Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 286

This blog runs on a Linux server on Linode (referral link). I use the server for a few other purposes, too; one of its tasks is to send us selected items from the paper every morning. It usually runs smoothly, but this morning, we didn’t get the email from the server, nor any error messages. I logged onto the server and ran the summary program at the console; it seemed to work but at the very end, I got a message: “Killed”.

I knew I hadn’t written any such message into my program, so I started digging. I didn’t have to dig far – as soon as I looked at the system log, I saw messages from the “oom-killer” program, followed by a message: “Out of memory: Killed process…”.

I ran top and found that my memory was almost all in use, as was my swapfile. I rebooted, and things seemed better – but I did some more web searching and found out how to check the size of the swapfile – it was only 256MB on a 1GB image, far less than recommended.

I stopped the machine and reallocated space to give me a 2GB swapfile; I hope that solves the problem. As of this minute, the system is using 416MB of the swapfile, but there’s also nearly 400MB free main memory – I hope it knows what it’s doing, because I don’t!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 285

This morning, Rabbi Aron led Shir Shabbat services. That’s not unusual, but today’s service marked the last Shabbat service she’ll lead as the Senior Rabbi at Shir Hadash – she retires on Thursday and becomes Rabbi Emerita on Friday.

She’s told the story of the first Shabbat service she led at Shir Hadash, which ended with her and the Temple secretary driving all over town trying to find a place for a homeless man to stay for the night. Her last service will come with its own story – it got Zoom-bombed by at least half-a-dozen vandals! She closed the room and reopened it and we were very careful about only letting known people into the service the second time around (a couple of us volunteered to co-host so she could actually lead the service) and there were no further incidents.

This evening, we watched City Lights’ production of Mark Anderson Philips’s one-man version of A Christmas Carol – it was very good (if you want to see it, go to cltc.org/tickets before January 3). But I got distracted by a stuck pixel at the bottom of the TV screen – I wondered if it might have been an artifact in the recording, but it stayed on after the show. Then I wondered if the TV might be giving up the ghost (and providing me an excuse to upgrade), so I moved the cursor to bring up a browser…and the “stuck pixel” turned out to be the tip of the cursor that had been sitting at the bottom of the screen the whole time. So much for that reason to upgrade!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 284

I woke up today realizing that I had two problems that I could solve if I just spent a little time learning how to make images in Python:

  • Creating a graphic for the daily Pushover weather notification that I send to Diane and me; right now, it’s just plain text and it’s difficult to pick out the important information. Pushover doesn’t support HTML or formatted text, but it does allow adding an image to the notification.
  • Printing labels on the Brother PT-2730 on Big Sur, as I mentioned yesterday.

The second problem was smaller, so I attacked it first. It was easy to create a PNG file from the text for a label and print it; the hard part was figuring out how to print it to a label of the proper length, and the documentation is, shall we say, very limited. Trial-and-error was my friend.

A few dozen trials, and most of my tape supply, later, I have a working program that lets me print labels in any font on my machine (figuring out how to specify the font by name and variation instead of filename and index was not easy). It’s on GitHub in case it’s of use to anyone else.

Creating the graphic for the weather notification will happen some other time.

Shabbat Shalom!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 283

I hit my first significant incompatibility with Big Sur and my new Mac mini today. For many years, I’ve had a Brother PT-2730 label maker attached to a Mac in the office; by using Brother’s P-Touch Editor, I could create labels in any font I wanted. The software wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to use, but since I was only writing a few words at a time, it sufficed.

But when I migrated to Big Sur, the software crashed as soon as I tried to type anything. And Brother doesn’t seem to plan to support it on Big Sur; they have a new version of the editor on the Mac App Store, but it explicitly does not allow printing to older label makers like mine (I tried).

The obvious solution (at least from Brother’s viewpoint) would have me buy a new label maker that is supported – but that seems silly.

The next most obvious solution would be to install the Windows version of the editor on Diane’s Windows laptop, plug the printer into that machine, and declare victory. But that would require fiddling with Windows.

I was able to print directly to the label printer from Microsoft Word, but I haven’t found a way to print a label with an arbitrary length from Word. I’m looking for code that will do it from the command line, but haven’t found it yet.

