Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Orage and google calendar

A long time ago, eleven and a bit years ago, I wrote a fairly noddy script to import a google calendar file into orage.

It wasn't syncing, but wrapped up in a cron job it could mean that you got your calendar updated once a day, a week, or whatever.

The script was an adaption of one I wrote to see when content on a remote website changed - basically it grabbed a copy of the webpage once a week, diff'd it against the previous week's, and if it was a different size emailed me.

Anyway, for a long time the orage/google calendar script worked for some people. I know this as people would sometimes email me requesting enhancements or fixes.

Well, no more. Andi Harlan posted a comment to let me know of a better, more sophisticated solution.

Which is kind of cool ...

Plastic decay and the documentation project

I recently tweeted a couple of links, one from the Telegraph, the other from the New York Times about the problems of the long term conservation of plastic objects.

Basically plastic decays.

Plastics manufacturers try to choose formulations that will last for a reasonable time, but eventually plastic goes hard, cracks, breaks, or worse, turns into vinegary goo.

It's a problem manufacturers have been aware of for a long time, but understandably they have expectations as to the reasonable life of the product - it's no use designing a container that will last a hundred years when the contents will last five at most.

Plastic items, especially containers, were designed in the expectation that they would be thrown away once the contents were used up.

And it's not a new problem. Once, many years ago while out walking on the Lizard in Cornwall I happened across a steel board in a wire cage with a whole lot of different types of network cable attached - my guess is that some cabling company was carrying out a long term test on the resilience of various sorts of cable for outside use.

And plastic decay just happens - for example my old Subaru has a cracked aerial mount due to exposure to sun as well as sun damaged paint.

So, given all this, it would be natural to expect that some of the artifacts in Dow's would show signs of decay.

Well, so far none of the plastic items do. Obviously they've been handled gently, but none of them show signs of decay or leakage - unlike some of the flexible metal tubes from the same time, the mid fifties to the mid sixties.

I attribute this to most of the plastic items documented so far being stored in semi darkness and in reasonably dry and cool conditions, and not subject to much more than the normal diurnal changes.

However I'm still working on the dispensary at the back of the shop.

We've got a number of as yet undocumented items in the front of the shop, including some fairly funky 1950's plastic sunglasses. I've had a cursory look and they look ok, but they probably need a more detailed examination ...

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Another internet radio ...

A long time ago, I bought myself an internet radio.

For most of its life it was a toy, a curiosity, but since we moved to the rural north east of Victoria, it became a rather more serious device.

Being rural, there is of course no DAB, Radio National is on crackly AM, and ABC Newsradio is nowhere to be found, So the Internet radio came into its own to give us access to a wider range of stations that the local FM stations.

And then a couple of weeks ago it died. Gently. I noticed that the standby display was getting progressively dimmer, and then it died.

I suspect something like a blown capacitor, but there it was - from useful device to piece of junk in forty minutes.

So I bought us another one.

Which was more difficult than you would think. Most of the local big box stores claim to have them, but they don't, they're inevitably on back order. And while they may be rebadged as something else most of them seem to be the same as Ocean digital internet radios from Hong Kong - so, as they have an online store I bought direct.

It took about 10 days to arrive, but plugged in and configured it just worked. A little quieter than the old Asus, but with a very similar menu system - in fact the only major change to the software  I can see is that it honours ntp, the internet time protocol which the old one didn't - otherwise the user experience is much the same.

Physically, it's wifi only - no wired socket, which makes sense given that most people have wifi everywhere at home - we're just odd in having a bit of physical ethernet between our internet router and a little unmanaged switch in the lounge room - it's how the old one was connected and how our internet tv service is connected, but the wifi is fast enough so we don't really have a problem.

And as for a range of stations?

Ocean claim more than 23,000 - we've tried exactly three, all ABC, but doubtless we'll expand in time to add a few decent jazz and classical music stations ....

Friday, 14 September 2018

Yep, the methodology works offline

If you've been paying attention at the back, you'll be aware that I'm currently volunteering as a sort of archivist to document the contents of Dow's Pharmacy.

Actually, the job is more like being the finds officer on an archaeological dig than a straight digital archiving job, but it's all good fun. I'm using a fairly simple methodology, and I did say that it could be used without an internet connection.

Well last Wednesday, I got in nice and early, only to discover the internet was down. This had happened previously, and I'd worked in offline mode, so I decided to do so again.

Last time, it was fairly early into the project and I hadn't built up a comprehensive pile of reference documentation locally so the process was a bit slow, with quite a bit of trying to look stuff up on my phone - OneNote isn't the best on a small screen, and neither are most of the reference site that I use.

This time, as I've now built up  a fairly comprehensive set of notes on manufacturers in OneNote, it went considerably faster as regards checking details in documentation and so on - I built up a little dot pointer in notepad as I went along of anything that I needed the internet to check, but otherwise I managed to document almost everything fully, including a couple of local updates to OneNote.

Back at home, I backed up the days data to OneDrive, spent about an hour working through the dot pointer, sync's OneNote, and I was done.

Simple - and proving you can do documentation offline, even if having the internet makes things a bit more convenient.