Etched In Stone

It’s rebuilding day. I can’t recall the last time I had to reinstall my desktop system. I’d have to do a little research, but it was probably when I bought all new hardware and went with two large mirrored drives with virtual disks on it. Feels like that was some time ago. I looked it up. August 2019. So 2.5 years of running non-stop without significant downtime. I guess that’s not too bad.

It’s worked pretty well, until suddenly it didn’t. The machine would reboot overnight for no good reason. When i would look in the event logs, it happened around the time of a Windows update. There were a ton of errors about the Windows Search service not being able to start.

Then I was having trouble installing updates. My Visual Studio was on something like 15.3.3 and I wanted to update to 15.5. It would install the update, then wouldn’t launch. So I’d reboot and I was back on 15.3.3 again and it’s bugging me to upgrade. I planned on just uninstalling and downloading the latest, but then I noticed that my Vivaldi web browser was also bugging me for updates. I had just done that the other day. I installed the update, it wouldn’t launch. This seems familiar. Reboot, back on the old version.

This sounds to me like the shadow copy service is broken. It can’t create any new system checkpoints and keeps reverting to the last version. So I follow the steps to delete all system restore points and move onward with trying to fix the search service. Everything I try fails. System file checker, chkdsk, dism, all have some problem or another. So I guess it’s time to start over.

Ok, then the first thing to do is get a current backup. BUT, Windows File History relies on the Windows Search Service, which is dead. It says my last good backup was October, 2022. Whatever, it’s fine. All my real files are on the mirrored drives anyway. I leave the machine on overnight with plans to rebuild first thing in the morning.

Amazingly, it didn’t reboot overnight, so then I got busy building a USB drive to install from. Shut down the tower and took it outside to blow the dust out of it and set it back up for install. First attempt was booting off the UEFI partition on the USB drive. But then it wouldn’t let me install anything on my internal drive because it was MBR. Ok, reboot again into the MBR USB partition and try again.

I try to delete the partitions and they wouldn’t delete, for whatever reason. Fine. i formatted both partitions and did the install. On first reboot, Windows loaded up and prompted me to log in. Excuse me? This is a brand new install. I type in my pin and I’m back at my desktop.

I have no idea what’s up with this cursed drive, but it’s going in the fire as soon as I can get a replacement. Amazingly, Amazon can have me a new drive, twice as big delivered within a few hours for like only $65. I feel like I paid 3x that when I built this computer.

Until then, I guess I’ll just poke around on the drive that refuses to change, or die.

Painting Looks Fun To Own

The title is a reference to the punchline from an old comic strip where a character wants to get into pottery and buys anything and everything for the hobby, unsure yet of whether the hobby will stick.  With the entire purchase laid out on a large table the question is raised,  what if that hobby fails?  Well, painting looks fun to own.

I’m having a queue problem with my music hobby, and I’m growing the queue for little good reason other than, it looks fun to own.  I’ve purchased a couple more keyboards since the last time I mentioned buying keyboards.  I’m not sure what the total is now.  Barring any "that’d be neat" items I happen across, I only have one more planned purchase to replicate the 700cb studio of the 90’s.  With all those elements, I will be able to work further back in the catalog and rebuild the original songs in higher quality than the old cassette tape of the era.

While that’s the goal in mind, I have a lot of steps I want to complete in order to get there.  i have an actual written list of the things I want to accomplish along the way.  A lot of that list is reducing the stuff I already have, and that’s where the blockages are happening.

I have to sound modules that are just too similar and I don’t need both.  The Yamaha Mu80 and MU100.  However, before I part with the MU80, I decided I should take advantage of the availability of the device by rewriting an old utility program I wrote back around 1996 that would allow the MU80 to be used as an effects unit.  Back then, I wrote it for the PC version, the Yamaha SW60.  I had later advanced to the Yamaha SW1000 in my computer but I never had an MU80 or MU100.  Now is a good chance to do that rewrite.

However, that old utility was written back in 1996, in Visual Basic 6.0.  We’ve moved on a lot since then, so I can only read the code as a guideline and I’m essentially writing the thing from scratch again.  And it’s rather a pain in the ass.  I have no idea how I cranked out that utility so quickly back then.  Youth…

But anyway, writing that program requires my programming desktop to use the MIDI interface, which means I can’t use it for any work on my recording PC.  And I decided I’m going to sell the chintzy novelty guitar I’ve been using for testing the utility, but I can’t really do that until I finish this application.  So it’s blocking me twice.  You know what, i should just use another guitar for testing.  Yes, they’re not as disposable, but they should survive the office environment long enough.

