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Got the disaster out of the way

So, my bathroom renovation got delayed a few days (due to supply issues), and then started today.

You know how every home renovation project always has some major disaster, usually towards the end? This time we at least got it out of the way right away: while they were removing the sink cabinet, a pipe burst.

Fortunately nothing got badly soaked, and what got wet has dried off pretty quickly. I don’t think there’s any specific water damage to anything (although that was an extremely close call for my entire recording studio), although only time will tell. The main issue of concern is that my guitars and some of my acoustic treatments were directly below the water blast. The guitars have dried out easily, and the acoustic treatment is easy to replace if it gets moldy (it’s just cheap acoustic foam which I have plenty of).

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Attention all coffee friends!

Do you have a coffee grinder? One which could actually be identified by name? Do you have the ability to record video? Want to be featured in an upcoming Sockpuppet video?

For this year’s Novembeat album I’m doing songs inspired by different coffee grinders and their respective techniques, and as part of this I’m also making silly videos of each grinder. But I only have a handful of grinders myself, and good process-forward footage is difficult to come by. So that’s where you possibly come in.

Updates: I’ve been making edits to this post as various questions come in. I should really be tracking them specifically.

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Studio hardware stuff, part 2349872984

My ongoing anxiety regarding recording studio computer stuff has continued. Yesterday while doing day 1 of Novembeat I found that my 2016 MacBook pro is still just like… way too slow to make music on (especially if I stream at the same time). And then I saw that there’s a bunch of deals on 2020 MacBooks happening right now.

I was about to buy a 2020 MacBook Air with 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD, but then found out that Apple had a deal on refurbished 2020 MacBook Pro with 16GB RAM and 1TB SSD for only a little bit more, and the refurb price is less than the equivalently-equipped MacBook Air’s price. So that’s what I ended up ordering.

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More thoughts on recording studio hardware

Now that the new M1 Pro/Max MacBooks are out and are getting real-world reviews, I have a bit more information about what I should consider in terms of computer upgrades.

This particular video is pretty helpful:

In pretty much all of the side-by-side tests, the M1 Pro is only negligibly faster, aside from encoding H.265 video from RED or ProRes sources — none of which I ever do.

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macOS 12 SSD issue update

Going through a few rounds of troubleshooting with folks on the macOS community forum as well as Apple tech support regarding the SSD overheat issue has helped me determine the following things:

  • Whatever this problem is, it’s uncommon; nobody else seems to have experienced it
  • The enclosure itself isn’t to blame; it happens on both my Plugable USB 3.1gen2 and on my Sabrent dual-slot Thunderbolt enclosure
  • The overheating is only happening on the Crucial 2TB NVMe stick (that normally lives in the USB enclosure); having just the PNY stick (which lives in the Thunderbolt enclosure) doesn’t overheat, moving the PNY stick to the USB enclosure doesn’t overheat, and the Thunderbolt enclosure only overheats if I have both the PNY and the Crucial stick in it
  • The overheating stops if I unmount the drive but leave it electrically-connected
  • Mounting the drive even under macOS Recovery causes the overheat to occur just as quickly

For now I’ve moved my most critical files from the Crucial stick to my older SATA drive (which isn’t having trouble) so I can continue to work on the things that I normally do on my desktop, and my studio laptop seems to be okay with the PNY+Thunderbolt combination so I don’t think Novembeat is at risk because of that, at least.

This does mean I won’t be able to work on music from my desktop computer in the meantime, and video editing will have to be direct to NAS, which is doable, just not ideal.

Hopefully this all gets sorted out in a macOS update.

Warning about macOS 12.0 Monterey

I’m running into a pretty severe problem with my external USB 3.1-connected NVMe drive on macOS 12.0 on my M1 mac; something in the system is causing the drive to get extremely hot (to the point of disconnecting within a few minutes) when there’s no recorded activity going to it, and also while it is connected, Blackmagic Disk Speed Test reports that it’s only capable of around 150MB/sec, which is significantly less than what it usually gets. Which tells me that something in the OS is causing the drive to go under significant load.

I tried disabling Spotlight, both from the GUI and using sudo mdutil -i off /Volumes/storage, which made no difference.

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Some thoughts on comments and interaction

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the differences between self-hosted vs. silo spaces. One thing that really stood out to me is that in self-hosted spaces, the tendency is to allow complete control over which comments are visible, and silos almost never allow that, or if they do it’s at best an in-retrospect thing.

For example, most self-hosted blogging systems give you the ability to moderate all comments (as I do), or give easy access to deleting comments which got posted, or any number of mechanisms for curating the community.

But most silo systems don’t give you that access; you might be able to block recurring trolls, or flag a comment for third-party review (usually to no effect), but all posts are set to allow anyone (with access to the post) the ability to post anything at any time, and by default everything gets floated to everyone else.

