Freopedia advertising

Screenshot of the announcement in the Gazette, with fuzzy borders.
This week’s Gazette has an announcement about Freopedia and the editing sessions we’re holding at the Fremantle Library.

(That QR code, by the way, goes to http://www.fremantle.wa.gov.au/home/List_of_News_and_Media/November_2012/Help_promote_your_city; the code illustrating that article is for ‘Nastco stock photos’.)

Relatedly, here’s an interesting article from the Smithsonian Institute about why it’s nice to edit Wikipedia with friends, and in libraries.

Don’t Write Code (write descriptions of things)

I wish I didn’t know how to code.

For a programmer, the solution to every problem is to write more code.

But sometimes, all that is needed is to write proper words. To explain things and explore them through prose.

Not to remove oneself to the meta-realm of trying to understand the general structure of the problem and model it accordingly. (And then build something that resembles that model, and hope that the people using it see through the layers back to what the buggery’s trying to be done!)

Just write some nice, verbose, rambling blather about what it is and how it works and where we’re trying to go from here. Nothing too technical, and hopefully actually interesting to read. At least, linear, in that old-fashioned way of real writing. Interesting is probably too much to aim for… just words, then.

I was reading Phoebe Ayers recent post about the task of archiving the Wikimedia Foundation’s material. My first thought was “what sort of database/catalogue would be useful for this sort of thing?” Which is quite the wrong question, of course. There’s a whole world of wikis (both instances and engines) out there, perfect for this sort of variably-structured data. (If there’s one thing that constantly amazes me about Wikipedia it’s the fact that so much structure and repeated data is contained in what is basically an immense flat list of lone text files, and that it does rather work! The database geek in me shudders.)

I think a basic tennent for archiving physical and digital resources is that each object, and each grouping of objects, needs to have its own web page. In most cases, I use this both as a catalogue entry for the object or group, and as a printable coversheet to store along with the physical objects (or, in the case of digital-only objects, to be a physical placeholder or archive copy, if they warrant it).

The other thing I try to stick to is that a fonds and its catalogue (i.e. a pile of folders/boxes and the website that indexes them and adds whatever other digital material to the mix) should be able to be shifted off to someone else to maintain! That not everything should live in the same system, nor require particularly technical skills to maintain.

I know that there’s a dozen formalised ways of doing this stuff, and I wish I knew the details of them more thoroughly! For now, I’ll hope that a non-structured catalogue can work, and continue to write little printable English-language wiki pages to collate in amongst my folders of polypropylene document sleeves. And I’ll keep checking back to en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Subject:Library_and_Information_Science for instructions on how to do it better…

Setting up USB drives for backup

I use USB hard drives for backing up one of my machines, swapping them regularly but leaving everything else up to the backup script that runs daily. This means that I want to mount them at the same place every time, regardless of which drive I plug in or what device it is registered as. This isn’t very difficult because fstab can use UUIDs or labels to identify disks:

UUID=6B70-A309    /media/sw_backup vfat user 0 0
LABEL="SW_BACKUP" /media/sw_backup vfat user 0 0

(Note: these backup drives are formatted with FAT filesystems so that I can if need be restore on any system if required.)

To avoid having to manually add the disk every time I put a new one into rotation, I go with the label method.

To use this, each disk must be given the same label (and then not plugged in at the same time!). To set the label, first find the device:

sw@swbackup:~/backups$ sudo blkid
/dev/sda3: UUID="f31d1291-9d6f-441d-9f8d-fa34e9f569d5" TYPE="swap"
/dev/sda4: UUID="8a0b99a2-8a2e-4eae-7666-d607fbc44de5" TYPE="ext4"
/dev/sdb1: LABEL="NONAME" UUID="4A39-C8E7" TYPE="vfat"

Then sudoedit /etc/mtools.conf to add the following, where the device name is the same as above:

mtools_skip_check=1
drive s: file="/dev/sdb1"

Now mtools can change the label:

sw@swbackup:~/backups$ sudo mlabel -s s:
 Volume label is NONAME
sw@swbackup:~/backups$ sudo mlabel s:SW_BACKUP
sw@swbackup:~/backups$ sudo mlabel -s s:
 Volume label is SW_BACKUP

‘Behind the Lines’ podcast, only 2,976 days late

I was digging through some old files, and found an episode of Behind the Lines, a political radio programme from the Canberra station 2XXFM, hosted by Theo Coulthard. It’s from 2004. I think at the time I was meant to do something with it, so I’ve uploaded it to the Internet Archive: 2XXFM_Behind_the_Lines_2004-08-13.

Deleting files with special characters in their names, in Windows

A couple of directories in Windows couldn’t be deleted by Windows Explorer, because they had unprintable characters (I’m assuming) in their names.

D:\tmp>dir
 Volume in drive D is Data
 Volume Serial Number is 8C47-34BD

 Directory of D:\tmp

28/09/2012  11:34 AM              .
28/09/2012  11:34 AM              ..
26/10/2010  01:51 PM              954321.
               0 File(s)              0 bytes
               3 Dir(s)  89,164,262,548 bytes free

On on hitting Delete it replied “Could not find this item. This is no longer located in D:\tmp”. I tried on the command line, a similar error:

D:\tmp>rd 954321.
The system cannot find the file specified.

The security properties of the folder looked weird, saying “The requested security information is either unavailable or can’t be displayed.”:

A screenshot of the top part of the properties dialog, showing the Security tab.

So I faffed around trying to change ownership, filenames, etc. all with no luck. Nothing seemed to see these files as existing except for Windows Explorer and ls -force.

In the end Superuser came to the rescue, as it often does, with the suggestion of referring to the file by its shortname, which can be got via dir /x.

D:\tmp>rd /s 954321~1
954321~1, Are you sure (Y/N)? y

Agh. Why are the simple things so hard to remember sometimes?…