children of dune - leto 1

the things i have seen and done and moved to

Okay so yes it's been five months since I posted, but in my defense:

1.) Spring Semester got intense (4.0 for two classes!)
2.) Summer Semester was an eight week hellscape (3.5 for two classes, almost learned to hate databases)
3.) Fall Semester is my first semester of three classes (nine hours) and there's been some adjustment.
4.) ...I moved.

Wait, what?

The last time I posted in April, I was really only thinking seriously about it but without commitment. then Child got a tech support job, and he really wanted to move pretty much anywhere else, which--this being Austin--is not cheap; worse, the areas he wanted to move to were really not cheap and stuffed full of new, shiny, very trendy new complexes which were really really not cheap...none of which either of us could possibly afford on our own, which is when he said we'd split the rent down the middle.

That made it surprisingly doable. For those who know Austin, our final area choices (that at least were vaguely possible, was the North Lamar area south of 290 where a lot of new complexes had and still are popping up and south of the River (South Austin). Downtown was not doable without selling some key organs that don't have backups and cant' be replaced. We also checked a few other areas, but North Lamar was our first choice for a.) the center of everything, b.) buses everywhere and access to the train, and c.) it's just super cool, okay?

The total rent we could afford was $2200: go.

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I still live in a Box Jungle but I'm sitting on my porch doing homework at night overlooking the pool right now. I've been imagining being here and doing this for months and honestly? It's even better than I thought. Posted at Dreamwidth: | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments
children of dune - leto 1

this has been a week

Home Assistant

WHEE! My Home Assistant Blue arrived! I did the migration a couple of days ago, and so far, I'm impressed.

1.) I did not realize the case was metal. Sweet.
2.) It seems to run more smoothly than Home Assistant ran on the Pi, which I'd expect since the Blue was purpose-designed to run Home Assistant.
3.) The resource usage is much better; process temperature is 25% lower and there's a minor but definite increase in speed. And this despite the fact that my Pi ha 8G of RAM and Blue has only 4.

DIY NAS - A New Thing to Do With a Pi

This means that my Pi is now free. Or was, because since it was available, I decided to experiment with diy NAS (network attached storage). Basically, download OpenMediaVault to the Pi, connect my external four-bay enclosure that holds my media to it, and go to town.

I'm still learning OpenMediaVault, so while I did get it working smoothly (with some early annoying hiccups), I want to do some more experimenting before doing a write-up. I'm not married to it, so I am considering trying a few other OSs.

The GUI is nothing to write home about, and while it's very organized, the design choices are sometimes redundant so it feels more cluttered than it actually is.

I admit I'm spoiled: Home Assistant has a gorgeous user interface and that's just the default; most of what you do in Home Assistant is make it even better and more responsive and more customized. If you have an imagination and a vague grasp of any programming or web design, you can do anything.

OpenMediaVault's UI, like DD-WRT's UI (if you're playing the home game, DD-WRT is the open source software you can use for routers), is--not any of that. It's functional and I will say you can tell no one there made the mistake of trying to break barriers or disrupt the system or rebel against convention and do weird shit with javascript and too much time on your hands, and that's something.

It's utilitarian, and like I said, the design is both clear and redundant. On the left is the sidebar, which is divided into sections, and each section name can expand or collapse all items within. On the right is the main screen, and in a narrow header above it, it has an icon of a house (Home). All items in each section are clickable, taking you to their individual pages. Fine so far.

If you click on Home, the main page shows all the sections in rows, and beneath each section name are all the items in that section and their icons. Everything is clickable: section name on the Home Page takes you to the section page, where all the items are listed; item icon on the Home Page takes you to the item page. A bit redundant, but okay; maybe someone fears sidebars and you can minimize it.

Back to the sidebar; same thing. The section name isn't just a name; it's also a link to the section page with all the items, all clickable to their own pages.

On the header just above this, it shows Home in a button, then the Section Name in a second button. If you click an item--either on the sidebar or on the section page--that appear as a third button. Those buttons are also clickable so you can move forward and back, though you never--so far--get more than three deep and if you have the sidebar open, it doesn't matter, but okay.

It's not easy to explain why I find this weird, except I can't work out why you need three (four?) ways on the same screen at the same time to go to the same place. Basically, this design means you are always at most one click deep anywhere, which would be good but you are only one click deep in three separate ways. It's confusing if you don't expect so much redundancy but it's pretty much impossible to get lost.

I can't tell who it was designed for; DD-WRT was made for intermediate to advanced network and programming people (and it shows in the documentation like whoa), while OpenMediaVault seems to be for everyone and anyone, at least as far as GUI You Will Never Get Lost In Really (so far, there's nothing hidden in nooks or crannies or only appears if you know the right places to check on another random page or tucked somewhere random because fucking with users' heads is fun).

But there's some things I'm not sure an average user is going to know to do or know why using the documentation and quickstart, and if their drives already have media on them--aka not blank or brand new--there are some things are going to be baffling as shit--though super easy to fix--but I'll save that for my write-up.


It's an Okay/Apply system. You do an action, click OK, then you have to hit Apply before you do anything else. And almost everything requires it. The first registers the change; the second applies it to the system.

I am not fond of these, but I get why they exist. Most other systems that make me do an OK and Apply is to save time and resources; you can make several changes and click OK for each to store then, and then hit Apply so the system will do all of them at once. On my DD-WRT routers, it was a time saver since each action would take a while individually but massed together much less.

Which I thought this was at first because there's a variable pause between OK and Apply. Long enough for me to want to leave the page and it won't let me and a banner appears at top with Apply. Like, the pause is just long enough that you're ready to go and then BANNER APPLY. Argh.

Then--new and frustrating--after Apply, there's a third check "Do you really want to..." and seriously????? I can get a legal gun* in Texas with less hassle than wanting to have SMART notifications sent to me.

* That is hyperbole, but honestly, not very much. And the fact I have to say its hyperbole demonstrates that.

In Closing

I got it up and running, scrubbed Plex and added all my media from new home NAS, and gotta give credit, Plex plays smoother, faster, with a lot less hiccups than playing from my external attached as a share on my router. This is not a bad alternative to buying a NAS; I'll do a price breakdown when I do the write-up, but not including hard drives, I'd say around $250 or less.


