Week 23 – Everything All At Once

[I left this in my out-tray. I’m an idiot]

One of those.

I learnt a new thing! I played with Aftereffects for several dozen hours, learning how enough bits of it work to make something, and produced a new video based on Secret Lore stuff, and got… five views, no comments, and a Like. Maybe it’d work better with a new audio track, rather than a reused one, but I’m not currently incentivised to try, or do anything ever again.

It’s a month of finance stuff, as well. Corporation tax is due, so I’m checking the numbers on that before I send HMRC a moderately scary amount of money, Then my personal tax thing needed to be done as well, and then finally my landlord chimed in with another 10% rent increase. Rents are something like boiling a frog. So long as the increases are slow, the tenant will boil alive before they realise how fucked they are, but a notification of a heavy increase, and only a few months after the last one applied (It’s a warning of an increase in September) has given me the chance to take a step back and say “No, that is more than I’m willing to pay for this level of pokeyness in my accommodation”. It’s never been a great flat for the money, but with the perennially nearly-fixed boiler and now ¬£1.5M new housing where our garden used to be, I’m getting out of the water.

Right now, we’re looking at Oxford, for reasons of London connections and existing support networks for both me and Fyr, and it’s a nice place I haven’t lived in yet. Its rental market seems sane when compared to London’s, which means its still overheated and crazy, but at a level I’m more comfortable with. Plan is to head up and blast though viewings mid-next-week, then go from there.

Empire’s this weekend, and it looks like my little world of the Senate’s going to be quite exciting. Went to a player event as my NPC last week, which was fun in its own way, but probably not something I’ll do again. The inability to push my own agendas (very much) made me miss playing a great deal, and I’m looking forward to my holiday away from it next year.

Mostly playing Star Wars: The Old Republic. I bought a subscription, which gives me an XP boost so I can level a character all the way without doing anything but the class story quests, and I’m using that to do them if I can. I finished off my Imperial Agent last week, and I’m working my way though the Jedi Knight quest line. As single-player quest lines, they remind me a lot of Knights of the Old Republic, not without good reason, and without the “Kill ten womp-rats” filler between the stories, it’s a lot nicer to experience. There are a lot of really good non-class-based questlines too – I’m particularly fond of the Gree “Black Bisector” set – but it’s nice to have a clear run though the story.


computing Larp Personal

Week 20 – Whether the weather be fine

…and then it was July. Weekly updates! Woo! Er…

The sun has got his hat on, this week. Last year, I bought a freestanding aircon unit thing. Not a proper one, with a hose, but the kind you can put cold water in and it blows cold air out. I am pleased I did this, because without it this last few days would have been more hell.

My project for the last couple of years is now up in public, and I’m sure I’ll get around to doing more about Skute later on, like constructing the back-end and generic tech assumptions. It’s a content sharing platform based around physical location. So, for a slightly corporate example, there’s a new bit of Mountain Dew sponsored street-art up in Shoreditch that’s got a closed Skute on it. If you scan the Skute tag next to it (it’s NFC, so this is Android only for now) you can see some video of them putting it up, and info about the artists. If you’ve got the app, you can subscribe to updates about it or them, otherwise you get a read-only web view. A slightly more open example would be a skute stuck to a common skater hangout, with an open skute that anyone with the app can add videos of them doing tricks to. (More likely, I see friends-list locked skutes for that case. Getting big enough to have to worry about spam on them is one of those “good problem” rakes in the grass of the future). There’s still a lot to do – there are a few core features I wish we’d had time to polish off before going public – but it’s good to see it out in the open.

I’m kind of hoping that with Skute out in the open and the Gadgets post out of my queue I can get back to content updates here. There’s a new audio update coming tomorrow – a reading of a recent Faction Fiction piece – and then I hope to get stuck into a new Secret Lore episode. Also coming up is my first adventures in brewing, which has been interesting.

Gameplaywise I’ve recently got into Marvel Heroes, which is basically a FtP Diablo clone with added licencing, and had a lot of fun playing Hawkeye in it. I got tempted in to SWTOR again via their XP boost system, which means I can run the (interesting) class storylines without needing to care about the planet storylines I’ve done a dozen times already. I’ve just closed Chapter 1 of the Imperial Agent, and I’m hoping to get though that and two others before my sub renews. Secret World’s got its anniversary content on, though, so that’s going to be a distraction.

