Dear writers of technical documentation,

Today I’m writing this open blog post (unlike those closed, diary blog posts where I complain that life isn’t fair and then lock away?) to make a small request.

When you’re writing documentation (which is awesome) it’s great when you provide sample commands. It really makes it understandable what I need to do to perform that bit of dark Linux wizardry. A sample command alongside with the command itself is basically perfect, since it explains me what to do, and then gives me a real life application.

Some of you, however, and I’m looking in the direction of a lot of MySQL documentation pages, seem to think that it’s a good idea to only use the sample command when explaining something. And that’s bad. Why? Because if I landed upon your page, looking for a magic spell to make my server do my bidding, and you are using a sample command without context…

I have no idea what is going on, or what goes where.

The example in question is a bit of MySQL wisdom that is found on this page. Being the eager beaver I am, trying to clone that gigantic database, I ran into authentication problems. Because I wrongfully assumed that the command was to be taken literal. Only on a second pass and doing some more Googling did I realize that instead of root:root I had to provide the actual username and password. I’ll admit that I didn’t pick up on this “hint” because I never used the password “root”. I’m told it’s a capital sin, the sins of all sins, so to see it in documentation surprises me a bit.

Now, I understand that writing things like I did in my notes can be a shore. For reference, I translated it into this:

mysqldbcopy –source=(user):(password)@(server) –destination=(user):(password)@(server) (database):(databasecopy)

The funny thing is that, when you click the reference to the mysqldbcopy page, they’re using an example that’s a bit post clear, by using –source=root:pass@localhost instead.

Maybe I’m just nitpicking or trying to shift the blame, but some context of sample commands are nice, especially if you dive head-first in using example settings.

About twelve months or so ago, I got really into photography. As is the case with many people infatuated by their hobbies, I thought I needed the latest and greatest equipment. Knowing myself and my impulsive behavior, I managed to keep costs low by not spending money on fancy equipment I’d never use.

I do, however, have the feeling that I wasted a lot of money on my NAS.

We all know  it’s important to have back-ups of important files. And sometimes, back-ups of those backups. That’s why I figured that investing in a NAS was a good idea. I could use it to keep all my photos. It’s a NAS! What can go wrong!

Well, for once I’m fortunate in being impatient, because I always stored my pictures to my computer first, then made a back-up to my NAS if I felt like it.

That might sound like a bad idea, but since buying it my NAS practically “died” on three separate occasions. Each time, the useless black brick that was supposed to keep my pictures safe said “You know what? I can’t read those hard drives anymore. I’m just going to ask you to wipe them.”

This happened for the third time this weekend, after I got back from France. Disk 1 and Disk 2 no longer exist. Want to format disk 3 and disk 4 and start over?

A back-up of the back-up

Fortunately, I’ve got a back-up of my back-up. I bought a €99 external HDD after I got tired of the shenanigans. I’m considering buying a second HDD, because compared to the plastic brick sitting in my “nerd corner”, it’s got the following advantages:

  1. It costs a fifth of a new NAS.
  2. It doesn’t take forever to boot, despite being as empty as the Sahara desert.
  3. It doesn’t MAKE AN AWFUL LOUD NOISE when it’s sitting there, doing nothing.

Fingers crossed that I can still get my money back.

A while ago, I made the decision to cancel my subscription to a soccer magazine. I received both a paper and a digital version. I just wanted to keep reading the digital version. So, I cancelled my subscription with the plan to renew it through the iPad app.

Today, I did just that. I opened their Kiosk app, and subscribed. iTunes did it’s part and the subscription popped up in my “subscriptions” space, which is refreshingly simple: it ends on X, auto-renew on X or not? Easy and straight forward like most Apple stuff.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said on the other end. Despite my subscription I can’t read the newest magazines. Every time, the app greets me with a “Subscribe for $29,99” message, or it suggests I buy single magazines (the ones I’m entitled to since the subscription started.

There’s a button for “subscribers” to the magazine to log in, which is where it gets messy. It requires an account with the publisher. While I still have one, it asks me for my subscription number.

Which is usually printed on the magazine’s wrapping which I don’t have.

Or my payment statement. Which I don’t have either.

So, now I have to leave the “app logic” and mail them, and hope that they know what the situation is. At this point I regret not just renewing the subscription, if I have to go through their system anyway…

On Sunday, I made a 25-second video to review a not so great product. The process beyond the video made me realize that I probably need to kiss my Youtube career goodbye. Making a video was on my to-do list for a very long time. I high-fived myself for uploading it, but I’m not doing it again soon. Probably. Here’s why.