Maybe using Windows for printing labels isn’t a totally horrible idea after all.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 282

We made cookies this morning according to the Doubletree recipe (except that we left out the walnuts – we were giving them away to neighbors and weren’t sure of nut allergies). It was messy, but the results were good!

We sent the ZVOX speaker I mentioned on December 13 back to ZVOX today. It definitely did clarify voices, but it was at the expense of stereo and a good bit of naturalness of the sound. I can get close to the same level of clarity by adjusting the graphic equalizer on the Denon receiver, and that means one fewer box and one fewer remote control to deal with, which seems like a fair trade for now.

This afternoon, I heard a “tink…tink…tink” sound from an external hard drive on Diane’s machine. Fortunately, it was only a backup/Time Machine drive, so there was no real loss of data, but I would like to get her machine up on Time Machine again real soon, so I think I’m in the market for another external drive (this one was at least five years old, so it’s not surprising that it failed).

After that, I decided to clean up the wiring around my computer in my office – that was several hours ago, and some things still don’t work. Maybe tomorrow will be better….

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 281

I set up the speaker system I mentioned yesterday; it’s a Cambridge Soundworks “Microworks”. I wouldn’t exactly call it “micro”, but it works. Unfortunately, it also uses a lot of power (85 watts) and suffers from a good bit of hum, so I’ll probably get some small desktop speakers instead, with a switch and volume control that I can reach easily instead of having to go under the desk.

I had my first meeting with the new District Web team this afternoon – I’d been trying to get a replacement as Webmaster for a couple of years, but I hadn’t ever set a date certain for my departure, so nothing happened. In October, I told the District Director that I needed to be replaced by the end of 2020, and it’s happening! I will be helping tie up loose ends for a month or two, I’m sure, but the direction is clear.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 280

UPS delivered the Mac mini this afternoon!

Setting it up was a little more trouble than I expected – I had to dig out a wired keyboard and touchpad (an old Cirque Smart Cat) to be able to pair it with the Apple wireless keyboard and Magic Trackpad I really want to use.

Then I realized that a Mac mini doesn’t include a microphone or a decent speaker – the webcam I’m using has a microphone, so that’s OK, but I’m going to have to figure out what to do about a speaker. I have an old Cambridge Soundworks system that I can use, but it includes a very large woofer that I’ll have to put somewhere, and the tweeters will take up some precious desk space, too. Or I could use headphones.

It’s going to take a while to figure out how to set things up properly – right now, there are wires all over the desk, some of which are probably unnecessary. I haven’t quite gotten comfortable with the placement of the monitor, keyboard, and touchpad yet – I’m sitting closer to the monitor than I did before, and it’s a big monitor.

It’ll all work out, right?

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 279

It was nice not to be waiting for any deliveries today; I did a bit more consolidation, pruning, and labeling of photos from 2002, which will make the eventual migration to the new machine a few seconds faster.

This morning was a special occasion – my first cousin, Sharon, turned 75 yesterday and her children arranged a surprise Zoom birthday party for her. It had been a long time since we’d talked, and it was good to see other family members, too.

This evening, we attended a Sheloshim service for Rabbi Aron’s mother who died a bit over a week ago; that was a reminder of the other end of the cycle.

The waiting resumes tomorrow.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 278

UPS sent me a message this morning saying that my new Mac mini was “out for delivery” today, much to my surprise. After Shir Shabbat services, we went outside and found a box from Apple on the porch – it was the box I need to use when I send my old computer to them for trade-in. And it came by FedEx, not UPS. Maybe Monday….

Our neighbors Bones and Skully have reappeared after their vacation – good thing they have heavy sweaters because it’s quite chilly outside tonight!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 277

I had hopes of getting my new Mac mini today; UPS sent me an email telling me to expect it between 4:15 and 8:15pm; Apple sent me a text telling me “Today’s the day.”

It’s 9:17pm, and I’m beginning to suspect that today isn’t the day.

If the computer had arrived, I wouldn’t have been able to set it up in place of the system it’s replacing because I’m leading services over Zoom tomorrow, and rearranging everything would not have been a good idea – but it would have been nice to have had the option.

Shabbat Shalom!