We're a little over two thirds through the semester; in Intro to Computing, provided I finish at least three more of the four assignments and get full credit on each, I should have an A (if I do all of them and get full credit, I also get an A along with a glow of accomplishment).

Programming Fundamentals is chancier; I have an A right now, but that only includes my first four projects and my first exam; there are two projects ungraded, one I'm doing now, four more projects in the future, and two more exams. My first exam was an 83.75, which was upsetting (I studied for that one), but provided I get a perfect score on all my projects, I can afford a minimum of 67 on each of the other two exams. Which, hopefully, it won't come to that, but I seriously studied for that test (I took notes and reviewed them, even) and as he hasn't yet released the test for us to review what we missed, I still don't know what all I got wrong and that's haunting me. And not making it easy to prepare for the second exam, either.

Finished registering for the summer semester for six hours and fighting myself not to try for nine hours until fall. I mapped out my degree assuming nine hours a semester spring and fall with six in summer, but I want to try and go to 12 per semester within the next eighteen months.

It's not the workload that worries me, actually; I can do it and pass (very probably), but this time, I want to do it with As, and not just an A, but a dramatic A, like a 96-100 in each class across the board.

Educationally Speaking

When I was in high school and college the first (and second) time around, I was never sure that I could do it and was constantly surprised when I did, and not surprised at all when I got a B or even a C; I didn't like it, but the ways of the grades and my brain were mysterious and I had no idea why I couldn't just sit and study and have that actually work and instead have to depend on my ability to learn fast in gulps and short bursts of short term memorization. Back then, I couldn't even take good notes: I either reproduced the book or lecture (until I literally couldn't concentrate a second longer, which was often) or all the wrong things; I could not work out the alchemy of how you decided what mattered and for that matter, how the fuck anyone could stare at that Wall of Text Textbook and learn anything.

Truthfully, until now, I really genuinely did not realize the extent of a.) my ADHD and b.) the effects of medication. Back in 2007 when I went back for a semester, I noticed a difference--this was right after I was medicated--but I got an incredible promotion after one semester and learning that job took all my attention for a while.

When I started this semester, it was pretty much how I started every semester; hopeful but resigned to a best 'better than last time maybe?' I downloaded a program for notetaking (and eventually started using it, but that's skipping ahead), and as these classes are pure online without online or RL class times, read my syllabus carefully, got my online text books (I love love love online textbooks now), and settled in to read productively or die trying. Honestly, I half-expected the latter to become a real possibility, because sometimes, textbooks are really fucking boring.

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So yeah, this time, I want A's; I want to turn in projects that exceed not just minimum but maximum requirements and involve many bells and whistles; I want to perpetually have read a chapter or two ahead before class and be overprepared for any assignment; I don't just want to get through class but learn and I mean learn everything.

I mean, I always wanted those things, but now, I think I can actually do them. I live in hope, anyway, and that's new, too. Posted at Dreamwidth: | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments
children of dune - leto 1

home assistant and school, respectively

Home Assistant Blue

My Home Assistant Blue shipped and will arrive by April, and I'm trying to work out when I'll have time to transfer Home Assistant from the Pi to it.

Taking a backup of HA on the Pi and moving it to the new device is the easiest method--with Home Assistant, you can genuinely just do that and not lose data or crash--but years of computer and tablet upgrades (and regular nuke-and-scrub of my Ubuntu Server) have taught me the value of starting with a clean slate when it's feasible. There's always extra customization I no longer need or code I refactored but commented out the original or updates to the base code that mean some code no longer works.

See, the thing is, until I finalize, I almost never, ever delete code.

If it's inconvenient or makes a script nightmare long or confusing, I'll move the original to backup, just in case. If it's a minor update, I comment out the old code for at least a few runs or until I forget why the hell I'm keeping it. If it's new code or a minor refactoring, I create a backup first. If it's a full refactoring, I usually create a copy of the original, give it a name like codeName_Refactor or something, and keep the original clean and working until I'm done testing, then rename the original to codeName_old or codeName_orig, rename codeName_Refactor to codeName, and move the old code into a folder. And in some cases, I'll just move all the old code or experimental code that won't quite work to the bottom of the script and just comment it out because there's a chance I'll need it back and it's really annoying to paste code between multiple nano terminal windows.

(In VBA in Excel or Word, I move it all to a module named OldModule and add an 'x' to every sub or function name. In Googledocs, I do the same with Javascript. There is code in both older than two thirds of my nieces and nephews. It's like the code version of hoarding or something IDK.)

A clean slate is maybe the one time I can do housekeeping. After doing all the necessary basic configuration and adding in all my integrations, add-ons, etc into the new device, I can move code over either in entire pages or a piece at a time and reload to make sure it does what I think it does (or work out what the fuck I wrote it for).

Fortunately, Home Assistant makes that incredibly easy; the last time when I got a second Pi to run Home Assistant on, after I finished configuration of the second Pi and it was ready to run, I disabled the integrations that couldn't be run on two HA instances at the same time on the old Pi, then just left them both running while I went through all my custom yaml and python and moved it over sometimes a single function or script at a time.

This, by the way, is my idea of the Best Friday Night Ever.

Depending on time, I'm going to try to write up a detailed step by step tutorial on how to set up Home Assistant on the HA Blue. One of the biggest advantages of buying it--other than supporting open source development and the cool blue case--is that Home Assistant ships on the HA Blue already installed, so it's very much plug and play; you literally plug it in, add ethernet cable, then go to your computer, open a browser, and go to homeassistant.local:8123. That's it. The only things you need to do is if you need z-wave or zigbee functionality is buy either usb sticks or a compatible hub, but if everything in your house is wifi, that's pretty much it for hardware. Now its just onboarding, adding your integrations, and trying out all the different theme colors on your dash.