So there, I’ve talked (typed) myself into making a decision.  I can list the dumb guitar on ebay.  And I have CD players and other audio equipment to list as well.  I have a lot of CDs listed and the best have already sold off, so the rest are just taking up time.

In the future, expect something to be said about this dread in the back of my mind.  I have all these devices and nowhere near enough space to store them, set them up, or mixer inputs to plug them in and use them at once.

And also on the hot sheet, one of the devices I bought needs work.  Parts are being ordered and I’ll have another attempt at frustration with soldering.  I went through my pottery stage and I have everything I need to pick it back up again.

So Let’s Do This Again

So, for what seems like the 100th time in my life, I’m getting back into music.  Some things are a little different this time.  The primary difference is $$$.

A quick history of my keyboard collection.  In the 90’s, at the peak of my creative period, I had 3 main keyboards: the Ensoniq ESQ1, the Roland Alpha Juno 2, and the Oberheim matrix 6R.  The Juno and the Matrix 6 were sold off and I added a Casio CZ (varying models over time, but eventually the CZ1, which was top of the line), and later, a Roland RD-600.  A little later on yet, I added a General Music Equinox Pro-88.  I had these 4 boards for a long time, but eventually sold the ESQ1.  Then later, I didn’t think I needed two 88-key boards, so I sold the Equinox.  That left the Casio and the Roland.  And I got by on that.

But, I regret – REGRET – selling every one of those keyboards.  I should have just put them in storage.  I lost a lot of money selling every one.  And that regret has cost me as I try to reclaim those old sounds.

Now to the near present.  I wanted to "remaster" my old recordings and to do that, I needed the original sound devices.  I started from my most recent stuff and am working backwards.  So a lot of my newest stuff, I was using the Yamaha SW-1000 sound card.  This sound card is obsolete for computers now, but there was a professional module called the Yamaha MU-80.  I bought one.  It seemed like it didn’t have the right sounds, so I also bought an MU-100.  That was a wild goose chase, so now I have an extra sound module I don’t need.

Going back further, I needed the sounds from the Equinox.  This synth is quite uncommon.  If it does come up for sale, it ain’t cheap.  I scanned the internet hard, and eventually had to jump on one that suddenly appeared on eBay.  It was only the 76-key model, which was actually better for me.  And that was a big blow to the wallet.  But, it was just what I wanted.

Now inspired, I started seeking out other synths.  I picked up one from Craigslist for $400, a nice sounding Korg I’d never used before.  Then I made a pawn shop run and got a newer Roland synth that needed some help.  That one’s all fixed up and going good right now.  I made another pawn shop run and picked up a dead Roland synth that is queued for professional repair someday.  And along the way, I resurrected an old thrift store purchase that was sitting in my closet.  Finally, I made a long drive to pick up the one synth that started it all, an Ensoniq ESQ1.  Again, not cheap, but still, part of the plan.

I need to be realistic and say I’m probably never going to own another Oberheim.  They are even more expensive than the Equinox I bought.  And the Alpha Juno, I have a great software VST version of it that will suit my needs.

So where am I now?  Let’s take stock (in order of purchase):  Roland RD-600, Casio CZ-1, Alesis QS-8, Yamaha MU-80, MU-100, General Music Equinox, Korg DW-8000, Roland D-70, Ensoniq ESQ-1, Roland Juno Di.  That’s 10 that I count.

And where to put all these?  I only have a stand for two.  They’re in the closet, but they need cases, so now this is my new buying spree.  I’ve purchased 2 used cases in the last few days and I still need two 76-key cases and one more 61-key case.  I have two 88-key cases from when I owned the Equinox Pro-88.

To offset a little of this cost, I’m selling off a lot of duplicate CDs I’ve collected over time.  I also have CD players to get rid of.  Money comes, money goes.  Hobbies keep coming back.

So let’s do this again.

I Can Never Take On A Simple Project

Last weekend, I made a day and hit a bunch of pawn shops, specifically looking for keyboards.  I guess collecting CDs was getting too hard, and collecting CD players was too infrequent, so keyboards is now what I collect.  I had two a couple weeks ago, now I have five.  I’ll figure out something.