I’ve also ended up running an ARK: Survival Evolved server for friends. ARK’s a survival/build/minecraft/thing with added dinosaurs. It’s fun and interesting, and at some point I’ll play it as well as running the server ūüôā

And LARP. Odyssey went well, both on a personal level and a game-running level. For the first time – I’ve been crewing it since event 2 – I got out on the field as a character, and into the NPC meeting rooms as two different gods. Playing an all-powerful literal god in LARP is the crackiest of all crack, and I need to do it more often. Not everything was perfect, and there are aspects of the game we need to address (we screwed up blessings quite a bit), but the game was an emotional high… which meant the resulting fall came with a bump. My last couple of games crewing Empire, at least for a while, are coming up and preparations for next year’s odyssey (ahem) into playing are well underway. Kit is being acquired, and I’ve just received the notification that the group I applied to join has accepted me. Commonly, larp groups have a “black-ball” joining system so you don’t end up having to roleplay with someone you have an out-of-character abhorrence to. It’s the first time I’ve had to go though that kind of system, though, and it’s faintly nerve-racking. However, success. And now I have to build and name a character..


computing linux Personal

Week 17 – There are lights in the ground, where the lights in the sky have fallen

Busy fortnight.

I’ve got a new address. Istic.Networks ltd has a new trading address, since we’ve joined the Innovation Warehouse. Mostly, this is because I need to manage work/life split a bit better, and having a transitionary commute helps this. Also, it makes my watch happier that I have to walk to work.

Yes, I wrote the phrase “It makes my watch happier”. I am a slave to the little red circle, and soon the green ones, I hope.

This weekend is Odyssey, and all the stuff that brings. Slightly worried at my first NPC role in the system – I’m head ref, this shouldn’t worry me – and the¬†number of small crisises that continue to plague us. They do every time, though, and I’m sure it’ll be fine.

Project-wise, I’ve laid down some solid work on both and PiracyInc the last couple of weeks, but I’m looking forward to having some dedicated time for them next week. I’ve been full-time for my contracting gig for almost ten days straight, which has been a bit of a shock to my system, and the change of scene will be good for me.

Achievements? Well, my Windows-based PLEX media-server developed a fatal flaw, which resulted in a reinstall. I’ve had it with Windows servers, however, so I’ve moved it over to Ubuntu. I still need to teach it a bit about boot systems and file library arrangements, but so far it’s running both better and faster than the windows version. It was originally windows because that was the requirement for Plex’s iPlayer channel, but since that’s dodo’d, there’s not been a good reason for it to stay there.

It also means I can move my OpenVPN install off the raspberry pi and onto a slightly more solid basis.

Fatal flaw in the VPN, though: It will only support one device at a time. Not sure what I did there, but can almost certainly fix that with the move to the new environment.

Failed to write any blog posts. There are five in the hopper, including “Technical Gadgets That Have Not Changed My Life”, “The Explanation of LARP” and “intersection between ssh connections and aerial faith plates”, the latter of which is suffering from being a better title than article.


linux sysadmin

Week 15 – Outstanding in our field

I had a lovely empire event. It had nice weather, nice people, and things that I wanted to happen happened, and happened well.

Most of what I’ve done other than that, though, has been dribs and drabs.

I’ve turned my dust-gathering RaspberryPi into an OpenVPN server for the house, enabling me to get at my media server and desktop files and folders from anywhere in the world without opening the services up to it. This required a bit of playing around, because OpenVPN didn’t work though my Fibre router, but putting the router from Virgin into “Modem mode” and moving all router duties to a nicer Belkin box stopped my kettle talking to the wifi (also my Kindle and media server).

Some playing with radio settings and configuration later, and the Belkin box is running the roost, with everything connected to it. Of course, the public story on that is just that I can turn on my kettle from anywhere in the world, because that’s the obvious bit.

The other bit was implementing¬†recaptcha on a quotes service. I’ve been running quotefiles for channels for eight years or so, but I’ve never found a service that didn’t suck. Rash and the other QDB lookalikes have ownership, maintenance and being-awful problems, which pushed me towards Chirpy, a perl-based system written for Mozilla. I don’t generally work with perl, which meant that Chirpy didn’t really work for me. When it would crash with obscure templating errors that repaired themselves in a few minutes, I had nothing to do. Plus, as we drifted away from its 2007 last release date, and the 2010 last code-commit, I trust it less.