Intro to Computing

We're now in Week 5 of School. I'm currently about a week behind in the Intro to Computing self-paced course but while that was mostly due to work + winter storm + other things, honestly it was also because it was the class I could fall behind without penalty. The class is a basic catch up to current technology and the internet and how to use Office; it's shockingly useful for someone who may be coming back to the workforce or needs an non-terrifying intro into current tech and current internet.

Also, it's the one that is ironically both the most work and also the one that's probably easiest to pass without a super amount of effort, which follows the course's purpose. All you really have to do is do all the activities and also create for yourself an Excel spreadsheet to keep a running calculation on the lowest grade you can afford in each activity and still get an A (or B).

But it is a lot of work. For the first six weeks, each week is
1.) one (1) or two (2) book chapter on something about technology (there are six total chapters)
2.) one (1) graded skills test for each chapter
3.) one (1) graded practice exam for each chapter
4.) one (1) or two (2) of three modules on how to use a Microsoft Office Product (Word, Powerpoint, Excel, Access). (There are three to five modules per office product in the course.)
5.) one (1) graded project for each module

On top of that:
1.) One (1) Capstone Project for each Office Product: total of 4
2.) One (1) Exam for every two chapters: total of 3\

Except for the practice exams and two-chapter exams, to get an A you really just need to follow the instructions to do the projects like "Create a Flyer" or "Create a Powerpoint Presentation" or "Create a Business Letter". It's auto-graded so you know immediately your grade, you get a report on EXACTLY WHAT IS WRONG AND HOW TO FIX IT, and you get to submit three times and it takes your highest grade. The graded skill test is a graded review; I'm not sure it's possible not to get a perfect score.

The exams are--not so simple. They aren't exams; they're thirty five to a hundred questions, shown one at a time, you cannot stop until you're done and you cannot change your answer once you go to the next question. No, I'm not kidding; I've never been this stressed by testing in my life.

Now, because of the number of activities and the weighting: you can, actually, get a zero on every single exam and as long as you get a perfect grade on all the projects, capstones, and skills test, you can get a D. With the Skills test, perfect scores are built in; with the projects, you get three attempts; my lowest grade on a project is a 97/100 with one attempt left (that I can still do until the end of the semester) but just didn't feel like fighting footnotes for those last three points. THe lowest grade I got on an attempt was an 88 before I fixed the problems; this is not undoable at all.

Right now, for me to get a B, as long as I nail every project and capstone, I can fail every remaining exam (I have two two-chapter exams and three one chapter exams left) with a 52 out of 100 or 14 out of 25 (52%) with an extra two points to spare.

For an A, however, I have to average an 80 on each exam and get a perfect grade on every single project and Capstone that remains, though I have an eight point buffer. The lowest I've gotten on an exam is an 84 out of 100; I shouldn't be worried. I read the chapters; I take notes; I study. It autogrades when you're done and you get a full report with every question and your answer and whether its' right or wrong; you can take the exam up to twice.

But. When you start an exam, you cannot stop; each page has only one question and when you answer it, it goes to the next page and question and you cannot change it; there are many questions, which is good for grade weight but very bad for what is already low-grade paranoia. And I say this as someone who tests insanely fucking well; I have answered questions in ways that baffle even me on wtf I was thinking. I have to pause and think about obvious questions like 'what is a CPU'. It's--something.

I had to stop short in horror because I was asked the question "Which of these represents a billion bytes?" and for the life of me could not work out if it was megabytes, gigabytes or terabytes even though a.) I literally do know this, I spend a lot of my free time doing video editing and ratioing sizes, and b.) If I didn't, all had to do was fucking divide by a 1000 to get kilo, divide again to get mega, divide again and if the answer was greater than 999, tera, otherwise, giga. I can literally do that in my head instantly.

I spent three minutes staring at that question without any idea how to math.

I am not in love with those exams.

Programming Fundamentals

Incredibly fun. Well, for me: for my professor, maybe not.

There are ten projects and three exams, one project for each chapter, each project one to five or so scripts to write to do a thing; we just finished chapter four this week, and as it's an online class without class meetings but with hard deadlines, its' one I can't put off.

But also, it's not one that I really have any ability to put off; this is like falling into a few fandom and reading all the fic. The only reason I'm not reading ahead is spoilers; so far, the only way to keep me on pace is taking notes. Most of it is stuff I know already from writing python, but there's a lot of very basic stuff I skipped that I'm learning now and lots of generalized concepts, so it's great.

Then there's the projects.

The project exercises start with me following the instructions to the letter; that part is fine. But that takes me maybe an hour or two. Projects are assigned on Monday; I'm done reading by Tuesday and have my project done by Wednesday at teh latest. Due date is the next Monday; I have free time.

This time is spent methodically going through my scripts and adding bells and whistles. I challenge myself by trying each time to use every single element in every single chapter and preceding chapter in every script and where there's a will there's a way. Then I start adding bells and whistles. Chapter Three was If/Else, and conditionals are my jam, but at least I couldn't trap you in a script forever; it would, eventually end.

Chapter Four was Loops.

Which make my feelings for conditionals look like vague liking; I adore loops. My C++ class I'd trap people in elaborate loops in that horrifying tic-tac-toe game where the only way out was to work out what character I secretly designated for the only escape. I nest loops like Russian dolls and left to my own devices it would never end.

To be fair, I (mostly) restrained myself in the first two exercises; they're optional repeaters but not horrifying. But my resistance crumbled when it came to the third.

I got to ask the user for input three times. That is Christmas.

Short story: it's now four times longer than the first working draft, lets the user correct their answers as many times as desired, run the program indefinitely, and when they're done output their statistics on how many times they ran the program, how many times they corrected their data during all iterations, and how many times they corrected their data during this iteration before saying goodbye. I spreadsheeted test data to validate all conditions and possibilities. The only reason you can escape is we haven't reached error control yet and I can't use it until we do or that's cheating; right now, they can escape by just entering a string instead of a number and killing the program if they get desperate.

The exercises for Project 3 were all overkill, sure, but they're nothing to Project 4 Exercise 3.