So, to keep that story short, I made a deal at the first place I went and the rest of the day was pretty crappy.  For some odd reason, my phone could not keep a GPS signal, so my trip was cut short.  No idea what was up with the GPS, but I hope it’s not a regular happening.

So anyway, at this first shop, they had a keyboard out front – a Roland D70, which is a 76 key synth from 1990.  Not bad.  The original price was $720 and it was marked down to $450.  ehhh, not that great.  But there was a sign nearby that said anything on that table, make an offer. Hmmm.  I did a quick price check and the D70 sells for about $500.  Ok, let’s at least check it out.

I ask to try it and the first thing I see is that the MIDI thru jack is ripped out.  I have no idea how something like that happens.  Not a deal breaker because I wouldn’t need that port, but it is a negotiation point.  It powers up and I start testing the keys.  To my amazement, some of the keys don’t work.  And when I say they don’t work, I don’t mean they don’t make a sound when you press them, I’m saying you could not physically push them down.  Five keys had that problem, all black keys.

The store got a little busy right then, so I had an extended period to consider what level of effort a repair would be.  Absolute worst case, find a dead donor board and swap the keybed.  The electronics seemed fine, the issue was only mechanical.  Time to barter.

Know this about me:  I don’t haggle.  I like to be a people-pleaser.  I don’t like the discomfort of potentially insulting the person who is offering me a service or product.  So I continually tell myself, I don’t need this board.  There’s no reason not to walk away.  I set my price at $250.  Now remember, this is a pawn shop, so it’s likely the person pawning it only got like $100 at most for it, so my price is still giving them a profit.  However, that price was lower than their lowest time-based discount price was.

The salesman came back and I explained the problem and the level of effort I’d have to take to see if it’s even repairable and told him I could only offer $250.  He immediately said, no, I already have $400 into it.  Well, that was quick.  So I was like, ok, I can’t take it.  But I can tell you there’s a repair shop nearby that could fix it for you if you want to get its full value.  I know a pawn shop doesn’t want to sell good stuff; they want to turn over product with as little hassle as possible.  Fuck, they don’t even clean things they put on the floor.  Such a simple thing to increase the value, and they don’t.

He changes his tune quickly, "let me ask the manager."  Yup, just like a car dealership.  However, unlike a dealership, he came back and said, manager says he’ll take $250.  I didn’t have to fight wave after wave of bosses to get the deal.  So, deal done and back home to see what’s up with this thing.

To get to the point, this keyboard had what I’d heard about in repair videos but had never seen yet: the Roland Red Glue.  This glue, in keyboards from 1985-1990, would melt in heat and humidity, loosening the key weights and running into the internals.  The five broken black keys all had their weights fall and that is why they could not be pushed down.  It’s quite funny to me to think that this board might have originally worked well, but because pawn shops suck, they might have left the A/C off at night to save a couple bucks and caused this problem all on their own.  I love that sort of justice.  But anyway, the problem was mine now.

I did some research and found that the usual fix is to soak the keys in drain cleaner to dissolve the red glue and then reattach the weights with epoxy glue.  The recommendation was to use a drain cleaner with lye.  Well, guess what, you can’t get that anymore.  Why?  Goddamn methheads.  Lye is used in making meth.  So I picked up some other cleaner that had some of the chemicals that are associated with lye and hoped that would do the job.

The keys soaked overnight and while it did appear to dissolve all the running glue and freed the weights from the five black keys that had their weights fall, the other key weights were still rock solid.  Solid enough that I broke the plastic on a key trying to pry the weight out.

So the next day, I spent a lot of time scrubbing the keys, to get whatever glue was left (which had turned black) and planned my next move.  In one video, the person said the glue was susceptible to high pH and tested his soaking solution before starting to show it was high pH.  Well, I can make a high pH solution with some pool chemicals.  So I took the broken key as my new sacrificial tester, bought some alkalinity increaser from the pool store, and soaked the key in a solution with a pH off the charts of my pool test strips.  After a few hours, the key weight was as firmly attached as ever.

