#blogjune 2017 recap

Done and dusted for another year. Here we are 4 days later and this is my first post since June finished. Stats are a funny old thing, the only ones I have to count are for folk who specifically visit my page. I have no idea how many other people are reading my posts via feed readers such as feedly. It’s possible to make a rough estimate as feedly does show a subscriber count for each of its feeds but I’m unclear as to its accuracy, having read conflicting accounts. All in all, it sounds like work is required to get accurate figures and my care factor is a little too low for that :-)

blog statistics

Looking at the graph above, direct access seems to have dropped off a little in 2017 but has been mostly stead for the last few years. With that said, the 2017 figure is based on the year so far ie the first six months. That suggests, even I can manage to keep blogging, that 2017 is shaping up to be my best year since at least 2014, and potentially since 2012. I think 2012 was the first year that wordpress broke down the difference between views and visitors, as noted by the darker shading in the column.

In terms of my #blogjune blogging, I managed to just scrape in:

  • 30 posts
  • 10,700 words, averaging 357 words per post

3 posts less but 700 words more than my 2016 effort. I think I managed to blog about most things I thought I would though I never got round to blogging properly about whisky, though I had a few ideas in draft. My top 5 posts were:

which seems a mix of interesting and pedestrian, so here’s the next 5 as well:

which is a more interesting list of titles :-)

techie librarian; meatier than a seahorse

 

Tag lines…whatever do you use for your tagline: the subheading of your identity, the punchline by which people establish a connection. Mostly I pay them lip service, smiling occasionally at a clever one. My own tend to refer to variations of: techie, librarian and eclectic, sometimes all 3 at once.

In a rather wayward conversation, spinning down a rabbit hole of curiousity, as things are wont to do when Matt Finch is involved, a recent conversation turned from roasting penguins to eating seahorses.

I participated in a workshop as part of NLS8 and the first activity was for everyone to sketch a scene, in 90 seconds, on a piece of A4 using at least one of three figures on a screen: 2 humans (or human-like) and a penguin. As is my wont, I immediately gave into the dark side and sketched the two humans roasting the penguin. The second half of the activity was for each table to construct a cohesive story using those scenes as panel. They were two quick activities that worked really well as an icebreaker and got you thinking at how easy it was to come up with ideas under pressure.

The seahorses came later…or rather many years earlier:

to which I responded with my “meatier than seahorse” remark and commented elsewhere that while I have never eaten penguin, I have actually eaten seahorse.

Many years ago, 2003 I think (really must upload those photos to flickr), I spent a few weeks on an Intrepid trip in China with friends. We started in Beijing and went to the Beijing night markets, a place where you can eat just about anything including silk worms and even scorpions on a stick. Scorpions were a wee a but scary but we figured had to be ok as noone was dropping dead. As far as we can figure, they’re bred without their stinger.

While trying to order something else, there was a language issue, and I ended up with seahorse on a stick. I think the scorpions were about 20 cents for five whereas the seahorse was a few Oz dollars for one. Our tour guide tried to talk our way out of it but the shopowner insisted. So I paid for it and ate it. There wasn’t much flavour as it was primarily shell with perhaps a tiny morsel of meat.

Matt suggested “meatier than a seahorse” as a bio and it immediately rang the right sort of bells, both physically and metaphorically. I am now using it for all my taglines :-)

money, money, money

This was given to me by old friends many years ago…I think it was a Kris Kringle present but my memory is a wee bit hazy. Quite simply, this is a moneybox snail as well as being one of my brighter snails. I smile a little every time I look at it. It used to sit on the bookcases in my old loungeroom but these days resides with the larger snail collection.

moneybox snail

a puppet snail

This was given to me many years ago, and is one of my older snails. A family I used to hang out with in my church days, spotted it and had to buy it for me. In the early days I used to wear it as a puppet to entertain their kids. These days it sits in a bowl, looking out on the world.

puppet snail

identifying data

Wednesday and time to respond to an identity challenge from Paul :-) 4 questions about me and computer gear I like and I suspect question 1 and question 4 are going to be the hard ones. As this is a personal space, I tend not to talk about my work, or at least not directly. My about page provides hints of past current jobs but that’s about it.

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is snail. I use my real name at work though even there I’d prefer to use snail but all the systems are based around official names not nicknames. Sadly. Many folk know me as snail except security and the switchboard so turning up and asking for snail ain’t gonna work :-) I am the Online Resources Specialist Librarian at the State Library of NSW and I am responsible for working with eresources, dealing with vendors, contract management, budget management, EZproxy, eresource troubleshooting and support, eresource subscriptions and digital archive purchases…and stats…and more stats. I am the Library’s representative on the NSLA eResources Consortium. 3 years ago I implemented a project for whole of domain web harvesting of all government websites under *.nsw.gov.au and I’ve been running that ever since…I’ll be commencing the primary annual captures today. I may have been blogging about the web harvesting stuff recently :)

What hardware do you use?

