CRRRaSh! 372 The Complexity of a Cascade Error

By Roy Mathur, on 2021-02-14, at 23:01:22--23:40:34, for Captain Roy's Rocket Radio Show, Listen

A Tiny Bit of Repetition

Apologies in advance for a minor bit of repetition from 369 this week as we recap from 369, and I update you about the total studio chaos thanks to health, podcasting platform, and computer hardware problems.

In short, it is a miracle you heard the last few podcasts at all.

Migraine Update

My migraines---proper serious ones, not just that sexist sitcom trope of, "Darling, I have a migraine"---have been getting worse.

My doctor asked me if I was sleeping well, tired, or stressed. When I stopped laughing, the answer was, of course, yes to all three.

He has prescribed some triptans as diagnostic tool to make sure they are migraines and not something more "sinister". Beside manner doc?

Car Update

Strange knocking noises are still coming from under the car.

Leak!

A monstrous water bill yesterday, alerted me to a water leak, on top of everything else, so that's fun. It never rains...

Bugger it, let's do the show.

Happy Valentine's Day

No, why would I even say that? I take it back. Oh, let's just do the flippin' show.

The Stand

Yet another Stephen King adaptation.

It's average and I don't hate it, has a better budget than the last time they tried to adapt this, but doesn't seem any better or worse than that.

Podcast Migration Fiasco

Finally, the fiasco that was my awful attempt to migrate to Podbean is over. After contacting Apple through Podcast Connect, my podcast was finally reactivated on Apple podcasts.

Big Tech Black Box

The migration nightmare was exacerbated by having, like many nomadic techies, two Apple accounts, and Apple being a total black box. If something doesn't work, you are on your own, though, like I said, there was a contact page which I used and they actually fixed a my account soon afterwards.

To be fair, all of Big Tech Support is a black box, which is exceedingly worrying for us, the customers, and of course the future of all that data they are sitting on...

Apple Slams Facebook Over Privacy

...Though Apple CEO Tim Cook did slam Facebook (which I just mistyped as "Farcebook"... interesting), about privacy (2021-01-28).

Does Tim really care, or is this about slugging a competitor, or is it a little bit of both?

The Complexity of a Cascade Error

The short explanation of why things went wrong is that... I really don't know. I think the combination of cock ups from both me and Podbean, and also the complexity of my setup, led to an error buried within a complicated system of human and code.

Like a lot of things that I do, I sometimes tweak for the sake of tweaking until something goes paf! Anyone who's into techno hackery and identifies with Pratchett's wizards knows exactly what I mean. I made a living cobbling things together from things that shouldn't be cobbled together and sooner or later, if you don't have lots of layers of redundancies, validation failsafes, and good documentation, things will get zapped. I used to call this cascade error, Wikipedia calls it "Cascading failure"...

Wikipedia Still Bugs Me

...Although I was already annoyed by Wikipedia, I really stopped contributing to it after trying to prevent a fascist rewrite of the Battle of Cable Street, but every now and then, as useful as Jimmy Wale's baby is, something really sets my teeth on edge about "the free encyclopedia".

In the History section of the Wikipedia's Cascading failure page, we find a section that states: "Cascade failures are a relatively recent development, with the massive increase in traffic and the high interconnectivity between systems and networks. The term was first applied in this context in the late 1990s by a Dutch IT professional and has slowly become a relatively common term for this kind of large-scale failure.[citation needed]"

"citation needed"? No kidding! Please, I was using the term "cascade error" years before that, and I also refuse to believe that this type of failure isn't so ubiquitous as to even long predate my use and even computers. There's very old proverb describing the similar ripple effect for gods' sake, "For want of a nail" etc. These ridiculous, unsubstantiated assertions are something that really bug me about Wikipedia. And yes, I could go and edit it, I even have an account, but I really can't be bothered to this sort of thing anymore.

Archive.org

The upshot of having my host look sideways at me for running a podcast from their servers and that disastrous attempt to move to Podbean was to decide to host my MP3s at Archive.org.

If you are debating between a paid pod host and Archive.org, my advice is use Archive.org. Uploads are glacial, but the system seems robust and you have good control over your data; it is now easy to delete stuff yourself with free account, rather than having to go cap-in-hand to Jeff Kaplan, which is what always put me off in the past. Of course, Archive.org is run with many moderators, so let's see how long the honeymoon lasts. Fingers crossed that they aren't the usual bloodyminded, power mad mods.

The thought that my audio should stay up there indefinitely is comforting and also, weirdly, the streamed sound is less juddery compared to my old paid web host even played at original resolution, which is how I've set things up at the moment.

There is a python app to automate the process, but it's command line only and frankly looks complicated to use. There are also examples of how to use cURL from the command line, though I advise using the web GUI until you get your head around Archive.org's technical jargon.

I wish FTP or SFTP existed for account holders, but apparently this is a security risk and was disabled some time ago. If I ran an archive, for the sake of simplicity, I would allow SFTP. Just saying.

Total Computer Failure

As if the migraines and podcasting mess weren't enough, I also experienced total computer failure. My Mac Mini 2012's Windows partition fell apart and refused to boot.

I tried Ubuntu and found it mostly OK, but in the end I just started using the Mac, the way it was intended, with MacOS. I installed Catalina---it took a long time---and then I had to get used to the OS and the absence of some of my favourite Windows only programs, like NotePad2, the irreplaceable Mp3tag, and my highly customised version of Vim etc. Because MacVim and Vim on Mac are so terrible---special keys are complicated by the Mac Command key and the location of the runtime files---I am instead getting to grips with the excellent BBEdit. Then there are the quirks of a Mac, of which there are many, including MacOS being harder on my eyesight for some indefinable reason. Though I will say I found Catalina a lot better than Mojave and well done MacOS for being so stable. If you are okay being locked into their hardware and software ecosystem, and almost complete lack of customisability, stuff generally does just work.

To cut a long and annoying story short, in the long term, as much as I hate Windows, I've had more than 30 years selecting and customising a very specific set of tools that I know really well. Using a Mac, therefore, is only a temporary solution and I am currently seeking to replace it with a cheap PC.