The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Portrait of a picture of a migrant mother

So I started watching “Masterpiece: The Making of Migrant Mother” and right off, I'm annoyed that the creator, Evan Puschak, is using a vertical orientation for the video, as if he filmed it with a smart phone. But after a few minutes I stopped noticing the odd aspect ratio as I was engrossed in the top of the video. By the end, it was clear that the vertical aspect ratio was a design choice, to reflect the subject matter, an iconic portrait from the Great Depression.

He filmed a video about Dorothea Lange's portrait “Migrant Mother” in portait mode! Yes, it's jarring to see video in portait mode instead of the normal landscape mode, but ultimately, I think it works.

It was also interesting to note just how much manipulation went into that photo. It wasn't just a quick shot of a mother with three kids, but artfully staged as government propaganda to promote one of President Roosevelt's social programs during the Great Depression. Jason Kottke goes into some depth about the subject of the photo, Florence Owens Thompson.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

How to measure 5/6 cup of oil, part II

I just received an email from D. J. about a fifteen year old post which mentioned bad math books and tagentially about measuring oil. It was unusual in that D. J. not only read the post (and enjoyed it) but also mentioned an alternative way of measuring 5/6 cup of oil using a simpler method than the insane one I came up with at the time. D. J.'s method is to meausre out 4/3 cups and then removing ½ cup. I guess D. J. is better at fractions than I am.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

In most cases, the $100 chip will blow to save a 1¢ fuse, but occasionally, the 1¢ fuse will do its job

Well, that's a fine kettle of fish, I thought as I powered up my main computer and it reported it couldn't find the hard drive. First the keyboard, and now the hard drive. I resisted the urge to say, “What else could possibly go wrong?”

Late last night we had a power outage. I did the usual “shut down all the computers, then shut down the UPSes. Fortunately, it only lasted some ten minutes and the power came back up. I powered up the UPSes, then I started with my main computer. It got to the point where I could log in, only the keyboard didn't work.

That's odd, I thought. I then powered up my other computer, the Mac mini. Both computers use the same keyboard in a convoluted setup involving a KVM and Synergy that works for me. The keyboard worked fine on the Mac mini, so it wasn't the keyboard that was bad.

But both computers lack a PS/2 port, so I have to run the keyboard cables through a PS/2-to-USB converter (one per system). Logging into my main machine from the Mac and scanning the USB subsystem showed nothing connected, which lead me to believe said USB system on my main machine was dead. But oddly, there was nothing in the boot messages that said the USB couldn't be initialized or was otherwise bad. I then thought perhaps some dust had gotten in the way? I mean, the system was dusty.

I took the machine outside and let loose with some canned air. Back inside, hook everything back up and Well, that's a fine kettle of fish …

At this point, I did not panic, but instead applied Conner's Three Rules to Worrying:

  1. Can I do anything about the issue I'm worried about now? If so, do the thing and stop worrying.
  2. Can I do anything about the issue later? If so, wait until later and see rule 1.
  3. Can I do anything about the issue at all? If not, no use worrying about it as there's nothing you can do about it.

I figured rule 2 applied, and waited until later.

Later came, and I decided to take a methodical approach to the problem. I unhooked the computer, opened the case and made sure all the cables were firmly in place. Perhaps letting loose with the canned air knocked a cable loose and in fact, that was the issue—the power cable to the CD-ROM had been knocked loose, and that's probably the hard drive the computer was complaining about. Everything else seemed firmly in place.

As an aisde, I do want to mention the case I have for my main computer is one of the nicest cases I've seen. It's easy to get into without any tools, wire/cable management is super clean, and nothing is hard to get at or remove. It's a beautiful case.

Anyway, I hook everything back up, and lo'! It booted up, But alas, the keyboard was still borked.

I still didn't panic. The computer works. I don't have to get a new harddrive and the mess that entails. I can still work without a keyboard. At the very least, I can see if I have a USB PC card in my collection (I gave it a 10% chance of having one in storage) and if not, I could always order one.

But then something said try the PS/2-to-USB converter on the Mac on my main system. And lo'—it worked! It was the PS/2-to-USB converter on my main system that for some reason fried—it wasn't the USB subsystem at all! And that's a much easier problem to work around.

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