So when it failed for the last time, as I upgraded the server it was on, I honestly couldn’t be bothered to go through the CPAN dance again, and hacked my own together in PHP. It doesn’t have the features, or tagging, or any of the other things we didn’t use. But it worked.

Well, nearly. When I checked the queue for quotes to approve, as I do every few weeks, I found a spambot had hit the form, so I’ve added very basic¬†recaptcha support, which took 45 minutes only because I can never spell¬†captcha the same way twice in a file.


computing Projects

Week Fourteen: A fortnight is just like a week, but l

I missed week 13, because it was unlucky.

(And I forgot)

A fairly productive fortnight, all told. I blew the dust off and wrote one of the larger puzzle pieces between it and the fabled fiction archive section, and upgraded the server it’s on in the process. I attacked my PC with a screwdriver and fixed several of the noisy fan issues it’s had since Wk12, and did prep for some larp games.

In the world of computer games I spent a long time on Cities: Skylines, about which I should write, about 6 hours on The Magic Circle, about which I did write, and some time in The Secret World’s new issue, which I’m still processing. I’m aiming to finish that off tonight.

Next weekend is Empire, so that’ll be fun. With any luck I’ll have finished writing up Falling Down by then…

Previously on Aquarionics:




computing Current Affairs sysadmin

Week Twelve: May the… sixth be… something something

My major success story this week has been to utterly screw up my desktop computer.

Over the last few years, I’ve started selecting PC components based on silence. When I did a replacement of the motherboard/CPU/cooling systems last year, though, I kept them in the same case. It wasn’t a bad case, really, although it reminded me how much of a poor life-choice cheap cases are (A cheap case generally has thin allumenium inside, which never fails to take a blood sacrifice). However, since then the machine has started making irritating “my fan is dying” noises, so I decided an upgrade of the fans was in order. One short trip to Amazon later, and I had a brand new¬†Corsair case, with smoothed aluminium edging, no-screws hard-drive and optical drive installation, and – in a nod towards the new world order I hadn’t seen before – places to put SSD drives!

It’s black, and it’s got white LEDs in it, and it’s got a window in the side (I last bought a case with a window in it in 2003, during the saga of the Gold Plated Power Supply) (Hell’s bells this site’s old) and while putting things in to the new case did not require a blood sacrifice, taking stuff out required a significant sacrifice of my right index finger, and dealing with cross-threaded screws, and the fact that my machine now has four fans in it, plus a water cooled CPU taking up a fan pin, and only three fan pins on the motherboard. This can be repaired later. Before summer, probably.

For the full several hour experience, you needed to be here, but in rapid portrait-o-vision here is a 30 second timelapse of the whole thing (Portrait-o-vision because it was taken from my phone mounted in the dock, and there’s no sensible way to crop it)

Having done all that…

… it still made the noise. Turns out it was the power supply, which I’ll have to replace next month. In the meantime, turning it upside-down replaced the irritating fan-scraping noise with an even more irritating but far more intermittent high pitched whining.


The other major feature of the long weekend (I was off Friday though Monday) was that part of it was Streetfest, at which my new company, Skute, were doing a thing.

Due to some happy fun organisational issues, I didn’t get a full version of our thing up on the testing servers until Friday, at which point it became obvious that there were a couple of major differences from my exploratory tests. Differences that were pushing page generation¬†times over thirty seconds, which is a magic death figure for our architecture. On top of that, there were some issues with the mobile experience that meant it was now missing the point in all three dimensions at once.

Basically, over twelve hours of Friday, I ended up doing a lot of the query optimisation work I’d never got time to complete to get initial loads somewhere sane, and then a heavy caching layer over the top of that to get subsequent loads closer to tenths of a second than tens of seconds. Something of a heavy day. The load times when we went live were… mostly fine, though apparently the mobile bandwidth on site may have not been up to much. It’s all a learning experience.

I’m feeling somewhat over-teched this week. May need to devote some evenings to pure creative.

Plus, it’s election time again, which is always good for my faith in humanity.

