that is compatible with the newest version of MacOS (Mojave) removes a lot of functionality, including the web server. I was content to worry about this someday, but now that Mojave is out, I needed to figure this out. I toyed with some different options, but this weekend I thought I would try setting up the old Mini (Tiny).

It took most of the weekend, but in the end, I was successful. What I did:

  • Installed the latest version of macports.
  • Used macports to install apache, MySQL, PHP, BIND, phpMyAdmin and a bunch of other packages.
  • Then I got to work configuring everything, and transferring database info and other content to Tiny.
  • As the pièce de resistance: I set up a proper CA-signed TLS certificate for biickert.ca via LetsEncrypt. The whole site is now HTTPS.

It took a long time, especially setting up HTTPS, but it’s all done. In some ways, it’s a downgrade, going to the old computer. But in other ways it’s an upgrade:

  • The latest versions of the software,
  • HTTPS,
  • Everything automatically restarts when the computer does,
  • It leaves the “main” computer with fewer jobs (iTunes, Plex, UniFi).

And now we can install the OS update at will.

Painted The Kitchen Wall

Sometimes things have been in the job jar so long, the paper has turned to dust.

When we painted the living room, I painted a little swatch of colour on the kitchen wall under the phone. The idea was to choose a colour to paint the kitchen, covering the grey. Well, that was over two years ago. Neither Tammy nor I could make a decision on a colour, and that led to just leaving it.

Today, I was going to do some touch-up painting in the bonus room, and I was faced with a dilemma: should I

  • Take the can of grey paint and cover over the sample patch and touch up the most egregious examples of horrible paint in the kitchen or
  • Finally choose a colour for the kitchen and schedule painting for next weekend?

I chose touching up, but then when I popped open the can, the paint inside it had separated so badly that there was an immovable lump in the bottom of the can and an inch of oily liquid on top. 😖 So I had to go to the hardware store to get paint either way.

I elected to try to colour match the grey and touch up the paint. But as it dried, it was obvious that the colour match was only so-so. So we painted the entire wall. Miranda was using a small brush to do the fine edge bits (covering the beige left behind by the previous owners, and the teal/primer flashes showing between the living room and the kitchen from me). Tammy tore the computer desk apart, and I did the rest. It didn’t take too long, but the difference was such a relief.

The grey arch wall with fresh paint

I even did the horrible bits above the refrigerator. Seriously, how can you miss areas the size of a tennis ball?

That should clear the way for giving the kids’ bathroom a makeover. It’s been waiting behind this in the job jar for years now.

At Least It Was A Productive IT Weekend

Every once in a while, it information technology at our house takes a leap forward. Sometimes, it’s forced, like when the hard drive in our old Mac Mini started to pack it in, threatening to take our photo collection with it, or it’s just overdue, like the upgrade of our WiFi this past winter.

I’d like to think that this time, I was proactive. I identified that while our external media drive wasn’t full or showing age, it was getting older. At the same time, my backup drive at work was full and was six and a half years old. So I ordered a new Western Digital MyBook 6TB drive and replaced the one at home, and I have taken the old one from home (WD 3TB) and brought it to work to replace the old drive here. I toyed with the idea of setting up a RAID array or getting a NAS (network attached storage), but those options were more expensive for incremental returns.

I also have unified my network cabinet with the addition of a 8-port gigabit switch, taking the load off of the Shaw Hitron cable modem and the cheap 5-port switch I had in there previously.

Mean time between failure (MTBF): over 1.2 million hours… starting now

The Internet seems to be more stable, but I fully expect to see Shaw back. Collin (senior technician) came over Monday at 10 and was at our house for an hour and a half. When he left (having set up a replacement cable modem) all was fine. But then someone on the back end at Shaw made one more change… They were supposed to disable the WiFi on my modem (bridged mode), but I think they ended up disabling my ethernet ports instead. Another four hours of texting with Collin later, the Internet is back up. So that killed holiday Monday.

But on the bright side (very, very bright side), when hanging around with Ian in the basement, he sat down at the drums and I showed him how to play a standard “four on the floor beat”. It took a bit to coordinate his hands and feet, but in short order he had it. I let him play against “Night Prowler” by AC/DC, and then I played a 12-bar blues riff with him, and then we played “Summer of ’69 together, with him drumming and me playing my Strat and singing. It was awesome.