So at this point, I think I’m just going to fix the five black key weights, buy a replacement key for the one I broke, and put it all back together.  Some part of me says it’s leaving a job unfinished, but another part of me is saying, those other key weights are on there.  And I’m not leaving my keyboards in a non-climate controlled environment anyway, so they should remain solid.  I dissolved all the excess glue that had seeped out, so the only glue left is what is behind the weight.

The replacement key arrived quicker than I expected.  And immediately upon opening, I check it.  Red Glue.  Ok, off into a drain clearer bath overnight.  The next day, I scrubbed the dissolved glue off and installed the key.  I had been waiting for this and had installed every other key in advance.  I put everything back together and powered the board up.

No sound.  Further, the display was completely garbled.  Actually, this is ok.  I’ve heard that you might need to do a memory erase and then go through a tedious process of transmitting data to the device to restore it.  So I download the data file, get the utility program and try.  And try again, and again.  We’re not seeing any success here.  I read a couple more posts about the process and someone comments on turning off a memory protect switch.  Oh yeah, that would help.  A few more tries.  More reading.  Eventually what worked for me was navigating to a system menu, enabling sysex receive, and setting the device id to 17 (why I don’t know).  But then I had sound.

Unfortunately, some of the keys weren’t responsive.  I was too optimistic about their integrity and I probably shouldn’t have been.  So, everything comes apart again and I disassemble the keybed completely again.  Now I have to clean the membrane contacts and pads with alcohol, which wasn’t really as bad as I thought it might me.  I put on some music and went at it.  Two albums later, I was done and reassembling everything.

I had sound and now I had keys that work.  Some of the black keys were more sensitive than others, but that’s livable.  I can tweak any obnoxiously incorrect velocity in the sequencer if I need to.  And that actually wraps up the repair and restore of this device.

In the meantime, I’m buying another keyboard next weekend, which might need some attention, and also the keyboard that started this buying frenzy, the Equinox, needs some care.  The pitch wheel is wonky and I think some of the faders are dirty and spamming the bus.  And I know the battery is low on that, too.  So, no shortage of future projects, let’s hope they don’t become as involved as this one.

The Last Time Is The Charm

In an earlier post, I talked at length about this keyboard that came from a thrift shop and had a problem and how I tried to fix it over and over and eventually gave up and left it sitting in the garage, queued for the dump.  Well, sometimes, I just can’t give up. 

It’s been so cold the last few days that I didn’t want to touch the keyboard, seeing as it’s all metal (official weight: 51.4 lbs. – stupid heavy).  Today was warmer and I left the garage open so it could warm up a little.  After work, I went out and hauled the beast back in for yet another attempt at repair.

Did I have a plan?  Not really.  I was going to take the keyboard assembly out and just deal with the main board through MIDI.  Doing that, I could at least move something in and out of the closet that was probably 30 lbs. less every time I wanted to make another repair attempt.  And with that, I set the massive key bed out and hooked up the synth to another of my keyboards.

MIDI worked,  And enabling a sound on the master keyboard verified there was still the pitch problem.  I dug out the service manual and went through the reset and test modules.  Everything seemed ok from what I could tell.  A couple of the faders didn’t seem to register any movement and I had the pitch and mod wheels disconnected, so some blanks were expected.

Noodling around on the master keyboard, I happened to think to try the pitch wheel and when I moved it, I was very surprised to hear it didn’t work as it should.  The pitch would shift a little bit and snap back to the original incorrect pitch.  That would suggest that the contacts might be dirty, but this is a remote keyboard.  These are MIDI messages being sent and the synth is not honoring them.  Or something else locally is spamming the pitch controller signal.

I finally had a lead I could work with.  I started thinking schematically about what components could cause the pitch wheel to be triggered consistently even when disconnected.  I had the idea I should reconnect the pitch wheel and see if I could stabilize the pitch by holding it a certain amount.  To reconnect it, I had to remove a circuit board that had all the fader controls on it, like volume and four programmable sliders.

When I got the board off, I immediately noticed the connector for the pitch wheel had some trauma.  It was bent at an odd angle.  That seemed suspicious.  I inspected it closely and didn’t see anything broken.  But the faders were disgusting.  And as long as I had this board apart, I thought I’d try out my new chemicals, Deoxit and Deoxit Fader, the latter of which is specifically made for cleaning and lubing faders.