And I can tell you now, it will only get worse from here. I mean, for other people: this is how I have fun on Saturday nights. Posted at Dreamwidth: | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments
children of dune - leto 1

a tale of three weirdness

Question for anyone who knows video compression/encoding:

Assume the following:
1.) In MakeMKV, I'm using a cleanly ripped movie with all English audio and subtitle tracks. All the same settings are used as literally hundreds of other movies.
2.) In Handbrake, I'm using the same well tested profile to create a 2160p version of a 4K movie that I make with extra AAC streams for each DTS audio stream.

Under what circumstances would the 2160p increase the size of the video stream?

I verified it's the video stream offending, and we're talking a 3-6 GiB to around 20 GiB increase in video stream size (and therefore file size).

This has only happened with these movies (in order of size increase of video stream):
Groundhog Day (2018 release) - less than 2 GiB
Ghostbusters 2 (2016 release) - less than 2 GiB
Pet Sematary 1989 (2019 release) - 6-8 GiB (estimate)
Ghostbusters 1984 (2016 release) - 30 GiB
Scarface Gold Edition (2019 release) - 15 GiB - 30 GiB (estimate)

The second weirdness the 4K of some of these movies is grainy.

Example: Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters 1984. I changed the 2160p profile's Constant Quality from RF-18 to RF-20 for Groundhog Day and RF-22 for Ghostbusters; the 4K lost a lot (most to my eye) of the graininess.

The third weirdness is that Plex does not like these rips very much, especially Ghostbusters 1984; it would nope out at 37 minutes. I watched it end to end on my laptop using VLC; it was fine, there was no flaw. It's possible there's one VLC won't pick up, but Plex is almost as good as X-Box at playing anything provided the codec is supported and it was. Noping out generally means there's a real problem but none.

With the re-encoded 2160p version, it doesn't nope out.

I feel like I'm either missing something, or there's off about that video stream. I get this is an upscale, but in general, compression shouldn't improve video quality. Posted at Dreamwidth: | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments
children of dune - leto 1

flashing drives and ripping things

So among my accomplishments this year, I have successfully flashed my new bluray drive back to older firmware to gain unlimited read/write speed and also to rip 4Ks. My old drive is starting to be quirky, and as my pandemic sanity project is ripping and encoding movies, I went ahead and did some budget magic to upgrade it. Now I did not--at the time--realize that the winter storm had quite literally killed all my refrigerated/freezer food, granted, but I can't say that would have actually mattered; in fact, it getting here for me to play with is kind of helping me deal with replacing everything.

(Note: I still haven't cleaned out the fridge and refrigerator, but that's because until yesterday afternoon, all the dumpsters in my complex were overflowing as no one had done pickup in a week and change and I will not, not, not make the horror worse by putting two trash bags of dairy, meat, and assorted to the nightmare when temperatures are normalizing into the sixties--a week ago single digits, that really happened--and make everyone live with that kind of hellscape. I don't blame people who did--their power was completely out and stayed out longer than mine--but I would have been a lot less prissy if I had to deal with that smell in my apartment, too.)

MakeMKV added speed control to their software, but it has to be set in the settings, not GUI. This drive isn't quite getting the same speeds, but a.) it's a new drive, b.) I just flashed it so I may need to do some finagling, and c.) every disc is different, even accounting for DVD/Blu-Ray/4K Blu-Ray. I tested Ant-Man and the Wasp 4K yesterday and got the rip up to 6.2X, but today with The Stand 1994 bluray (not 4K) it only went up to 5X (at best). And yes, there is a difference in speed reading toward the edge (faster) and the interior (slower).

Notes on Movies

It occurs to me that I haven't actively watched a disc in over a year, but that's only an escalation. Before that, a disc was removed virgin from the case and ripped first; only then did Child or I put it in the X-Box for watching. This is because discs are goddamn fragile and I've had to replace them way too many times (hi, Iron Man II and III and X-Men Apocalypse and Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, you fuckers).

And not just fragile as in "looked at it too hard'; I mean, invisible errors that are there when I get them out of the box. Catching one of those in rip means a 75% chance it's going to be a problem watching and a 25% chance of an unplayable disc, as in, it will not play movie at all. If the rip starts debugging weirdly, it's a warning--not necessarily 'here be dragons', but something I need to watch for in the main movie. If the rip stops dead--and to make sure, I have retry set to 51 times when MakeMKV is running, so it will keep trying past sanity--it's either Error That I Will See When Watching Disc or Unplayable. Sometimes--sometimes--it's in the extras, but not often.

Yes, I know that some ripping software can be caught on errors that don't show when playing, but I've used MakeMKV for roughly a decade--and paid for it this year when I realized that while yes, they provide it for free, this is literally the best ripping software in the world--and I made it as sensitive as possible to errors for that reason. If MakeMKV can't read it (and usually correct it) we're talking losing five/ten minutes of a movie to unplayable. If it can't even image it, it's a return; that's a manufacturing error.

Say what you want about VHS, short of throwing it in an acid bath, they were very hard to entirely kill. The ribbon might get messed up--you just skip through it. Ribbon torn? Tape. If you got desperate to save the X-Files episode "Never Again", you could find a way. Even if the tape got twisted and it looked messed up, you could usually fix even that; a few (careful) fast forwards and rewinds to use the weight of the rest of the tape would flatten the tape and smooth it.

Discs? There are workarounds, yeah. If you know someone who has the thing that can resurface? Yes. Toothpaste when you're really desperate? Yes. I do know many (some horrifying) methods, but there are stop points where nothing can be done, and then there's invisible errors that make you want to die that kill an entire disk. A tiny fuckup on the edge can kill an entire disc. Not 5:10 to 5:20 but the entire goddamn movie. In theory you can image it and use a program to fix the image, and I did get that to work a few times, but a.) depending on the software it was incredibly difficult, b.) there was no guarantees even if you did fix it (you think?) it would work, c.) and that's only when it would image, which with invisible flaws it would not, and d.) I say this as someone who enjoys that kind of thing: it was not worth it. I sat on the floor with scissors and tape hand-piecing VHS tape together for $10 X-Files episodes; I do not say 'not worth it' lightly. It was first season with the tapeworm guy; I loved that episode.