This came especially to mind today because of this unfortunate video:

I’ve seen so many creators get burned out on what they like doing, because even if 99% of the comments are positive, that 1% really gets under their skin, and they stop creating.

I’ve seen so many creators get burned out on their communities, because even if 99% of it is positive, that 1% really gets under their skin, and they stop interacting with the community, turning it into a toxic cesspool.

I’ve seen so many creators decide to capitulate to the communities and set up a personal SubReddit that they designate other people to moderate, just to keep it contained somewhere else.

I know so many creators who are on the verge of burnout and getting really tired of the dark side of having an audience.

I’m not sure if giving people the ability to require commentary to be opt-in rather than opt-out would solve these problems, but I do know anecdotally that the random snipe-type responses I get from Twitter or Mastodon are way more annoying to me than the comments I opt not to post when submitted to my site. They’re out there and visible and I have to take extra steps to get rid of them, and it’s taken out of my hands as to whether I even can get rid of them.

I don’t think I like how webmention works.

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Studio stasis

For now I’m just going to stick with my 2016 MacBook Pro, and I bought a 27" 4K monitor for it to alleviate the display-size issue.

It’s a little slow and a little janky but a lot of my music stuff still doesn’t work right on M1 anyway, and in particular Native Instruments is taking their sweet time to update everything to be M1-compatible. Also, I could theoretically use my PreSonus FireStudio with the hacked driver, although it looks like that’ll probably stop working in macOS 12 and I can’t use it with my ADAT preamp anyway, so the only advantage to it is I could put my Scarlett 18i8 back in my office, which is a pretty low priority now.

(I suppose I could also make an aggregate interface of the FireStudio with the 18i8+ADAT, but I already have 14 functional inputs as it is and I barely ever use more than 5 of them at a time. 22 is definitely overkill.)

If I get desperate for an upgrade I suppose I could get a current 27" iMac but that doesn’t feel particularly necessary right now (and it also feels like a waste since Apple will stop supporting it sooner rather than later; I went through the exact same thing with the PowerMac G5 that I bought literally two weeks before they announced the Intel transition).

I also need to give both Reaper and Bitwig another shot because both of them seem like they’d be able to mostly replace Logic for me at this point, and I’m sick of being wedded to macOS. (But right now is not the time for me to learn a new DAW. Or maybe it’s the perfect time. I dunno.)

Or maybe I should see what the pre-trashcan Mac Pros are going for. The 12-core model would still be a pretty decent upgrade from the 2016 MacBook pro, and also has the advantage of having upgradeable SATA storage, plus PCIe slots that could theoretically take an NVMe adapter. On the minus side, no Thunderbolt 3 (not that I’d need it) and I’d also be stuck on macOS 10.14 without some sketchy patching. But it looks like they’re going for under $400 (shipping included), all the same.

Or there’s always Hackintosh.

But nah I’ll wait, the old MacBook Pro is fine for now.

The unfortunate reality of Apple’s product focus

Today’s Apple announcement brought forth the usual advancements that I was looking forward to: faster processors, better GPUs, and so on.

But Apple has this hyperfocus on making The Best Laptops Possible, which is a little puzzling when the entire focus of today’s update was on creative studio uses, especially on music.

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Authl update → login reset

I made a change to Authl which more or less necessitated resetting everyone’s login.

I mean, it only really necessitated resetting the logins of folks who sign in via Twitter, but the way Publ authentication works (or at least the way I have it set up on my site) means I can’t reset just an individual session.

Also it didn’t really require a full login reset but it would have been confusing for some folks for some amount of time, so I figured better safe than sorry. “Oops I need to log in again” is a lot less difficult to deal with than “it says I’m logged in, did fluffy remove me from their friends list or something? what did i do wrong :( :( :(”

This also means that all bearer tokens have been reset, so if you were doing something with those you’ll need to generate a new one (either from your profile or via TicketAuth). Of course you automatically get a TicketAuth grant when you sign in anyway, so if you’re using TicketAuth I guess there’s nothing extra you need to do to begin with.

Update: haha I forgot to actually push this entry until like 4 days later oops. well okay have an explanation if you were wondering

Bitforte: A masterclass in scamming

Earlier today I got an obvious scam email:

Return-Path: <no-reply@[redacted]>
Subject: Bitcoin Payment
To: Recipients <no-reply@[redacted]>
From: "Mr. Neves N" <no-reply@[redacted]>
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 2021 19:10:52 +0900

Hi Rob Hoffman, As requested, we have now deposited 30 BTC which amount to
($1,692,796.80 USD) into your bitcoin portfolio at bitforte.net/signin
 Customer Id: [redacted]
Customer Password: [redacted]

I was curious to see how this scam worked, so I fired up my favorite anonymizing VPN and private browser session and went to town.

