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Wednesday, 8 July 2020 Dereel Images for 8 July 2020
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New Microsoft box
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Over the weekend I ordered another ThinkCentre M93p, and it arrived today. This one was intended to run “Windows” 10, so there wasn't much to do except set it up. But almost out of habit, I opened it up and started putting in a graphics card (by default it only has a VGA connector). And there a surprise that will keep me thinking when I get the next one, destined to become a FreeBSD box: it's too high. Still, that's for another day.

Put the thing back together, fired up, logged in with my Microsoft account, and “activation” was so smooth that I didn't notice it. But the setup was so strange that I really didn't understand a lot of it. Do I want to synchronize activity history across “devices”? I suppose if I were single-threaded, I might. But it fills me with horror to think that actions that I perform in one place should leak into other places. It seems the complete antithesis of good operating system design.

And then there's this “privacy” page with things (all activated) like “Diagnostic data: send your browsing history...”.

That's privacy? They must have redefined it since I learnt the word. And then there are things like “Inking & typing” and “Advertising ID”. What does that have to do with an operating system? Layering violations without end! And finally completely irrelevant entries like “Find my device” and speech recognition. About the only thing that might make sense (and which I might even try some time) is “Location”, but I doubt that that would work. Google has all the information it needs to find my location, and so far it hasn't even always been able to find the correct continent.

And then there's this “link to your smart phone” functionality. What's that? In any case, I can try it out, so I entered my phone number. Nothing obvious happened, but later I discovered that it had sent me a couple of SMS messages, which I shall investigate some other time.

Setting up the network was as on Sunday. At least I've been able to untangle most of that strangeness, though “Register the connection's address in DNS” puzzles the hell out of me. Probably once again it's some Microsoft wart (as opposed to Microsoft “Word”).

Turn down offer of “Microsoft 365” free trial, whatever that might be, and on to set up accounts. What a catastrophe! It seems that Microsoft no longer wants to distinguish between accounts and email addresses, so I had to select the “Email & Accounts” tab and enter a valid email address. Finally with the help of our IRC channel and Google found this page, which despite its age (over 4 years) proved to be right.

No, you don't choose “Email & Accounts”. Why would you to set up an account? You choose “Family & other users”. Family? This is “Windows” 10 Pro, not Home. OK, humour them. Set up a kiosk? What the hell is that? No, it seems that what I want is a limited account. Why limited? Yes, it's running under Microsoft, which is limitation enough, but I still don't know what it meant. It's not lack of administrator privileges; you can add them later.

No, select “Add someone else to this PC” (and not, note, “device”). I want to add myself. OK, humour it. It wants a Microsoft account or a phone (on a PC, remember?). No, I don't. I don't have this person's sign-in information, to put it in Microsoft-speak. So I get another window asking me to create a Microsoft account. Dammit, I don't want anything to do with Microsoft accounts, certainly not for Yvonne. Ah, Add a user without a Microsoft account. Finally! “Create a user for this PC”. I have to think out three stupid security questions. I wanted to select the pair “Microsoft”/“NO”, but they decide the questions, like the name of my first pet (what if I never had one?) or the city where I was born (which nobody else could possibly guess). In fact, I think plenty of people who know me could guess the correct answers to all the questions. But Microsoft can't, so I gave incorrect answers. But to make up for that, I had no option for a password!

OK, try logging in anyway. “The password is incorrect. Try again”. Not surprising, but retrying won't help. Try recovering. Answer All Three of the stupid security questions, then I was able to set my password. Somehow I think that I have done something wrong.

Move on. Next I want rdesktop access. Disable firewall. Nothing. Ah, the thing seems to have two firewalls, a “Windows” firewall and a “Defender” firewall. Undo both, and ICMP works too. A good thing, too: my “Ten easy steps to enable ping” link has atrophied.

But the rdesktop access asks me to use some silly name that it had thought out. It can look up its name from DNS, but it's too polite to do that. How do I set the name? This page tells me. And then I have to reboot! To change the name!

After that, though, I was able to access the system with rdesktop, something that caused me untold grief last time I tried it, now over 3 years ago. The other pain will be setting up access to FreeBSD via Samba, something that I didn't get working at all last time I tried. But Jerry Dunham has recently given me some hints, so maybe I'll get my act together this time.

Still, Microsoft loves updates. Went checking: You're up to date. Oh, maybe not. There's a new version out there:
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OK, download that, in typical Microsoft fashion:
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Left it running. I'm in no hurry.