VHS? Acid bath or (maybe?????) a nuke. I was sitting here trying to think if I ever had an unrecoverable, and no. There were a few I threw away back in the day and replaced but usually Wal-Mart had a sale and it was like, $5. They were still watchable if you ff'd through that bit at 5:13 that was messed up.

For Your Ripping Needs: MakeMKV

This is my semi-annual shill for MakeMKV, which is as of 2021 still the single best ripping software I've ever used. If it is possible for the disc to be read, it can read it; if it can be ripped, it can rip it;if it can be imaged, it can image it. It works on Windows, Macs, and Linux (I primarily use it on Ubuntu but I keep a copy on my laptop now for testing). It's incredibly simple to use, the settings are straightforward.

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If you read the above, now I explain.

Okay But What About that Thing You Said About Bluray Drives and Unlimited Speed

To rip a movie, you need an optical drive that can do that. This is not as easy as it used to be--assuming it was ever easy--and we're at a place where it requires active effort.

First: I never recommend what I haven't done myself when it comes to sketchy shit like flashing your drives. SO I would not be posting this at all if this wasn't both successful and almost anticlimactically easy to the point I was almost disappointed.

I did it yesterday, it was both anticlimactic and easy to the point of almost disappointed.

Until this week, this wasn't a problem for me; the bluray drive I used was the LG WH14NS40, and when I bought it in 2017, it was still running the 1.02 firmware (I got in under the wire), which allows MakeMKV (and other programs) to rip 4K movies. It's actually the second time I got that drive; by sheer chance, back in 2010ish when I first got my server, that's the drive I chose and it turned out it was the best for sketchy ripping things. Even better, LibreDrive--which MakeMKV uses--finally unlocked unlimited read/write speeds and as my firmware was 1.02 (the old firmware), I got that and lets just say whoooaaaa.

However, all good things become slow and quirky, and my LG WH14NS40 was getting to that. So I needed to get a new drive, and as one does, I went to MakeMKV forums to get the list of drives that are compatible with ripping 4K/UHD movies and decide which to buy.

Ultimate UHD Drives Flashing Guide Updated 2021

When you read that, it looks terrifying. It's not--I'm going to break it down in this entry.

It's now 2021, not 2017, and manufacturers patched their firmware on all drives now being sold to stop people ripping their own movies from their own discs because that's--bad? So this was now a two-step process: I needed to pick a drive and then flash it to downgrade the firmware to the latest unpatched--and also, unencrypted, thanks for that shit--firmware. And while yes, I am comfortable flashing my routers (perhaps too much so) to DD-WRT and back again, the routers I flashed were either old ones I don't use or ones I bought used on Amazon for under $20 and also for fun. This I'd be investing a minimum of $60ish plus external USB enclosure to hold them because my new server case doesn't have space for an optical drive (I knew that when I bought it, so that's on me).

Being me, I decided instead of getting the LG WH14NS40 again, since I'd be flashing anyway, I'd try something new. The slim drives were tempting, but their max speed would always be slower than a 5.25 drive; after reading the forums, the ASUS BW-16D1HT was actually in my cart when I stumbled over the fact that you could get the LG WH14NS60 up to 16X read/write on blurays and sure, it was twice the price of the Asus, but potential 16X read speed.

From the list of enclosures, I picked the OWC Mercury Pro 5.25 case. My LG WH14NS40 is actually using the Vantec NST-536S3-BK 5.25 case, but it was a pain fitting everything correctly and fought me; the OWC Mercury was effortless.

I got it yesterday, put it gently into the enclosure, connected it to Windows, opened MakeMKV, and checked the settings to assure the drive hit all the criteria, carefully read the requirements, downloaded the zip file with all the firmware and unzipped it, then opened youtube and watched the video how to flash it. Twice.

Note: the youtube video is incredibly reassuring. What you see there is literally exactly what happens, especially since it was done with a LG WH14NS60, which was also somewhat influential in me choosing that drive. It also walks you through double checking that your drive meets requirements.

The actual process of flashing took about three minutes. To wit:

1.) Open Windows Powershell in Admin Mode (Start Menu, Windows Powershell folder, right click on Windows Powershell, under Tasks click Run as Adminstrator)
2.) Enter C: and hit enter to make sure you're in C
3.) Enter cd.. and hit enter, then repeat to get to root of C as needed.
4.) Enter cd "C:\Program Files (x86)\MakeMKV" to get to the MakeMKV program folder (if you're in a 64 bit system, otherwise you can leave off the (x86))
5.) Paste .\makemkvcon64.exe f --all-yes -d [Drive Letter of Bluray Drive]: rawflash enc -i "[Drive Letter]:\[Path To Firmware]\HL-DT-ST-BD-RE_WH16NS60-1.02-NM00100-211810291936.bin" and hit enter.
6.) Watch the entire less than thirty second process.

Yeah, it was pretty low-drama.

7.) Opened MakeMKV and verified settings. Everything was fine.

Now, about flashing a drive and that terrifying page.

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I hope for those who were interested this demystified the process for you. I've ripped one 4K and one bluray with the new drive and no complaints at all. Posted at Dreamwidth: | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments
children of dune - leto 1

monday of the week after

Back at my apartment, and most of my (very large) complex is up and running, though some buildings are still having problems with power and/or water. Austin is under a boil notice, so our complex has an empty apartment where you can pick up water, but fortunately my mom sent over bottled water for me and Child so I don't have to take away from those really in need.

(Personally I think those without power and/or water entirely should be sent giant care baskets complete with whiskey as needed because holy shit.)


School was canceled all last week and up to Wednesday, so first week assignments aren't due until next Monday (March 1st). Last Tuesday, before they made the announcement killing first week, I desperately did and turned in both first week assignments and started second week for Intro to Computing as quickly as possible. However, of the two distance learning classes, it's the most self-paced so it probably isn't affected which is a shame; it's kind of sometimes--boring.

Intro to Computing - the Drama
Okay, so here's the problem: it's a required class for the AAS or BAS, and it's important in that it hits that vast array of knowledge of computing in the 21st Century just in case you don't know some of it. I get this is important and is going to go into details I don't know, and I need it.