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10-year Anniversary

It’s now been 10 years since Chris died. I have now spent 5x as long grieving him, being messed up about him, than I spent with him, and that has also now covered approximately 25% of my life in total.

But he left that much of an impression on me.

Actions matter.

Garbage opinions

Today I got a market research survey from the garbage company which wanted to know my opinions about how valued I feel as a customer. One of the questions was a 1-10 scale of whether I’m “disappointed” or “delighted” with the service, and a text form where they wanted details for why I gave the rating I did. I had a lot to say, and I’m posting it here just so that it actually gets read by someone.

Never mind that the only reason I use you is that you have a local monopoly on waste management services, I am continually frustrated by how your workers will often skip my home, or will knock over the trash can and then not pick it back up or empty it out. Also, it would be great if you could institute a system where it’s paid by weight rather than container size; my garbage output varies widely from week to week and my bins are usually just half-full, but with just enough trash that going to the lower tier size wouldn’t be sufficient. Having it be based on actual weight of pickup would be a lot more fair.

It’d also be great if you’d partner with Styro Recycle to offer styrofoam recycling; right now my choices are either to drive to Kent (which is wasteful) or to put styrofoam in the trash (which is wasteful). In a perfect world things wouldn’t be packaged in styrofoam to begin with but that’s not something I, as a consumer, have control over.

An open letter to the .us domain registrar

I attempted to send this message to the .us registrar’s contact form but they kept on throwing up unreasonable, hidden barriers; it required a full first name that’s at least four letters long (sucks to have a name like “Jay” I guess) and “must only contain alphabets” (i.e. no punctuation or spaces, sucks for anyone with apostrophes) and the text input must be under 500 characters, with no indication of how many characters you’ve written.

So, I’ve submitted a very edited-down version, but am reproducing my letter in full here:

Hi, I have a number of domain names registered under several different TLDs. Most of them allow anonymous proxy registrations, with the sole exception of .us.

The lack of proxy registration causes me to get quite a lot of unsolicited calls, violations to my privacy, and attempted scams from bad actors who are all making use of the WHOIS database.

When will .us allow anonymous/proxy registrations, as is standard for pretty much every other TLD?

The current policy is especially problematic for marginalized people who are subject to protracted abuse, harassment, and threats of violence, and this makes .us unsafe for use for all but the most privileged of people.

I absolutely implore you to revisit this regressive, unfair, and downright dangerous policy that does nothing to actually improve the supposed security of the .us registration database.

9/11+20

You know what I miss about the pre-9/11 days?

People being able to go to the gate to greet the traveler as they arrived.

It was always so nice to welcome people, or be welcomed. After 9/11 that little ritual went away, because now only travelers themselves were allowed beyond the security checkpoint, and nobody wanted to wait for their loved ones outside of the security checkpoint, so that very quickly made way to people waiting in the loading zone, which then turned into waiting in the cellphone lot, trying to make the whole greet-and-pick-up process as soullessly efficient as possible.

There’s a bunch of other stuff that changed so much that people are talking about, but this is a thing that I haven’t seen anyone else mention. Just this little bit of humanity that was part of the travel experience.

Then again, everything we’ve lost comes down to little bits of humanity, in the end.

Studio and cat updates

Studio

My basement studio setup is coming along slowly but surely. I ended up buying a used ADAT preamp to expand my existing audio interface (rather than buying a new interface/patchbay/etc.) and it mostly works great, although I’m going to see if I can hack an S/PDIF decoder into a word clock source for it so that the 18i8 can be master (which makes a couple of things easier to deal with).

For now I’m using my old MacBook as the recording computer. It only has a 500GB drive, though, and I couldn’t find the power adapter for my external HDD enclosure, so I decided to try just running Native Instruments off of my NAS over gigabit Ethernet. Nearly every install failed with a nonsensical “malformed XML document” error, which turns out to be a known issue with attempting to install to a NAS. Oh well. Hopefully that PSU turns up soon. I’m sure it’s in the bottom of whichever box I end up unpacking last.

(The PSU isn’t anything particularly exotic in principle, just a 12V 2A center-positive wallwart, but for some reason all the 12V center-positive wallwarts I can find can’t accommodate its extra-thick center pin.)

But anyway, today I finally got to the point where I could hook up my piano, and so I played piano for the first time since April, which felt nice. I can’t believe I let it be this long. I guess I really thought the backyard shed studio would go a lot more quickly!