As I cleaned the faders, it was pretty clear they were just shot.  The cleaner was running down the board in a black oil.  But I cleaned them up as best I could.  With the pitch wheel reconnected, I powered the synth back up and tried out a few keys.  It was suddenly in tune.  No drift.  The pitch bend worked locally and remotely.  And that’s the end of this saga.

Reflecting on the "fix", when I very first got the keyboard, it had a pitch problem.  I was the one that disconnected the pitch wheel, so that was not the source of the problem.  One of the faders had to be the culprit – it must’ve had a short somewhere.  But I’m not going to be overly concerned about it from here out.  If the problem comes back, I will just buy a new fader board or maybe the faders themselves, since that is where the problem is centered.

The important thing is I have the keyboard I originally purchased in non-working order, now in working order.  And on a similar topic, I purchased another keyboard on a whim this week.  So I now have five keyboards and a stand that can hold two, so three have to be in storage.  I’m not sure where this is going at the moment, but we’ll see.  One thing for sure, I’m not getting rid of any more keyboards.

2023 Hike Log

So let’s try something different this year.  This time, I’ll just make one post and update it throughout the year with dates, location, distances, and notes.  That should be easier to maintain and I’ll be more apt to just put a quick log entry in here than trying to write blog entry on a hiking trip.

So let’s start.

Date Location Distance Notes
1/7/2023 Colt Creek 3.6 mi
1/14/2023 Alafia 1.2 mi Thin trails with lots of opportunity to climb, but much more bike-oriented than hiker.
1/15/2023 Colt Creek 6.7 mi How long? How long? How long to the point of know return?
1/22/2023 Tenoroc 2.7 mi Blue loop; nice elevation changes and great views.
2/18/2023 Gator Creek 5.3 mi Deer Run loop. 1 tortoise, 1 gator.
2/25/2023 Colt Creek 2.7 mi No real hike. Just back and forth on spur trails.
3/5/2023 Colt Creek 6 mi First half of Yellow trail
3/21/2023 Green Swamp 3.7 mi First weekday hike after DST change
3/26/2023 Colt Creek 4 mi Second half of Yellow trail
5/30/2023 Gator Creek 2.3 mi Yellow trail
Laziness 0.0 mi
11/23/2023 Green Swamp 1.7 mi Something’s not right. No stamina. Need to start over?


In the world of Geocaching, DNF means Did Not Find.  In the world of home improvement, DIY means Do It Yourself.  Somewhere in my world, DIYDNF means Did It Myself; Did Not Fix.

For a few years I’ve had this keyboard that I picked up in a thrift shop for something like $100.  My evaluation of it once I got it home was that this keyboard had problems.  Its pitch would wander, sometimes higher, sometimes lower.  It got stuck in a closet while I determined what to do about it.

There is a repair shop about 90 minutes away that handles keyboards and after a long, long time, I finally dragged it out there on New Years day.  Sadly, they wouldn’t work on it because there were no parts from the manufacturer and no service manual.  I actually had a copy of the service manual, but whatever.  So I lost 3 hours and had a approximately 80 pound anchor on my hands.

I started doing some research online and after watching a repair video of the same model keyboard figured I could attempt the repair myself.  And to some degree, it wouldn’t be so expensive to try as a last resort.  Of course, expensive is something that comes with time and is usually not in the initial budget.

After watching many repair videos, the plan was to replace the main capacitors.  Kind of like when a CD player doesn’t work, you first replace the belts. That’s the way it is with a lot of older electronic gear.  The videos I watched, over and over, replacing the capacitors solved the majority of problems.  So that was my plan.  Now to buy everything I’d need to accomplish something like that.

What do I own now that I didn’t before?

  • Soldering station
  • Silicone soldering mat
  • 300+ capacitors
  • Two different solder wicks

Overall, maybe I spent $150 for this endeavor.  And because of the time it took to get all of these things, I had a lot of anticipation and excitement to get started.  The last piece arrived today and I immediately got to work.

Before I start that, I need to explain that in the time waiting for some of the pieces, I practiced on a dead circuit board – removing and replacing capacitors.  I thought I was doing really good.  It wasn’t difficult at all.  I was instructed the ideal way was to use the solder wick to remove the old solder, but I had zero success with that and chose a two-step process of removing the component, then using a solder sucker to clear the mounting holes.  My technique worked very well.

