Cassini: The Grand Finale

“1:55 a.m. PDT

Cassini engineers have received the signal that Cassini has started a five-minute roll to point the instrument that will sample Saturn’s atmosphere (INMS) into the optimal direction, facing the direction of the oncoming gases. Along with this roll, the spacecraft is reconfiguring its systems for real-time data transmission at a rate of 27 kilobits per second (3.4 kilobytes per second). Final, real-time relay of data starts immediately after. That relay marks the beginning of Cassini’s final plunge.”

Not long now before Cassini plunges into Saturn. It’s sending data back as fast as it can, at a speed comparable to a modem used by many in the late nineties!

Absolutely amazing.

Check out the NASA live stream for commentary.

Crashplan Home RIP

With Crashplan Home on the way out I’m in a bind. I was using it to backup my Dad’s laptop to my machine. It was so very handy as it was plug-and-play. Fire up the app on his machine, type in the code and it started sending over his data whenever he was online, wherever he was. All that comes to a screeching halt in October 2018 when Crashplan drop their Home product.

I’m not sure what I’ll replace that with. I’m tempted to try Backuppc, and setup dynamic DNS on his router, but it’s a Windows machine, which is always a complicating factor. Maybe I’ll try that Backuppc Windows Client but all I need are a local ssh server and rsync, right? It might just be simpler in the long run to use Backblaze however. They even published a blog post to encourage Crashplan customers to migrate!

Besides using Crashplan for my Dad’s backup, I also used it to keep versioned copies of my photos directory on a separate external drive, but I zapped that and installed rsnapshot on my Macbook using Homebrew, and configured it to back up every few hours. It’s working fine so far too, and the simplicity of rsync and hard links is comforting. Sort of like Time Machine you can use Finder to navigate through the backups, and copy files from it to restore them. As an added bonus it’s not running in the background the whole time. A cronjob fires it up on a regular basis.

If that all sounds too technical, just use Backblaze. I’ve been with them for years, and recently renewed for another two years. If you want to get a month free (after signing up following the free trial) you could do worse than sign up using this signup link. I currently have over 2TB of data backed up there and it’s still going strong!

Edit: Over on /r/datahoarder there’s a lively discussion about Backblaze, including a rep from the company answering questions. Also, I’m not the only one looking for a replacement for PC to PC backup.
Edit 2: I wonder if Syncthing could be a replacement for PC to PC backup. The Backups aren’t encrypted unfortunately, but it has support for file versioning now which is a plus.

Eclipse 2017 in Ireland

A tiny portion of the August 21st solar eclipse will be visible from Ireland as seen in this NASA web app that shows you the track of the Moon’s shadow across the Earth.

It’ll probably be cloudy anyway but don’t look unless you have special glasses. I doubt most people will notice anything, it might get slightly dimmer around 8pm local time for a few minutes. Wait for the photos from the US to show up on social media. 🙂

Remapping the Keyboard on a new Macbook Pro

I must have an odd keyboard, at least for one that’s paired with a Mac. It’s a Microsoft split keyboard and has a bunch of extra keys that aren’t on a Macbook Pro keyboard, like a dedicated # key and the keys are all over the place compared to the laptop keyboard. But I like it that way.

I’ve heard comments from people who use my laptop and they are confused by how shift-2 doesn’t print @ but ” instead, and the key by the left shift prints \ instead of ~ (which is over by the Return key). They’ll say, “Oh, it’s some sort of PC keyboard?” Well, yeah.

This is not the first time I’ve had to fix my keyboard. A long time ago Justin Mason created a useful Irish Fixed Keyboard Layout, but for some reason with this latest hardware upgrade it wasn’t working exactly as planned. The #, \ and ` keys were mixed up. Luckily, with the help of the Key Codes app I could detect the the key code of the physical key pressed. For example, the key next to the left shift is key code 10 so it was just a matter of editing the keyboard layout in a text editor and changing that to output “\”. Logout and login to refresh and the key works!

What’s odd, is that this keyboard layout has served me well for almost a decade and didn’t need editing, which is why I’m documenting it in this post.

I looked at both Ukelele and Karabiner but the former looked overwhelming (yeah, then I went editing XML by hand..) and the latter doesn’t work in macOS Sierra (there’s a simplified “elements” version for Sierra). Then I thought I should just edit the keyboard mapping directly. 🙂

The Irish Digital Detox

Holly and Declan are a young couple addicted to 21st century technology. Writer and journalist Colm Tobin follows them to the island of Carnananánachán where they undergo a bizarre, back-to-basics digital detox.

Could you survive a week without your phone or any access to the Internet?

Your DNA results are now ready!

This was a weird email to receive since I have never sent off a DNA sample to any company.

Dear Friend,

Your DNA results are now ready!

The results of your DNA sample reveal information about your distant ancestors, including how and when they moved out of Africa and the various populations they interacted with over thousands of years of migration. We hope you enjoy exploring your chapter of the human story.

Sure enough, it’s spam from The National Geographic. The linked page allows you to buy the Geno 2.0 Next Generation kit.

I used to have an NG subscription years ago but I gave it up. I wasn’t reading it, and the issues were collecting dust in a corner. Looks like they’re harvesting their email lists. Anyone else get this email?

Howto: the Cork County Council Planning Enquiry System

The planning enquiry system of Cork County Council is a powerful system for downloading and viewing all the documents related to a planning enquiry. Unfortunately it relies on outdated software that most people won’t have access to any more (and for security reasons, that’s a good thing!). There are Android and iPhone apps too, but it’s not easy reading planning documents on small screens, and at least on Android requires the use of a third party app to view the .djvu files. You can also save the files to a dropbox folder to share with your desktop, but it’s awkward doing so. The mobile apps can’t download large files either.

When you first go into it, this is the page you see. If you’re using a modern browser (like Microsoft Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari) you can’t really do much more. It requires Internet Explorer to work.

However, by looking at the source code of the page I discovered this code that sends you to MainFrames.aspx.

The next page allows you to search the planning database but until you’re running Internet Explorer you won’t get very far as it uses the Autodesk Mapguide Viewer for it to show anything.

So, if you’re not running Internet Explorer on your up-to-date copy of Windows or you use macOS, Linux or anything else you’ve only one other option. Use a virtual machine.

Go grab a copy of VirtualBox and install it, then download a free virtual machine image from this Microsoft page and import that into VirtualBox. I found the IE9 one worked perfectly. It expires after 90 days but you can download another image if you need to later.

VirtualBox allows you to set up a shared folder where you can download the planning files, and work on them at your leisure!