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Indieweb vs. Fediverse

Indieweb

You get someone’s profile URL, example.com/bob. You put that URL into a browser, and it shows you a human-readable profile which also contains machine-parseable data. You add the URL to your feed reader, and it subscribes to their posts with full attribution. The content is presented in your feed reader in a freeform way which allows a high degree of expressiveness, and it’s easy to go to the original post in case there’s some missing nuance or visual context.

All subsequent interactions are either directly between you and the person in question, or are webmentions which only get seen by your direct subscribers if you put them in your public feed.

Fediverse

You get someone’s address, @bob@example.com. You put that into your web browser, and you get a warning that says, “You are about to log in to the site ‘example.com’ with the username ‘%40bob’, but the website does not require authentication. This may be an attempt to trick you. Is ‘example.com’ the site you want to visit?” You back out of the error message and try to manually reformat the address. example.com/bob? 404. Maybe it’s example.com/@bob? That doesn’t work either. You read a tutorial on Webfinger addresses and learn that you can load their “resource profile” by going to example.com/.well-known/webfinger?resource=acct:bob@example.com. So you put that into your web browser, which then downloads a blob of JSON text. Buried in it is the URL example.com/user/bob. Finally, progress.

Now to follow them. You try putting the user address into your feed reader. Error. You try putting the profile URL into your feed reader. Error. You see a “Follow bob” button. It brings up a “remote follow” page which requires you to put in your own Fediverse username. You think you have a Mastodon account, so you try putting that in. It starts to initiate a weird three-way handshake, but fails.

You go back to your Mastodon instance and try searching on @bob@example.com. Nothing comes up. You try to figure out why. No users from example.com appear. You search through both your instance’s and example.com’s blocklists, which are hidden deep in their respective “about this instance” pages. It turns out that five years ago one admin on one server said something mean to an admin on a completely different server and that led to a widespread level of discourse that resulted in a bunch of instances blocking each other, and others joining in solidarity.

Finally you dig up an Atom feed for the user via finding a HOWTO that someone wrote seven years ago. The feed shows no posts, because the instance admin decided to disable Atom because it allowed blocked people to still follow the person who blocked them and they don’t understand Internet privacy. But it turns out it wouldn’t have mattered because this particular instance is set up so that the only way that posts appear on other peoples' timelines is by push notification.

You give up and get an account on their instance so that you can participate in the conversation. Now you have another instance to check all the time. 90% of your notifications are random spambots following you. The other 10% are you either getting tagged into random conversations by mistake, or some random person on another instance replying to something you said totally out of context and attacking you for their interpretation of a thing that had nothing to do with anything you were talking about. They get downright abusive, so you report the user. It turns out that the abusive user is also one of the admins of that instance so the report just goes to them anyway. They start posting anime memes about you. Your blocklist grows exponentially.

Finally you find some thoughtful long-form content. All of the posts are displayed in the form of a block of unformatted text followed by up to four badly-cropped images; no images can be inline, and even basic text options like bold and italics are unavailable, and web links either only appear as bare URLs, or aren’t obviously links because your instance’s stylesheet removes all formatting from them. You try to see a post in its original context, and it takes you to your instance’s view of their profile, which looks the same. You finally figure out that you can click on the date and that shows you the post on their public timeline. It looks the same, except now there’s no widget to let you automatically unfurl every CWed post in the thread for some reason like there was on your instance’s local view. But the instance’s local view is missing the first half of the thread because it happened before you subscribed to them.

One month later your timeline gets flooded with random unordered posts from 3 years ago because some forgotten instance’s Sidekiq queue suddenly got unjammed.

Finally setting up a recording space

I’ve been trying to make music in my small second bedroom/office, but it’s ridiculously constraining in here, and kind of frustrating. My long-term plan is to build a separate studio building in the back yard, but that’s slow-going and there’s a lot of barriers to it, and in the meantime, ever since I upgraded my house’s furnace to a ductless minisplit system, my basement actually seems to have enough space for my recording setup, so I’ve been looking into moving it down there.

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Setting up Postfix + Mailgun for multiple outgoing domains

For quite some time I’ve been having trouble with Gmail categorically classifying most of my outgoing mail as spam purely on the basis of my SMTP host being on a Linode VPS. No matter how much care and feeding went into my SPF+DKIM configuration, the Almighty Google would just arbitrarily decide that no, my email is not to be trusted after all. (This is pretty much the biggest reason why email is bad.)

After a brief kvetch about this with David, he pointed me at Mailgun, an enterprise-level SMTP relay (among other things). I’d looked at SMTP relays in the past but most of them are ridiculously expensive, but Mailgun has one very compelling feature:

It costs 80 cents per 1000 outgoing emails.

I send about 50 emails per month, so that means Mailgun will cost me a whopping… 4 cents per month.

I think I can afford that.

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