I have the privilege of having been inducted into fandom in 1998, and for those of you in fandom in 1998, everyone wasn't just computer literate; it was like eeevverryyone but me had PhD's in Computer Shit and the Internet Thing. So to do what I really wanted--write porn about Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres like anyone sane--I had to learn things like 'webpages' and 'mailing lists' and how to post to usenet and 'search engines'. And as fandom is always two steps ahead of the general population, I had to learn backward as well as forward at the same time. So a lot of the class so far is very much like a technical re-reading of my literal internet history, so much so that I keep glazing over when reading and missing the technical terms I actually don't know and need to that are basically defined by 'your life circa 1998 to 2003 as we talk about the Early Web'.

The thing is, I was twenty-one when I got online; I don't actually remember how things worked before I had the universe at the click of a keyboard. I mean, if you had a gun to my head and told me to relive my childhood RIGHT NOW I remember 'pen pals' and 'encyclopedias' and 'microfiche searches of multiple libraries to find this book I really wanted when I was in my teens'. I remember it as a thing that happened, but I don't remember entirely what it was like to live in. Now I think of it in horror--the frustration! the annoyance! the hellscape! the SLOWNESS!--but in my teens I didn't have any other context so best guess it was those things but like, in the context of 'normal life' not 'how did I survive?' My digital citizenship may not be from birth, but my entire adult life has been here; I've gone native.

The Office modules are an entirely different story. They're all about the basics of Excel, Word, Powerpoint, and Access and how to use them effectively.

I use Office very much--I have folder named Spreadsheets that is stuffed with the beauty of Things I Like to Turn Into Spreadsheets; I write my own VBA for Excel and Word. I have personalized settings saved into Normal.dotm to set my Normal style and in it are modules with an array of functions and subs I use commonly so they're available to any document I open and assure all my documents are saved in the exact same template. In Word and Excel, when I upgrade computers here or at work, I have a list of settings I immediately change in Options, on the ribbon, in the Quick Access Toolbar, registry edits I make, changes I make in accessibility...I barely even think about it.

However, I also skipped over Vast Tracts of Basic Shit I Never Cared About Because I Didn't Ever Use That. Which has more than once been a problem but not enough for me to learn more than just enough to make a note to "Do this thing whatever it is when that happens, no idea". There are quite a few of those, by the way. For a surprising number of what most people would call basic tasks, I know nothing.

Not anymore.

The Create a Flyer Project was a trip; I found things like Borders and Glow and on the ribbon there's a single button that changes everything to All Caps or All Lower or All Something Else, did y'all know about that? So the Office Modules are incredibly exciting because they're--for me--Brand New Information as taught to probably first graders these days. There's Themes and Colors and basically I'm having a super good time; for the first Word Module I did all the optional exercises just to see what else you could do to a flyer (beveling pictures with round edges and shadows at Blue Accent 2 25% Darker!!!!); it was great. Next Word Module is How to Make a Research Paper and the third is Enhancing Documents (?!?!!?!): I am at the edge of my seat. The three spreadsheet modules I'm almost slavering for; what magic will I learn there??????

And while Access I sort of have used (years ago), it and Powerpoint are effectively Here Be Dragons on my mental map of Office and just--can't wait. At all.

It's the non-Office stuff that's getting to me.

I am learning technical terms and concepts and also there is stuff I don't think I knew, and I missed two questions--TWO--on my first test and got a 23/25 instead of a perfect score so obviously I need to study much harder (when I wanted to retake it--you get at least one retake, highest score is selected--Child told I had lost my mind, but I am not entirely reconciled to this stain on my grade).

Just. Brain-glaze. Ugh.

Fundamentals of Programming - Less Drama

This class is actually on a regular weekly schedule, which means I can't jump ahead (Project 2 hasn't been posted), which means I am going out of my mind. I want to do everything and reading ahead just doesn't cut it or doing the practice exercises to entertain myself until the next project comes out, and if you're baffled on why, I'll tell you.

Coding is probably the highest form of entertainment to me, second only to writing and not by much. This can be a problem.

I already write in Python, and probably I could read straight through doing exercises and learning it without need for Projects to guide me (I just go back and complete the projects as assigned). But: I need to learn it right.

The same problem I have in Office above comes up for me in computer languages; at least in coding, my pattern recognition works extremely fast. Variables, functions, structure: once I've identified each, I start editing immediately, and once I hit a certain edit point (when I rewrite an entire script into something else entirely and realize hey) I start writing from scratch. I learn the advanced level coding--to do something new, you kind of have to--but there vast, vast tracts of basic stuff that if I use it, I just copy paste or memorize without actually understanding it; if I don't use it, I don't know it exists. Which means I am far too often surprised by behavior I didn't predict because I have no idea of a basic principle. And much like Word, I google, correct it, add a paragraph comment explaining it and where I found it, and go on.

My best example of this phenomenon is regex and related concepts.

It's ridiculous, but I have to google the base principles every time and actually have at this point a copy/paste library. And I have, actually, used it enough (dear God enough) to have at least by accident learned it, but my brain, for reasons unclear, does not consider it coding but a really annoying convenience.

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So this script searches my media directories for all movie files, removes the path, then takes apart the file name. My name template is [movie name].[movie year]-[resolution].[extra information].extension.


It's a variation of the standard naming scheme for Plex, but I use periods in the place of spaces in movie name and extra information and to separate the movie name from the year (instead of using () around the year) This is because I generally only access my media files using command line and didn't want to mess with strings so simplified into something I could type without hitting shift or remember to use " ". Plex recognizes it for sorting and metadata retrieval, so I'm keeping it.

The code breaks down the file name for a text file and a csv file into Movie Name, Movie Year, Resolution, Extra Information (that I don't need in the spreadsheet so gets deleted), extension (that gives me the specific container), and then some extra code at the end to get date added and file size. The csv file I import into excel, where it's sorted into a master list of all movie files.

(One movie can have up to I think six files for multiple resolutions and added AAC versions. If 4K, a 2160 file that's a sane size if I really want to stream it remotely and also includes AAC versions of all non-Dolby audio streams if it's DTS; a 1080 bluray also needs an AAC compliant version because a lot are DTS only, etc.)