Doing it for real then.  I had to remove the existing three capacitors.  That went pretty smoothly.  Step two was to clear the mounting holes.  This did not go well, at all.  I ended up with some solder in the holes and it would not come out.  I tried my usual technique.  I tried using wick.  I tried other people’s tips like adding more solder to pull the solder in the hole out.  Nothing was working.  It was probably about 45 mins of fighting with greater and greater desperation, eventually resulting in me damaging the board.  But there was a hole.

Tired and disappointed, I mounted and soldered the new capacitors in place.  The first one went well.  The other two did not, but I did get them in place.  Now it’s time to reassemble and see the results, if any.  I mounted the main board back in the case, laid the keyboard back, and brought the control panel back for connection.  Wiring up power and audio cables and flipped the switch.

It powered up.  I pressed some keys.  No sound.  Oh yeah, volume.  I had sound.  It sounded pretty good and I was feeling pretty good.  I powered up another keyboard to get a pitch comparison.  Hmm.  Slightly detuned.  I did a factory reset on the panel and tried again.  Now the pitch was off by an entire semitone.  Worse.  I held some notes and I could actually hear the pitch slowly changing -  up and down.  So, experiment unsuccessful.  Any further troubleshooting is out of my league.  I’ve literally watched the pros do it and I don’t understand what they’re doing and how they arrive at their ideas.  I don’t have an electrical engineer background.

So, to the garage for the keyboard for now.  I’m pretty sure it’s going to the dump.  I considered maybe parting it out on eBay, but what a hassle.  I already have a bunch of stuff I need to list and I can’t find the motivation to do it.  Maybe it will come in the next few days.  But for right now, I need to pack up my new tools of my failed hobby.

Farewell To Tweets

Since this is an unprecedented event in my time, I figured I’d at least record my thoughts on it to remember exactly what it was like.  I am referring to the sudden, rapid implosion of Twitter.  Since I’ve been a wordy motherfucker for decades, I obviously have no interest in Twitter.  It never suited my purposes and I never "got" what it was trying to sell.  So, this is clearly an outsider’s opinion.

Let’s start with my issues with the man behind the destruction.  Elon "This isn’t even my final form" Musk has been insufferable for years now and this is just the latest deed.  Fortunately, this is the one that pulls the curtain back on his actual lack of ability.  A spoiled brat falling upwards until he now seems to have reached the ceiling.  The only thing you can give him credit for is bankrolling other people’s ideas, like EV and space transportation.  I don’t buy for a minute all the people who say, "he’s a genius.  I’ve heard him talk and he knows his stuff."  He only has a skill of regurgitating other people’s knowledge, which is also a skill of a huckster.  He also has the self-important aura that makes him appear superior to others.  It’s no wonder he is an authoritarian, it’s his trajectory.

One of the biggest, biggest things that pisses me off about the Twitter problem is that it didn’t have to be a problem.  Everything Musk complains about is from his own doing.  Losing $4m/day?  It wasn’t before you got there.  Overstaffed, unproductive workers, company costs too high?  Wasn’t before you got there.  If Musk had just been a slightly better person and not tried to do some obvious market manipulation, resulting in him being forced to make good on an offer that was only supposed to make him richer, Twitter might still be around.

Next in line for gripes is the complete foolishness of Musk’s "management" style.   It’s not really management, it’s just barking orders.  The whole idea of, "I am the single source of guidance and direction" is impossibly stupid in an organization.  And as much as I hate to bring this other asshole into the conversation, it’s just like Trump being president.  Businesses and governments are built on a hierarchy for a very good reason.  It frees the people at the top from having to worry about the details, but authoritarians have to control every little detail.  And it sucks for everyone involved because there is no consistency and the second in command remains as clueless as the commoner.  Why even have a hierarchy then?

All of this superiority complex leads to the next point of stupidity.  Walking in on day one and firing the people in charge, then firing half the staff before you even understand how the company operates, then threatening the remaining people with double the workload and no additional incentive – still before you understand how the company runs – then, once a large number of those remaining people have bowed out, finally asking to be clued in as to how things work.  Any intelligent businessperson would spend months analyzing the system from the inside before making any changes.  Musk is lucky any of the other companies he bought survived his leadership and managed to stay on their original track.

I feel like I could go on, but I want to address the now and future of Twitter the service.