Nikolai injured
Topic: animals Link here

Nikolai came in from outside this morning and left many bloody pawprints. Further investigation showed that he had broken a nail on a hind leg:
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Off in the afternoon to visit Pene Kirk again, the second time in a week after nearly 18 months since the previous visit. Relatively straightforward: clip the claw off and bandage it up. But for that she still needed to sedate him, leaving him surprisingly groggy.

Another grid outage
Topic: Stones Road house, general Link here

Another one-second grid power failure this evening at 23:33:53.

Thursday, 9 July 2020 Dereel
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More garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

Knocking on the door this morning at 9:15, just as I was cleaning my teeth. It proved to be Mick Solly, the gardener, who has now repaired his car (intermittent electrical fault). Despite the middle of winter, there was plenty to do, and he'll be back to do the rest next week.

Also managed to plant some of my Basil seeds, unfortunately only the Thai basil. I couldn't find the others. The canonical way to do this is to plant lots and thin out after they have germinated. Somehow that offends my sense of stinginess, so I planted only the number I wanted and marked their positions with toothpicks:
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Apart from saving seeds, it will also give me a better idea of the germination rate.

More Microsoft fun
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

After running overnight, distress managed to upgrade itself to “Windows” 10 version 2004 (which sounds surprisingly like it's 16 years out of date). What now? Low-hanging fruit, mainly getting rid of this irritating date and time format. OK, first “region”. Given that it tells me that the date is July 9, it's fairly clear that it's set to USA. But no, Australia, at least Microsoft's interpretation, just US English for some reason. Managed to set time formats, but the login page still showed “July 9”. And of course it's too polite to show the seconds: it's a modern Operating System. Maybe I need to reboot. It also tells me that the temperature in Canberra (apparently near here) is 52°, which I find hard to believe.

And it talks NTP. To Microsoft. How do I tell it that there's an NTP server physically almost touching it? I don't know, yet.

So, it has just installed the most recent updates. I know you, Microsoft: you have updates in store. Check for updates. Yes. Oh, sorry, “check” is a synonym for “install”, right? Installing updates.

Maybe I should just accept that. After all, it's not a system that you can take seriously.

Apart from that, why are Microsoft cursors so hard to see? That's not new, but went looking and found some ways to change them, though they didn't seem to work very well. Maybe part of the rdesktop “experience”?

While searching for the mouse cursor stuff, found a way to disable this emetic bleed-through that was modern 10 years ago, and which thankfully has largely disappeared since then.

So what do I have to do now? In roughly decreasing order of importance,

  1. Set up Samba.
  2. Set up backups, which requires Samba to be working.
  3. Configure NTP.
  4. Teach default displays to tell the time, date and temperature correctly.

Covering the riding arena
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

It's been over three months since Yvonne started looking for quotes for covering the riding arena. By the middle of June, the last time I was in Ballarat, she had nothing useful. I saw a couple of builders while driving around (why didn't she?), and she contacted them. They gave her quotes, but only two. Are there others?

Dammit, this is all too much pain, says Yvonne. Yes, I knew that, that's why I didn't want to have anything to do with it. Now she's experiencing it first hand and not liking it. But that doesn't mean taking the first best quote. Much discussion, with the result that I've decided that there are worse pains than arranging the construction, so I'll be doing the rest after all.

Now we have a third quote from Graham of The Shed Specialist. But he doesn't build, and while he says he has addresses, he won't tell me who they are. On the other hand, he says that we can get it erected for a flat 35% rate and $75 per m² for the footings, and that makes his quote competitive. But do I want to get involved with somebody who only does part of the work?

In passing, there's a mention of the quality of the steel. All-Australian! None of this cheap Chinese junk. I've never listened much to this kind of argument, but he followed it up with numbers: his steel is 0.42 mm thick, while Chinese stuff is—he says—only 0.3 mm thick. Certainly worth keeping in mind and checking for, though it begs the question whether 0.3 mm isn't enough.

This page contains (roughly) yesterday's and today's entries. I have a horror of reverse chronological documents, so all my diary entries are chronological. This page normally contains the last two days, but if I fall behind it may contain more. You can find older entries in the archive. Note that I often update a diary entry a day or two after I write it.     Do you have a comment about something I have written? This is a diary, not a “blog”, and there is deliberately no provision for directly adding comments. It's also not a vehicle for third-party content. But I welcome feedback and try to reply to all messages I receive. See the diary overview for more details. If you do send me a message relating to something I have written, please indicate whether you'd prefer me not to mention your name. Otherwise I'll assume that it's OK to do so.

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