If you're wondering what the problem is, scroll down to first do statement and note all the #comments. Specifically the text of them. Specifically, how many are explanations of what a single small piece of code assigned to a variable does. The same piece of code, in multiple variations.


# remove everything before the last period

There's only four variations of this. Before first, before last, after first, after last. The only things that change between these functions are which of these (#, %), how many (1 or 2), and the location of the * (before or after the dividing character).

Again: there are only four variations of this. Four.


# remove everything before the first /

# remove everything before the last period

# remove everything after the first dash

# remove everything after the last period

I cannot remember them for love or money. That's why every single one not only says 'what specifically I'm removing' but also 'exactly what this tiny piece of is doing to make that happen'. I just checked and some of my comments are wrong (again) because I cannot identify which is which just by looking and have to read the definitions (again) to remember.

This is an example of something I first memorized because it was basic, I only needed it for this one thing once, and now cannot make pattern recognition add it to knowledge base. I can see the goddamn pattern--this is not rocket science--but I can't internalize it enough to recognize one of those four in isolation (or which is which of those four when seen together without notes). Except the *, which is because it matches before (it's before the split character if splitting before, after if splitting after) but I have to think about it to make it happen and keep double checking. It's not that I can't see how it relates to each other; my brain simply will not do it. I can memorize it, and that will work for the discrete session I am writing or editing the script; it will be gone the next day or after I sleep.

I will learn it--eventually--but for reasons unclear to me, frequent usage won't help (this script has been refactored and updated multiple times over two to three years and items moved around quite a bit). One day, for no reason, I'll open this one and suddenly have no problem reading those pieces of code the same way I read the rest, or read a book; that day, however, is not today.

That first printf statement? I know what it does--it's printing to file in columns of x spaces--but I can't take it apart without referring to my notes. If I want to do this with other data, I'd copy paste and very carefully change the numbers. It simply doesn't stick.

This problem happens a lot.

Yeah, that was long.

Anyway, with this Python class, I have an opportunity to be force-paced by the instructor and the lessons to learn first principles instead of jumping ahead to 'Thing I Want to Design' and cheerfully write sixteen nested loops with random if/elif/else or switches. So I'm carefully reading every word of every lesson and examining the examples and using the class structure to avoid jumping ahead and indicating to my brain to discard something as 'unimportant details'. It is interesting, this works for my brain; if i jump ahead too much, however, my brain can and will start deciding what is 'just details' and I am screwed again.

Will this way work? It should: that's how I learned C++. Granted, that was an entirely new language to me at the time, but I'd been writing Javascript enough that it was less unfamiliar territory than a new dialect with a compiling chaser. I can still read all my C++ programs perfectly; all I need to refresh myself is checking my notes, and back then, my notes weren't exactly illustrative.

Other News

Nothing really. Work today should have most of us back, so we'll find out the damage to this sprint. I can't even judge what the decision will be or if they even have one yet; last week was--would have been--Week Two of a four week sprint for a March release. They might decide to scrap it and start everything over at Week One starting this week; they may scrap some items and leave other that didn't require a lot of code changes or already had the code changes done in Week One; they may scrap nothing and just do four weeks of work in a badly interrupted three weeks for everyone. I don't even know if all our data centers are up, if they stayed up, if they went down and came up and error checking found them fine, if they're still error checking....

For that matter, production will take precedence; it's possible they'll scrap the sprint and send us all back to All Regression Testing All the Time to make sure everything in production works which is like if boredom was an Olympic Event.

Oh yeah, can't wait for that. Posted at Dreamwidth: | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments
children of dune - leto 1

the week of deep winter

So we're now (hopefully) in the tail end of the winter storm that brought down--literally--the state of Texas. Which means I can (hopefully please) go home today.

The Setting

So because of the probability my apartment would lose power and water fairly quickly in a winter storm, Child, the bunnies, the puppy, and I went to my Mom's house to stay what I thought would be to Monday and what Child worried might be Wednesday so as not to freeze to death and also be hydrated.

(As it's Friday now, we were both very wrong about the timeframe. And also how bad it would get because holy shit.)

My apartment lost power I think at some point Sunday; my middle sister's apartment was the same. So as of Sunday night, my mom's house contained:
1.) three daughters
2.) one BIL
3.) four of six grandchildren (Child was staying with a friend he was helping move)
4.) three dogs (one mom's, one youngest sister's, one mine)
5.) six rabbits
6.) two cats.
Humans: 8
Pets: 11

Monday night, above with addition of:
1.) two (2) grandchildren, as the power went out at Child's friend's apartment so they went to their respective parents/grandparents, and my eldest niece, who lives with her dad, lost water and power.
2.) one (1) cats who does not belong here but stalks the house until a door opens and we gave up.
Humans: 10
Pets: 12

Tuesday night, above with addition of:
1.) two (2) neighborhood friends of my middle nephew (age 12)
Humans: 12
Pets: 12

Utilities Sometimes Optional

Fortunately, we didn't lose power except for about four hours on Tuesday morning (I think?) but we lost internet on Sunday and water Wednesday night. Internet came back veerrrrry early Thursday morning. Water is still pending.

My sister's apartment got both back sometime Wednesday afternoon, so she, BIL, and two of four grandkids went home that night. My apartment came back up yesterday but is going down again today for repairs at an unknown time for an unknown period of time and I don't even know. I just want to go home so much.

So That Happened

So I've visited Chicago in winter (I was prepped by Madelyn beforehand) and in my late teens I was an exchange student to Finland August to January, so I am distantly conversant with temperatures below 30F. Vaguely. As in I remember it happened.

But I cannot say enough that it happening here was utterly insane.

On Saturday night, there was a light sprinkling of snow on the ground that continued through Sunday; Sunday night, it apparently started snowing more. At 2:19 AM Monday morning, my sister told me to look outside and after a glance outside, I woke up in the house to come look. There was a blanket of snow on the ground. On a metal folding chair in the backyard, snow had piled, it was roughly five inches.