Ian’s Birthday Party and Internet Woes

I am posting this on Monday, the day after Ian’s birthday party at Southland Leisure Centre, because last night we effectively had no proper Internet connection. It’s now working and the Shaw guy is coming this afternoon, but more on that later.

Originally, we were going to have Ian’s birthday party on Saturday, but we hesitated and the booking slot was lost. So we had Ian’s birthday party with his friends on Sunday. He invited his friends Ben (with whom he had a sleepover Friday), Ashton, and Tyler, and we also invited Ilia (with whom we went hiking the day before) and Miranda invited her friend Sierra. We had drinks and Doritos and watermelon, as well as a chocolate sour cream cake with chocolate frosting and sour gummy candies on top.

Ian about to blow out the candles (L-R: Ashton, Ian, Tyler, Ben)

The gummy sours were the biggest hit… note to self: more gummies next time.

Yum, cake!

Swimming was from 1 to 3, and the cake and stuff from 3 to 4. It worked out really well, with two exceptions:

  1. Ilia was late and only got about a half-hour of swimming and
  2. Tyler might never have been in a swimming pool before. We really had to supervise him to ensure the number of kids picked up by parents equalled the number dropped off.

Tammy was really happy with the results. The party “room” (really, just an area with movable dividers) was out of the way, and we weren’t rushed or anything. The kids had a good time.

Anyway… on to the network issues.

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Gardening

It’s not much, but it’s a step towards respectability. The front garden has been a semi-neglected thing since we moved in. The shrubs have slowly died off one by one. It was time to do some renovation.

It’s a start. A couple of juniper bushes. Soon there will be more.

Updated May 21

We’ve done some more work on the garden now. Still a couple more shrubs to plant, but the basic idea is in place now.

From the front

From the porch. Grass seed planted around the stepping stones.

C’mon Sun☀️, Melt That Snow!

It seems I brought the warmth back with me from Palm Springs. It’s gotten up to about 7 or 8 degrees yesterday and today, and the snow and ice is retreating. Yesterday, it was warm enough that it melted all the snow from my roof. That let me take down my Christmas lights (finally). Today, I took a look at that ice buildup on the downspout that Tammy posted about, and removed almost all of it. It has almost completely melted when we spread the chunks on the walkway.

Help me, I’m Melting…

Ian and I shovelled the driveway… in reverse. We were spreading snow back onto the driveway and letting it melt. We managed to do quite a bit.

Using solar energy

It felt good to be out. As you can see, it was warm enough to be in T-shirts when we were working. The forecast calls for more snow later in the week, but this will help get the front lawn uncovered faster.

The Day the Furnace Went Out

Dun dun dun! 🎵

I always feared that it would be during a cold snap that our furnace would stop working. And today, at -19, it did. However, we were home at the time, figured it out pretty quickly, and got a guy to come take a look at it within hours, so all’s well. In fact, we even got away with a relatively minor expense: $301.

It started with me working from home. Tammy was off, and I had a chiropractor appointment at 11:45. Both of us had complained to each other in the morning that it felt chilly, but I knew that the thermostat was at 21 degrees, so I thought it was either mental or insufficient air circulation. I went to the chiropractor, and when I came back I found Tammy fiddling with the thermostat.

“The reason we thought it was chilly in here is because it’s only 17 degrees.”

I know nothing about fixing furnaces, so other than checking the pilot light, replacing the filter (dirty) and turning the furnace off for a bit and then on again, there was nothing to do. Tammy called the place whose sticker was on the furnace, and they suggested the things we’d already done. So I headed off for a meeting downtown, while Tammy waited for Rico the furnace guy to arrive.

I got a stream of texts from her in the afternoon.

The furnace seems fine now and the house is toasty. Rico indicated that the furnace we have is a good one that will essentially last forever with maintenance and periodic replacement of worn parts. That’s good news.

It could have been so much worse, like when we were away in Edmonton. 🙀

New Trainer, Fall Riding and Weatherstripping

Fall is truly taking hold in Calgary. Gone are the 30 degree days, replaced with 7 degree days. Soon, snow will take over. In anticipation of the long winter and slippery roads, I have purchased a new cycle trainer. In 2013, I bought a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine, which is still going strong. However, in the time since, I have taken up Zwift, which along with other similar apps has really driven the market towards computer-controlled trainers. These are trainers which vary the resistance and measure wattage directly for apps like Zwift.