At work, I have a basic laptop running Windows 7 plugged into a 24″ widescreen monitor, along with a Das Keyboard Professional 4 mechanical keyboard and a Logitech trackball. I have a Jabra bluetooth hub hooked up to the desk phone which is paired to my mobile hearing aid loop, enabling me to hear telephone calls through my hearing aids.

laptops, tablet, phone ereaderI have a personal laptop, 2013 11″ Sony Vaio running Windows 10, which I use occasionally at work for external testing. At home, I have a mac mini connected to a 24″ widescreen monitor, with a Logitech G610 mechanical keyboard and a Logitech trackball. Behind the scenes I’m running a home server on a 4 bay QNAP TS-421 in RAID 5: each drive is 3TB for a total of 12TB which I’m primarily using it for backing all my machines, running my itunes server, and photo archive. I have a 7″ Nexus (2013) tablet, a Samsung galaxy s5 phone, and a Sony PRS-T2 ereader. Even a Psion 5mx that still works! I have several old keyboards too, assorted external hard drives and lots of USB sticks. :-)

And what software?

30533574640_5de8d36502_nThe machine at work is on Windows 7 and has just migrated to Office 365. The personal laptop is running Windows 10 and tends to run Open Office variants, has a virtualbox running Linux Mint, and a few other odds and ends. The mac mini is running whatever is the current MacOS and the phone and tablet are running android. I’ve never been much good at this single operating environment malarkey :-) Some of my favourite software includes:

and more browser variants than I care to count including lynx.

What would be your dream setup?

I wish all my devices would talk better to each other, a universal standard for talking across different machines, operating systems and so on. More speed, more bandwidth and greater customisation options. I like things to look pretty, both the hardware and the software, and I don’t like it when fab looking customisations break things. I like working from home but like working near colleagues too and some way of merging the two environments would be fab. I want better ears to hear conversations and chit-chat.

a little low end

Ruminating further on my desire for more processing power, I’ve been thinking more on clusters and can’t help but feel that a lego rack of tiny motherboards is a rather cute direction to head in. My general idea at the moment is to look at building a cluster significantly more powerful than a mac mini but with a small footprint and not too expensive. While there are desktop towers and second-hand servers that can achieve much better performance, they take up a lot of physical space. 2 things I’ve always been interested in in computing:

  • small size (or footprint) – I don’t want them to dominate the space
  • low weight
  • good battery life is also nice but less relevant in this scenario

The Intel NUC cluster is the high end version of the sort of setup that could work for me. However high end, cutting edge isn’t the only solution and comments on twitter reminded me that there are other, cheaper options for home use starting with the humble raspberry pi. Turns out there’s quite a bit of work in that area on a low end approach to supercomputing. While the overall speed per board won’t be huge, gains can be made for parallel computing as a good number of cores and threads increases work done in these sorts of systems and may work out better, and cheaper than a single NUC.

train station in Manarola, Italy.

There’s been a lot of work with raspberry pi clusters and running boards in parallel with anything from 4 boards up to 200+; someone has even published instructions on building a 4 board Pi cluster in a mere 29 minutes. However the Pi isn’t the only option and another board that has developed a community is the Odroid series and they seem a wee bit more powerful than the Pi without being much more expensive.

The challenge I gather with Pi/Odroid setups is potentially around the ARM chipset whereas the NUC being Intel is on a more common platform. ARM is a slower chipset relatively and doesn’t quite have the broad support of mainstream chipsets however there seems to be a strong community around them. On the other hand, if you want to go down the intel route, then there’s credit size computers, like the Intel Edison, based on x86 chips. Literally the size/thickness of a credit card and can boot to standard linux. Clusters of these are even smaller, with a 10 card cluster that looks like it could fit in the palm of your hand.

Realistically, while it’s nice to dream I’m not actually that great with hardware stuff and I can see that 29 minute Pi cluster taking me most of the day…if I can get it to work at all. Yet it sounds so simple. I suspect it’s a matter of courage, patience and lots of google-fu. I get nervous when dealing with hardware and installing software, blindly running other people’s scripts and keeping my fingers cross that if errors occur, they’re not too hard to resolve. The advantage of cheaper approaches is that I’m not too badly out of pocket if I can’t get it to work, a few hundred vs a few thousand. The other question is whether a tenth of the budget produces better than a tenth of the power?