Austin had the third highest snowfall in its history at five (six?) inches; on my phone, the temperature went down to 6F on Monday and 4F on Tuesday. The official low was apparently 9F, which seriously is still insane.

The entire state is still reeling. There are still people without power; there are even more without water. We're on a boil notice in Austin and doubtless in other parts of Texas (excluding El Paso and the panhandle, who are part of the national grid and therefore were actually functional.

People froze to death. Others died of carbon monoxide poisoning in their vehicles trying to stay out of the cold. There's a not zero chance we'll find people who starved to death before this is over. The grocery stores--if you can get to one--are stripped bare and the state of delivery trucks seems to be 'pending'.

Pipes have burst, causing flooding in apartments and houses and the street. There are tree branches falling, in the process of falling, or are going to fall literally everywhere, which is a problem if a car or house are beneath them. Repeat that but with whole trees, which aren't as many but in relation to a car or house are even worse.

We actually don't know the extent of the aftermath yet; some people are still dumping snow in the toilet for flushing purposes; if you have electricity, you may or may not be boiling it first. Because I couldn't stop myself, I went to check the news and also noted the disaster continues for agriculture, livestock...well, everything.


I am unbelievably lucky that I could go to my mom's house, because my apartment, like most places in Texas, isn't made for these kinds of temperatures, especially without power, especially without power for roughly four and a half days. We were astronomically lucky that my Mom's house never lost power, which is actually weird.

So her house and some unknown number in this neighborhood are part of the grid that apparently couldn't be taken down during the failed attempt at rolling blackouts because, unlike most parts of Austin, they couldn't bring the power back up after. So far as we can work out, it's something to do with how old this neighborhood is; it's at minimum fifty years old and probably north of sixty; only a few streets away is the house we lived in when I was five years old before we moved into the country: that was forty years ago and it wasn't new then.

Which means that if our power and the neighborhood's power had gone out, that would (possibly?) mean that the electric grid was entirely FUBAR'ed instead of only mostly--like now--which I am very glad I didn't know.

The temperature outside right now is 34F. The snow is melting, and it doesn't feel real. Living it didn't feel real either, though, so no surprise there.

Texas Tribune: Texas was "seconds and minutes" away from catastrophic months long blackouts, officials say Posted at Dreamwidth: | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments
children of dune - leto 1

this week of all weeks

When I posted on January 9th, and said I was stressed and had updates, I--never got back to that. So her we go.

Back in December, a few things happened. The first is my grandmother, my mom's mom, died. IT wasn't expected, but it wasn't entirely a surprise. Right on top of that--and probably related--Child went and got a puppy. And six days after we got him, the Saturday before Christmas, he was diagnosed with parvo.

So with a kit from Austin Pet's Alive, we treated Parsnip (yes, like the vegetable; no, I really don't know why Child picked that name) at home with an IV in the back of the shoulder/neck and three shots daily. It was very dramatic; it also ended with us still having a very living, very into inappropriate pooping puppy, so that ended well. Then a week and change later--six days before I posted in January--I was six days into home quarantine for COVID exposure and not taking it well.

Yeah, up until inauguration, I was really doubting like--everything.

Now to update to today:
1.) I start college again next Monday. This is going to be interesting.
2.) Me and my mom got vaccinated with the first dose of the Moderna vaccine on Saturday.

I posted a thread on twitter, but I'm going to reproduce it here for those who are worried about the vaccine or want some reassurance on how it went, etc.

Spoiler: for what I think we can consider a pretty fucking epic personal event--Vaccination in a Time of Pandemic COVID: An Autobiography--it was about as exciting as changing socks. Not even wet socks for dry or plain for fancy: just standard sock change.

In other words: awesomely, wonderfully, gorgeously mundane and unexceptional.

Collapse ) Posted at Dreamwidth: | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments
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    something just like this - the chainsmokers & coldplay
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children of dune - leto 1

universal remote

So I am always in search of working universal remotes for my mom and myself because it's guaranteed you will lose or break it and a lot of TVs now don't come with any physical buttons or a limited selection.

I've been using the Logitech elite; hideously expensive, but it worked with literally all my media. I love it, it was definitely worth the money. But I wanted one for my TV in my room specifically and also get one for my mom, since the grandkids (and uh her kids) lose teh remotes like a lot.

I found this: BroadLink RM4 pro IR RF Hub - $47.99

It's not a remote per se: it's a wifi hub you put by your TV that translates your phone commands in the app to IR/RF for your devices.

What you do is plug it in, get it on your wifi network, download the app, then in the app, say add a device. Then you use your existing remote and the pre-installed codes to basically recreate your remote in the app. It then creates a neat little interface for each device, some more elaborate than others. So far, it works on my Samsung TV--though that's a gimme--and my Polk Command Bar. If the preinstalled codes don't work or don't have the functionality you need, you use your existing remote to show the command for the hub to learn and replicate. For my Polk Command Bar, I added HDMI switching since it has two HDMI ports, and lowered my stress considerably since I hate having only one remote for that.

Going through the device list, however, this isn't limited to TVs/entertainment. It apparently can do this with anything that has a remote, either RF or IR. I haven't tested that yet but I'm hunting up my old remotes now just to see.

It interfaces directly with Alexa and Google Assistant, and Home Assistant, among others.

On Broadlink's Website:
Device and Specs


1.) wifi controlled devices work; bluetooth-only, not so much. There are workarounds for that (a lot, actually), but it's something to consider. My NVIDIA Shield TV is going to take some work, in other words and I'll post when I get it working. However, it looks like all the most common devices and brands are represented, and for my Polk soundbar, there was community support as well ('unofficial' community created codes are also in the app).

2.) there is a distance factor like with any remote or wifi. Generally you probably need to be in the same room whenever possible to use it.

There are actually several versions of Broadlink's universal remote; I picked this one because it had the widest range so I could check if it would be a good fit for my mom and also be able to control my Polk Soundbar if I lost the remote (it is also an Alexa device, but I consider voice control of my soundbar a secondary way to control, not primary).

I'm mostly reccing this because of ratings, universality, and price. Posted at Dreamwidth: | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments