Woke up this morning to an email from Linode saying my linode server has been running at 200% CPU. Logged in, and sure enough CPU is high, and there are a bazillion “firefox-esr” processes running. Did a kill-all on them, and the CPU immediately dropped to reasonable numbers. There was still a “geckodriver” process running, and when I killed that it went into zombie state instead of going away. I had to do an /etc/init.d/apache2 reload to make that one go away.
Did some tests, both from the nightly “scrape the whole damn site” cron job and the web site’s “scrape one flight plan when the user clicks on that flight plan” and I’m not currently seeing any orphaned firefox-esr or geckodriver processes. So it appears that when I scrape, I correctly close the Webdriver connection which correctly stops the firefox and geckodriver processes.
So I guess I need to keep an eye on this and see if I can figure out what the client is doing to make the website fail to close the Webdriver connection. Or maybe I left some turdlets around on the system when I was doing testing? I don’t know.
For my sins, I wrote a website for a friend’s company that relies on scraping information off another company’s website. The company I’m doing this for does have a paid account on the third party’s website so there’s nothing ethically dubious going on here – I’m basically taking off information my clients had put into the third party site.
I couldn’t figure out the third party site’s authentication system, so instead of pulling in a page and parsing it using BeautifulSoup, I use Selenium to attach to it like a web browser.
The third party site, however, is utterly terribly written. It’s full of tables nested within tables, and missing closing tags and everything else that reminds you of the old “FrontPage” designed sites that only worked on IE. They don’t consistently use ids or names or anything else to help me find the right bits of data, so I’ve had to wing it and parse things out using regular expressions all over the place. But worse is that every now and then they change things around a bit in a way that breaks my scraping.
The way I’ve been scraping in the past was I used the Selenium “standalone” jar, attaching to this java process that pretends to be a web browser without actually being a browser. Which is important, because I run the scraping process on my web server, which is a headless linode, and like most web servers doesn’t even have X11 running on it. (Some components of X11 got installed on it a while back because something needed something that needed something that needed fonts, and voila, suddenly I’ve got bits of X11 installed.)
This method has worked great for several years – when I’m debugging at home I use the version of the Selenium webdriver that fires up a Chrome or a Firefox instance and scrapes, but then when it’s working fine I switch over to the version that connects to a java -jar selenium-standalone.jar process. I don’t know what the official term is, so I’m just going to call it “the selenium process”.
I tried a bunch of different ideas, and followed a bazillion web links and tried a bunch of things from those places. Nothing worked. Eventually I had to give up and install Firefox on my web server, and an optional piece of the selenium api called “geckodriver” that launches Firefox. Fortunately selenium knows how to launch Firefox in a headless manner (although installing it did drag in even more bits of X11 that I don’t actually want or need). That actually worked on the site, after I figured out how to put the geckodriver file somewhere on the path and get the geckodriver.log file put somewhere useful. But I’ve got it done for now. Until the next gratuitous change.
So as I mentioned in YouTube versus 360 degree cameras, I had problems getting the full resolution version of a 5K 360 video. Subsequently, I uploaded a 360 4K video on the 2nd, and YouTube told me it had finished processing SD, HD and 4K version in a short time, but it wouldn’t show me the 4K version. Even 6 days later, still no 4K. I just uploaded it again, and it finished processing SD, HD and 4K versions in less than an hour. And I could immediately see the 4K version of that one. Very annoying.
I don’t know if it’s significant or not, but the first time I uploaded was on Firefox and the second was on Chrome.
As anybody who has been watching my videos knows, I’m really in love with 360 degree cameras these days. Specifically I’m in love with the Garmin VIRB360, which is a shame because it doesn’t love me back. The camera hasn’t been updated in a number of years, and the image quality isn’t as good as some of the newer ones. And the VIRB Edit editing app frankly kind of sucks, except for the telemetry overlay. To the point where I sometimes put the telemetry overlay on, then export it, and bring it into Final Cut Pro to do the rest of the editing. But more importantly, it’s an orphan and you can’t get parts for it. I got the last replacement lenses for it after my boat blew off my car in a parking lot after I’d attached the camera, and I had to get them from a shop in Calgary. I saw some replacement lenses on eBay and they were going for over $250!