Computer Games computing Gaming Larp Personal Projects

Week Eleven: Fear and loathing in post-apocalyptic spiritual canada

Missed a Tuesday, then a Wednesday. I’m great at this…

Last week at work was preparation for our first real outing for Skute, where we’re running a music thing at Streetfest. Getting all the content-related ducks in a line has been a bit of a flashback to previous lives doing agency-type things, but with a couple of days to deadline it’s falling in to place, now to fit actually doing it around my day job…

The weekend was Falling Down, a LARP (or probably LRP, in this case) event based on the classic Tribe 8 setting. I’ve got half an article on that, and I need to both finish that and get some photo clearances. The event was awesome. I went in as Kitchen crew, with a full character to play, and managed to get invested in the plot, further my own agenda, and also help cook delicious stew. Plus, I brought along my vacuum coffee apparatus, about which people were suitably awe-struck.

Spent a lot of time on business admin and stuff. It’s almost exactly two years since I pulled Istic out of mothballs, so there’s a block of admin and domain renewal stuff on my desk. Excitement and adventure.

Playtime has mostly been more Fallout: New Vegas, which is probably an article in itself, but this week the final act of Broken Age dropped, so I’ve been working though a replay of Act 1, then the new content. That turned into a review of this slightly disappointing game.

Oh, and I found a new theme I like for Aquarionics. Farewell to the slider, at least for now. I liked the concept, but I need to find a new way of making it work. That’s pretty much the only personal-projects thing to get any love this week, though I fixed a few bugs in Lampstand’s logging and Lifestream’s fitbit tracking.

Title image is some playing around with an idea for the new header, but I’ve got back to traditionalism…


Week Ten: The pros and cons of leaving the house

The wrong question is “What did you do before the internet?”, today. Today’s question is “What do you do after the internet?”. We have no internet, because Virgin are futzing with the wires, and so I have a freshly minted day off and no internet to fuck around on.

That’s not strictly true, of course, since while I don’t have a wired broadband connection, I do have a 4G network living in the air around me. But it’s not great for latency-specific stuff, though it should be fine for blog posts. What did I do this week?


Some bits and pieces for a Skute set piece in a couple of weeks time. Over the last year or so I’ve hacked together a number of quick python scripts to perform common actions – check up on a user, update some content, test the upload system – and lots of them have been hacks to the core database. A lot of them sharing code with the API. This week I’ve been updating some of them to use the actual APIs instead, on the basis that anything I want to do with the data should be possible though it.

A bit more tidying on lifestream modules, including updating some things to use modules instead.


I’ve now done my Empire homework, and am ramping up for crewing Falling Down this weekend. I’m really quite looking forward to that. Brand new system for me, with a lot of people I like and don’t get to play with very often.


Mostly I’ve been playing Fallout New Vegas, because it supports shorter play-bursts than Pillars right now. Having said that, I’ve spent a *long time* on FNV, so that might not have worked ideally.

cevearn comics linux Python Shebang tv

Week Nine – it’s better than bad, it’s good

Quiet work week, so we’ll skip that. Decided that I’d had enough of print statements, and moved both Lifestream and Lampstand over to use Python logging instead for everything outputty. Lampstand also needs a pass to separate output into levels, right now everything’s at INFO.

Positive feedback on some creative writing I did recently – on tumblr, and in scraps elsewhere – has led me to want to carve out time to get the novel moving forward again. I need to suppress the urge to kill it with fire and start from scratch, but right now it’s plodding a bit.

Somewhere between Rest and Play lies Odyssey work this week. A good Story Team meeting at the weekend has set some flags out for the year, and indeed next, and then I spent a few hours putting together the Odyssey T-Shirt shop, to supplement our costume & props budget with mercenary goodness.

Somewhere over the last week I’ve also carved out 13 hours to watch the full first series of Daredevil on Netflix, which I enjoyed a lot, and should turn into another entry shortly…


Week Eight, In which being someone else is helpful

A few days in a field has cleared my brain fabulously, although I’m a few days off the week update.


Bug fixing in one place, refactoring in another. Soon, new development. Invoicing week on planet, which means getting my expenses in a row. Today’s the deadline for last year’s expenses to go to my accountant, but I think that’s all in order.


Updated lifestream to use a unified logging framework, which the first stage to it not being a horrible mass of cron scripts. Also put in some virtualenv config to attempt to avoid multiple scripts running at the same time conflicting.

For other, see other posts this week. Went to Empire, had a good event despite the mud, now not dreading the year. This week, Odyssey, and then preparation for Falling Down.


Some pillars of eternity, and attempting to clear Transylvania in TSW before Issue 11 comes out. The new Neverwinter expansion looks good, so I might blast though some of that at the weekend.