So, pre-Musk (PM), Twitter had a real problem with the quality of its userbase.  It had lots of harassment, incitement, and general bad behavior.  But so does every other social media site out there.  In that way, I am anti-social media in total.  I don’t think it has proven to be a good mechanism for communication.  The strengths it touts, allowing you to send off a quick message, as well as quickly reply in kind, are actually the wrong things to be promoting.  Spur-of-the-moment, off-the-cuff, spontaneous messages, spoken without consideration, as well as knee-jerk, impulsive responses, are not a conversation.  They are not anything but thoughts, and they lead to people doubling down and digging in on things they never should have said and can’t bring themselves to apologize for.  So again, quick messages are not good.

However, when it comes to news and alerts, quick messages are great.  And now a lot of governments and officials are wondering how they’re going to get the same effects after Twitter dies.  And again, I’m going to say, Twitter is not good for this use case either.  The problem I am focused on is that a lot of "alerts" are not internationally important or relevant.  The ones that people are worried about: active shooter, natural disaster, policy changes – these are all regional.  It does me no good to hear about an active shooter in CA when I’m across the country.  As best it’s a distraction.  And that’s the term I want to apply to Twitter broadly, it’s a distraction.  It causes you to concern yourself with things that are not something you can do anything about and are not time sensitive.  This is the problem the 24hr news cycle started and Twitter just turbocharged it.  So, I feel that governments are going to go back to the way they used to issue alerts, which were more regional. Journalists that cover those regions will subscribe to those alerts and will amplify the message appropriately. 

And I think what’s going to close up this post is the observation from someone who was there before the internet and seen how things got better and worse.  While the internet has been invaluable for accessing information that is more of a static nature, it has been more of a detriment for more transient information.  There’s lots of news that doesn’t need to be consumed right at the moment.  Even big news, like the Queen is dead, could wait for the evening.  That news doesn’t change what I am going to be doing for the day.  Again, it’s a distraction.  And I think the number of distractions we’re facing in a day is causing some serious societal harm.  I feel like I’ve written about this before, where if you read about 10 rapes in the news in a day, they feel like they’re all in your neighborhood.  The whole idea of being an interconnected world is not so appealing when you have to also bear the weight of the entire world’s problems.

It’s almost like we need some sort of hierarchical structure for news.

The Mail Must Go On

At some point this week, my communication system reached a tipping point.  Google had decided to block my mail server.  This is something that had been brewing for some time and it finally got to where I had to act.

My first experience with the mail issues occurred a while ago when someone asked if I would do some consulting for them.  I was on the fence about doing any side work, but replied and said we could talk about it.  Their mail server bounced my message back to me because my mail server was on a blacklist.  I contact the blacklist registry and appealed the block and they say it got removed.  That was fine, because I then never responded to the consulting requests again and it got me out of that situation.

Occasionally, I would have instances where I was told emails sent to me were rejected because my mail server was not considered trustworthy and looked like a spam server.  And the primary reason for this was that it looked like I was running a mail server on a dynamic IP address, which anyone can do and the dynamic nature helps spammers avoid detection and consequences.

But I don’t have a dynamic IP.  I have a static IP, and I need that to receive email reliably.  The issue at hand was that the reverse DNS for my IP address did not have my domain name and instead looked like a generic ISP host name.  Very sketchy.  And I knew this was the problem and ignored it for some time because it never really was that big of a problem.  Until it was.

So I contact Frontier, who is my ISP, for assistance.  I get on their help chat and make my request.  As I completely expected, they had no idea what I was talking about.  I got transferred to an "expert" support person who eventually told me, "Your request is not a level of support we can provide."  Now there’s a few ways to take a statement like that.  The knee-jerk reaction is "LET ME TALK TO YOUR MANAGER!"  I read more into that statement and took a more diplomatic approach. "Can that level of support be offered via phone?"  And the response was simply, "I do not know that."  Depending on your mood, this exchange could be read as sincere or as dismissive.  I chose the former.  I asked for the phone number for business support and got it (the number was wrong by one digit, but I figured it out), then I made the phone call.

I spoke to a tech pretty quickly.  I need to point out that the support in all of these cases was uncharacteristically quick – not much wait time at all.  He asked how he could help and I explained: "I need a reverse DNS entry created in your system that points my static IP to my domain.  Does any of that make sense to you?"  No, it didn’t.  But to his credit, he did not give up and say he couldn’t help.  Like many IT workers at many businesses, he’s working remote and has to use chat to communicate with his team and get assistance.  That was a slow process and he was not getting much help.  While we waited, I explained that while this might be an unusual request, it really isn’t when dealing with businesses and static IP circuits.  I started my IT career in ISPs, so I know about requests like these.

