Weeknotes: 002

Personal

  • I went to the London Haskell meetup, where there was a talk about term rewriting systems. It was quite introductory, and I think I probably wouldn’t have gone if there had been an abstract available beforehand.

  • I ran the first session of my Call of Cthulhu campaign yesterday. We got through character creation, some session 0 stuff, and ended the session on a good cliffhanger. The next session unfortunately isn’t going to be until the 27th, due to scheduling constraints. Usually it will be fortnightly.

Ph.D

  • I mostly took this week off, waiting for feedback on the draft semantics I sent to SPJ, my examiner. Today he got back to me with some specific points to address but, on the whole, my new semantics are much better than the old.

Work

  • We finished setting up AWS X-Ray, a tool for tracing network requests in distributed systems, and got it deployed to our integration environment.

    AWS X-Ray service graph for GOV.UK’s integration environment

    This is a graph of network requests based on the last 6 hours of traffic, today at 22:30ish on a Sunday. This traffic is probably all coming from smokey, a part of our monitoring system which continuously makes requests to the site.

  • On Wednesday, I began a shift on support. Two people are “on-call” from 09:30 to 17:30 to solve any issues which arise with the site, and two other people are on-call overnight. These shifts last a week. This means I got to experience several new things which I’m not usually exposed to. Here are some of the highlights:

    • Three virtual machines in our production environment became unresponsive, and couldn’t be rebooted from the management console. Fortunately they weren’t important, but a bit concerning nontheless. They came back by themselves with no human intervention. Mysterious.

    • Some bad SSH configuration was deployed to our integration environment which resulted in nothing being able to connect to anything else, which broke just about everything. Reliability Engineering were in the office bit late that day.

    • A had to manually restart some of data.gov.uk’s “harvesters”. A harvester is a thing which goes out to a source of data, and fetches all the data sets. Sometimes they get stuck, for reasons unknown.

    • I dealt with significantly more Welsh than I am used to.

      “cofrestru” or “mewngofnodi”?
    • Relatedly, I had to fix a bug where something assumed all content was available in English.

    • I deployed a fix for an issue where brexit-related statutory instruments couldn’t be searched properly. The bug had actually been fixed a week or so previously, but the fix had never been deployed by the author—whoops. This isn’t the first time a bug fix has been forgotten about.

    • An exciting new bug surfaced where publishers get a cryptic error message along the lines of “lock state version cannot be updated while edition is in the published state”, which also happened during the last batch of brexit-related publications. Seems it wasn’t a one-off, and we’re not really sure what the problem is. I have a theory, but haven’t succeeded in finding much evidence for it yet.

    • About 16:30 on a Friday is the perfect time for a production cache server to develop issues, isn’t it? After a little over an hour of fairly fruitless debugging, I restarted it and we went home.

Miscellaneous

  • I wrote a memo about Self Organisation, under a new “systems” tag, which m going to use for memos about the way I do things.

  • I forgot to mention this last week: I added Atom feeds for each tag. For example, here is the feed for “weeknotes”.

  • I discovered that Google Calendar can be very creepy. I had my calendar configured to not show me invitations I’d not responded to. But it seems that that setting doesn’t apply to people you are sharing your calendar with, so I got a message from a friend with a screenshot of some very sketchy-looking invitations on my calendar, which I’d never seen before. Leaving aside the fact that anyone can apparently send me spam calendar invitations, showing other people more on my calendar than I can see is very weird. I now have that setting disabled, and I’ve deleted the invitations.