Using my Bow Cycle Ambassador discount, I brought home a Wahoo Kickr Snap.

Wahoo Kickr Snap glamour shot

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I Win, Ikea 😈

I win. You tried to beat me with your ridiculous pipes, but I beat you.

Who says an oval peg can’t go in a round hole?

Okay, okay. It’s a total bodge. It will be replaced with a full set of new pipes in a couple of weeks, but for now this is good enough to make the sink usable again.

The short version of the story is that a piece of plastic broke on our Ikea sink. It was the piece that held the stopper and the pipe under the drain against the bottom of the bowl. When it broke, water could run freely into the drawers under the sink.

I went to Ikea last night with the broken piece, thinking I could replace it. But no, the “Rinnen” plumbing system had been redesigned in the three years since we installed our sink. So I got new pieces up to the bodge above, thinking I would be able to fit the new to the old. Unfortunately, the new part’s pipe had an oval cross-section, while the old one was round!

So, armed with more information, Tammy went to Ikea this afternoon. I wasn’t there, but as I understand it, they didn’t have the parts we need. They have been ordered and will arrive in about 2 weeks.

I didn’t want to be without the sink for two weeks, and I had a brainwave at work. What if I used a section of bicycle tubing as a flexible cuff between the oval and round ends? I spent a couple of hours this evening trying different ways of doing this. The first way (sliding it onto the sink side and sliding a short section into the drain) worked for about five seconds before water started coming out. Then I tried something similar (feeding a longer section in so that it went down the drain) and that worked. But it was a slow drain. Then I tried sliding it onto the drain end, and then onto the sink end (as pictured above). That was hard work, but after a lot of effort, I got it.

What you see above can handle a full sink draining, with the tap on full. This will suffice for the two weeks.

Also, sorry about the lack of posting. It’s been back to work and back to school and sort of quiet around here. We got Miranda her “Malm” bed with drawers on Sunday, and last week Ian finally spent the rest of his birthday money on a share of an XBox One S.

Updated

The new plumbing kit has arrived from Ikea. At this point, I am hopeful that I will be able to replace just part of it, rather than all the way to the wall, but we will see. If the weather doesn’t cooperate this weekend, then I might have time.

Bicycle Parking

What’s with all these bikes?

Things were coming to a crisis in the garage. With the addition of Ian’s new bike, we’d run out of space. His old bike was able to slide under the workbench, but the new one isn’t. So he was parking the bike, and there was double-parking galore. My Roubaix was being shifted from spot to spot and Tammy was terrified of accidentally hitting it when she parked.

Our old system dated back to when there were only three bikes, and one of them was a tiny kids’ bike. It worked well enough even when Miranda had moved up to the Kona bike. The two adult bikes hung on top, and the kids’ bike were underneath. We set the Ikea-hack hangers up when we moved to Calgary. Then Miranda grew. And I ended up with two bikes (one for commuting and a road bike). Then I got a second road bike. Then Tammy got her new hybrid. And finally Ian graduated to a larger bike.

The old system broke down. I also had a couple of long-standing grudges about the garage: the shelves with my most-often accessed tools were not easy to get at, especially in the winter, and the floor was crudded out with the detritus of four years’ dirt, leaves and miscellaneous et cetera.

We cleared out the garage (everybody helped). I swept and hosed out the garage and then  Tammy and I put up new bike hangers.

Nice and neat.

And Tammy asked me why there were three more spots for hanging bikes. 🙄 No reason. Just got carried away, was all…

Then we put everything back, but moved a set of shelves to be by the door, so that the tools could be reached easily.

The garage, ready for business

Unfortunately, this is the good part of today’s story. The bad part is that the Golf is currently sitting at Northland VW. Last night, Tammy had to wait an hour and a half for her car to start after work, so we took it to the dealer this morning. The amazing part was that the car demonstrated its “won’t start” behaviour with the service guy and the shop foreman. That never happens! Honest, it doesn’t start sometimes, believe me!

They have diagnostic’ed everything and have narrowed it down to replacing the console, which includes the ignition inhibitor. It’ll be $1000 to fix (parts and labour) and it doesn’t guarantee anything, but there’s no other obvious culprit.