We were getting closer to giving up and I was sort of pressing to find out who the next level of support I needed to call would be.  He explained that the higher levels of support were all done by ticket systems and there wasn’t any number to call.  And then, he got a response from a lead support tech that provided the answer.  What I needed to do was sent an email to hostmaster with a request for my PTR records and it would be done.  That’s it.  I can do that.  I was actually surprised Frontier even maintained a hostmaster email, since such a standardized name would be a total target for spam and whatnot.  I thanked my tech and got off the phone.

I created a simple email to the hostmaster with my account info, my IP address information, and the PTR record with its current hostname and the desired host name.  I got an automated email within a few minutes that a ticket had been opened and would be processed in order.  The next day, I got a plain, simple email saying the record was created.  and that was it.  That problem was solved.

But, times have changed and email servers have many more tests they need to pass to be considered trustable.  A few things I had never heard of like SPF and DMARC records needed to be added to my DNS server.  And with those done, I guess I have to wait a couple of days for all the DNS changes to propagate and see if it had any improvement.  So, I hope I’m on my way to being a trusted source of email on the Internet.  Security never sleeps.

Black Cat Season

A few updates on the newest member of the pride.  Last Saturday, a thin, hungry cat came to the house and was taken in.  Now that I’ve had the opportunity to have said cat checked out by the vet, some more details have come to light.

First, the cat is much less female than originally thought.  This actually was not established by the vet.  But let’s step back a moment.  First off, I didn’t want to name this cat because I didn’t really know if I’d be keeping him.  As his name was not defined, I called him NULL, and that name started growing on me.  My colleagues agreed NULL is a fitting name for a black cat.

So, come the day of the vet appointment, NULL was placed into a carrier and we began our trip.  Before even getting out of the driveway, he unleashed a deep, guttural howl of displeasure.  And he kept it up the whole way there.  So, NULL does not travel well.

Once in the exam room, the vet assistant took NULL to the table and I heard yet another new sound, growling.  And the growling got worse and stronger the more he got examined.  After the guy left to do some treatment planning, I held a very angry NULL and tried to get him to calm down.  At one point I thought I’d get bit as he bared his teeth at me, but in a few minutes, he did settle down and resumed purring and head-butting.

Then the doc came back in and it started over again.  Before they took him back for the battery of shots, I asked if we could scan for a microchip.  To all of our surprise, there was one.  I said I still wanted him brought up to standard, so they took him in back.

While I waited, the receptionist brought out a paper with the contact information for the chip registry.  The next thing of great interest was that NULL was not as young as assumed.  The chip was last updated 11/24/2013, probably the time of adoption.  So, I have a 9 year old cat on my hands.

The vet brought NULL back and said he tried to eat everyone while he was being treated.  I paid the $300 for all the work and went home.  I’m not sure I’m going to return to that vet.  They had taken over the practice of the vet I’d been to for many years and well, I’m just not impressed.

So back home, I call the microchip registry.  They confirmed that I have a black domestic shorthair, yes.  And they tell me, "His name is Chunk."  So first of all, he’s a boy, which was unknown at that time (because the vet took me at my assumption and didn’t verify). And next, "Chunk?"  Whatever.

The rep said the record had a privacy hold on it so she couldn’t give me the owner’s info, but if I would release my info, they would contact the owner and tell them how to contact me.  I agreed and I’m now waiting.  To be honest, I think I have a new cat.  I don’t think someone just loses a cat after 9 years.  I don’t think a cat just runs away from home after 9 years, especially one as loving and clingy as this one.  I am pretty sure the owners will not contact me.

So how is NULL doing?  Very happy.  Now understanding he’s an old boy, his behavior makes a lot more sense.  He loves nothing more than to sit on your chest and get in your face.  But the saddest part is seeing how much he lost.  He knows what a treat bag is.  He knows the word "dinner".  He found the cat toy box up on a shelf and picked out a catnip toy and went insane over it.  He’s a very experienced cat who used to have all these things and ended up homeless.

But things are going to get better for him.