A significant time investment

I am not a patient person. I’m an impulsive content creator. When I have an idea, I go from “idea” to executing it pretty fast. That usually translates to “Writing the blog post, with little preparation”.

With the video, that concept was thrown out of the window. I had to source the material for the video, make a recording, then edit it and finally upload it to Youtube. It took me a long time, mostly because editing the video was harder than I thought. Who knew that recording the audio and trying to make the video quit was a backward way of doing things?

I can only imagine that creating longer videos means “a lot more work”. Creating a script for the video, more recording, more editing.

For someone as impatient as me, that’s a lot of time!

My voice isn’t a radio voice

I’m not sure if I have a radio face, but I definitely don’t have a radio face. I just can’t stand listening to my own voice. Irrational as that might be, it does mess with the process. Recording audio was painful, and listening to the audio wasn’t fun at all. It’s something I should probably work on, either way. But it makes making videos ‘not fun’, and I don’t want every video to be an exercise.

Solution creep times ten

I’ve probably made the term “solution creep” up. It’s where you’ve got to achieve one thing. When confronted with all the possible solutions, you get overwhelmed and can’t choose, meaning you don’t get anything done.

Now, I’ve managed to pretty much narrow that down for blogging. “Just use WordPress. Don’t buy another domain name”.

But when recording a video, there are so many things you need to think of.

  • What recording software are you going to use?
  • How are you going to record the video?
  • What equipment are you going to use for audio? And to record your radio face?
  • How are you going to edit the video?

I came up with a complex solution, after a lot of deliberation. I used Quicktime, iMovie and the stuff I had lying around. Logical solution, because I wisely decided not to make a financial investment.

Conclusion

I’m a fairly good blogger because it’s a simple platform. Write, add an image, publish. But I don’t think I’m ready for video yet. There’s so much involved, including some things I’m super bad at. Maybe later.

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So, I was doing my “end of the year” evalutation thing where I check my expenses for the year, try to make a budget and so on and I inevitably ended up reviewing the domain names I own.

Domain names are a big expense if you’re not using them, which is exactly what has been going on. I can say, however, that I’ve been doing a good job of letting go of domain names that I’m not using. I went from 117 domain names in the end of 2014 to 71 on the start of this year.

That means  I let go of about 60 domains. And the funny thing is, I don’t even remember which one I didn’t renew. Which says a lot of the staying potential of these domain names.

More domains will be cut out this year, especially some related to Joomla projects that have ended a while ago (like ToralkoDocs and Joomlareporter) so I think I’ll dip below 70 domain names in the first quarter of 2015.

Collecting domain names might have been the dumbest idea I ever had, since that money could easily be used for far more interesting ventures like the Reddit Teacher Exchange, or virtually anything that I can use myself. That, and having hosting in three different places I’m not using.

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from eBay – which doesn’t happen often, because to be honest I forgot I’ve got an eBay account. These things just happen to me, okay?

Anyway, eBay informed me that someone had tried to commit fraud with my account and urged me to change my password. So I complied. By doing so, I learned two things.

eBay’s password policy is pretty neat

eBay allows a password to be between 6 and 64 characters. Of course the 6 character thing isn’t as neat, but… still, neat. On top of that, they force you to go all the way with your password by forcing you to use Uppercase, lowercase, numbers and symbols in your passwords. That’s cool

Lastpass can complete BOTH password fields

While I changed my eBay password, I noticed something less cool. I couldn’t copy and paste the passwords I had generated in Lastpass. D’oh!

That’s when I learned something. When you generate a password and then choose to use it, Lastpass will add the password to both fields, making the copy / pasting business a thing of the pass. So now I’ve got a neat, 64 symbol password for my eBay account. Which I never use. But still, it’s better to be super safe than sorry.

More than five years ago, when I created my Twitter account, I had no idea what to use it for. I had zero followers and only followed the suggested accounts – back when you didn’t navigate through seven pages of them.

But soon after, I discovered the uses of Twitter. As a tool to promote my own content. To build a following of people interested in reading more about me. A communication tool. It helped me make some online friends that helped me in my career, and it became the “go-to” tool to communicate with my bro(ther) @kenobixios because “We’re always online, anyway”.

Now, five years later, more than a thousand people have decided to “follow me”, and haven’t gotten bored of me yet. That’s flattering, of course. Being thanked for what you tweet or write is awesome.

But I’d like to thank you, my followers. For the motivation to write new blog posts. For the encouragement to reach out to people, and the boldness to share my opinion even when it wasn’t popular (in a #jpositive land, the #jcynical man isn’t very popular).

Thank you for clicking that follow button. It confirms my belief that Twitter is a communication tool people should embrace, not fear.

Here’s to the next follower.