Road Trips.

I took this photo during our last big road trip, which was in October 2018. We’ve been going on little rides around our corner of the Midwest during the pandemic, but I’m really ready for a big road trip again. I have some vacation time leftover from last year and plenty to use this year. If only the United States could get COVID-19 under control.

I really want to see some different parts of the country again.

Geek Administration.

The latter half of my work week was consumed by a big “server migration” project. We are tasked with moving our applications to a server farm in a data center in the central part of the country. The server farm has “geographical redundancy”, which means there’s a backup copy elsewhere in the country. If one data center goes down, the other can pick up the slack.

This week we’ve moved applications from a server in Greenville, S.C. to the big data center. The application in question was written by programmers that have long left the company. There is no documentation. There isn’t even a general consensus as to who uses the various modules in the application or what other groups, which could be located anywhere in the world, have their applications talking to our inherited application. The server in question was sitting on the floor underneath a cubicle desk. Changes in the org chart placed a person with absolutely no stake in the success of the server or the applications in the cubicle in question.

On the bright side, the server hadn’t been sealed inside a wall while still powered on.

I led the project of building the new servers in the data center and moving the application that we inherited without documentation. The whole affair is over six years old and has had many cooks in the kitchen over the years, so the code is not consistently written.

The relocation project was deemed a success on Friday afternoon. As part of a very capable team of programmers at the company, we worked together to make this happen. After the move we had one trouble ticket from a team that used a forgotten module through some ancient automation. I came up with an interim solution until we could get things working reliably on the new servers.

It’s a small wonder that I slept 12 hours last night.

I haven’t had time to think about all the changes along the country’s political spectrum that happened this week. I haven’t had time to think about the flight I hope to take tomorrow afternoon (though the weather doesn’t look especially promising).

But I feel good today.

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Privacy.

At the end of last year Apple introduced “privacy information labels” on all their apps in the apps store. I talked about this back in December and listed the contents of the Facebook app privacy disclosure on iOS. If you take a peek at that blog entry, you’ll be horrified at the amount of information Facebook tries to scrape from your iPhone.

The “Data Not Collected” image you see above is the same type of disclosure for my Twitter client of choice, Twitterrific. Twitter allows third party apps to access the Twitter platform, so you can use the app of your choice to Tweet. Unfortunately, Twitter also limits what the third party applications can do, so I don’t get the full Twitter experience by using Twitterrific.

And I am perfectly fine with that.

If I need to see my Twitter follower counts or report a tweet for bad behavior by the account owner, I can easily go to the official Twitter website to take care of business. Otherwise, Twitterrific lets me safely and easily tweet, reply to tweets, and read tweets in chronological order. I love it and highly recommend it.

Best part? Twitterrific scrapes absolutely ZERO information from my iPhone. Highly recommended.

When you’re looking at new apps, please take a moment to look at how the app handles the data and what information it pulls from your device. A television does not scan the viewer to tailor ads specifically for your TV and seems to do just fine at shilling products through commercials. There’s no reason for an Internet ad company to scrape all of your information just to personalize ads for you.

You’re better than that.

Take a gander at the information disclosures in the App Store. Make smart choices and give your privacy the respect it deserves.

Meow.

This is Truman at one of his quiet times in the past 48 hours. He’s been a little bit of a maniac for the past two days and has been quite vocal. He’s often directing his chatter at the ceiling.

I’m wondering if he hears another cat in the building or maybe a baby in one of the nearby condos. I’ve taken him for a few walks in the hallway and the stairwell and he looks around, purrs a lot, and then is ready to come inside.

My schedule has been all over the place this week with work obligations; perhaps he’s just not like the break in the routine.

Breathe.

We can breathe again. We made it. The four year nightmare has come to an end.

Welcome aboard, President Biden and Vice-President Harris. Let’s get to work, together.

Voices.

I grew up in a small town. I actually grew up outside of a small hamlet outside of a small town. To many in our school, we lived on the “other” side of the Interstate but on the right side of the tracks. Political maneuvering a small school district is interesting. Even though we live in a major city, I never forget where I came from an I am always interested in driving through small towns on our road trips.

Many of the towns and villages in Illinois are struggling. Those of a appreciable size have a Walmart and maybe a couple of chain convenience stores or supermarkets on the outskirts, but the “downtown” area or business districts are often seemingly forgotten. There might be a pizza place, a barbershop, and maybe a diner. Often there are a couple of bars and particularly in Illinois, gaming rooms where folks can try to win their millions at video lottery terminals.

All of these things have been closed during the pandemic.

Times were tough for these small towns before COVID-19 came to town; isolation and mandatory closing of businesses have just made it worse. These areas have been in a steady decline for decades and many of their citizens have been clamoring for something to change for a long while. I’m sure some feel forgotten. In that regard I get why rural communities leaned toward Trump; he talked about “draining the swamp” and “the American farmer” and the like and they bought into his shtick. They feel left behind by the D.C. establishment and they were promised something different. It’s unfortunate that Trump was just using them for votes to stroke his own ego.

Will Main Street in Anytown, U.S.A. return to its former glory? Gosh, that would be nice. There’s something to be said for a smaller, closer-knit community that takes care of one another. I’m probably a bit pollyanna in my thinking, but I hope that big box stores and the like will eventually dissipate in favor of local and smaller establishments again. I would love to see mom and pop shops augment the growing Internet experience, instead of being wiped out by some large conglomerate that couldn’t care less about the small town bypassed by the Interstate.

In 2021 we should all strive to listen better. The folks in the city should listen to the folks in the country and vice versa. I bet there’s a lot we can learn along the way.

Hype.

Photo from vice.com

I’m not a fan of hypey headlines. Social media is notorious for this tactic, with idiotic blasts such “You won’t believe who did this!!!” or “The Sad and Empty Life of Adolf Hitler!!!”. It’s not a social media appropriate headline unless someone’s mouth is agape and there’s an unreasonable number of exclamation points or question marks.

I’ve been on a crusade to clean up my various news reader and video watching subscription lists, and am deleting any YouTube content creator that uses this banal approach to getting attention to their featured videos. If a “tech expert” needs to resort to “Ugh!” in huge letters or has to assemble an image with hair flying around, expressions of disbelief, and floating laptops placed at jaunty angles, I’ve got better things to do than watch whatever they’re shilling to make YouTube cash.

They can stay off my lawn.

I’m all for content creators sharing their creations, or presenting information, or relaying their point of view on a subject. I’m also a proponent of money being made with these endeavors. What I don’t enjoy are these schoolyard tactics to grab my attention and bribe me to click. I’m not falling for it. I didn’t call the Psychic Friends Network when Dionne Warwick started flashing her toothy smile for the service in the late 1980s and I’m not falling for these goofy belches of exclamation points, garish fonts, loud colors, or UNBELIEVABLE images. It’s not my jam.

So stay off my lawn.