The VIRB360 has three things which no other 360 camera has:
Telemetry capture, including not just GPS in the camera, but also heart rate via ANT+ or Bluetooth. And other ANT+ or Bluetooth inputs as you like. Lots of cyclists like to connect their power meters or cadence meters, for instance.
An external power connector that’s waterproof, or at least water resistant enough for kayak racing.
And related to that, the ability to record for hours at a time without overheating. GoPro struggles to make a camera that can record for the full life of the battery in a single go, telling anybody who complains that some huge percentage of their users only record for a few minutes at a time anyway and it sucks to be you.
So while I’d like to get the higher image quality and better editing software of say, an Insta360 X2 or whatever GoPro has announced they’re going to be announcing this year, I’m kind of stuck with the Garmin.
Slight aside here – a 360 camera has two lenses and two CCDs. The process of putting the two images together is called “stitching” and can either be done in the camera or it can require desktop or mobile software to do it. What comes out is an equirectangular image that a 360 degree viewer or editor can do the fun pan around stuff in.
The Garmin’s “normal” mode is to stitch in the camera and produce a 4K (3840×2160) equirectangular image on the microSD card. But there’s also a “raw” mode where you have two files on the microSD card, and VIRB Edit stitches them into a 5.7K (4992×2496) equirectangular as it sucks the image in from the camera/microSD card. So as an experiment I did a recording a couple of days ago in the raw mode. The stitching wasn’t too terribly time consuming, and I did my usual hacked up edit just and exported the file. It’s a little bigger – about 1.17 GB per minute, versus 0.92 GB per minute for a 4K one I did a few days previously. Then I uploaded it to YouTube.
And this is where it gets frustrating. The 4K one took about a day or so to process on YouTube before I could see it in full res. It says it’s 4K, and the text and telemetry gauges look very sharp on a 5K monitor.
But the 5K one said it had finished processing a few hours after uploading, but on a 5K monitor at full screen, it says it’s only 1080 resolution, and it looks like it’s only 1080 resolution.
The text and the gauges look like crap at full screen.
So it looks like at least as far as YouTube goes, going for a higher resolution was a complete waste of time. (BTW: I can’t try Vimeo because it says one video is more than the free tier total upload limit.) So now I’m looking to see if there are good 360 video players for embedding in WordPress. Expect to see some test posts here shortly.
I’m trying to remember when was the last time I really skied. I had pretty much quit by the end of university in 1985, because skate technique hurt my knees so much. I know I had one winter where I got out 4 or 5 times sometime between Shani and I breaking up and me moving south, so I guess 1992-3 or sometime around then? Then a few years ago where I tried to ski at Mendon Ponds with my now ancient ski equipment and my boots (bought in 1981 at great sacrifice) both completely separated from their soles within a few hundred meters of the parking lot. a
Last year I found out about Cummings Nature Center, and the fact that they rent there. I tried it out once and immediately fell back in love with skiing. Unfortunately I discovered it pretty late in the season so I didn’t get back out. So I’ve been itching for a chance to go out again this year. First we didn’t have snow, then we got fresh snow and the temps immediately plummeted to around 0F. Not good for starting out. But today the weather finally cooperated. It was 26F and lightly snowing when I set out for the nearly hour long drive down to Cummings.
Driving for an hour meant the return of the painful butt. I’m still in making rounds of doctors to try and get some relief of that, whatever it is, and that means I spent half the drive trying to sit only on one buttock or lift myself out of the seat.
By the time I got there, it was snowing quite a bit harder, although the roads were well plowed. I was hoping they’d still be plowed when I finished. I got there just on the dot of 9am and there was one other car in the lot. They were skiing but not renting (I could tell because they’d skied from the parking lot to the chalet). The rental form asked what level skier you are. They didn’t have a spot for “I used to be quite good, but that was before you were born”, so I ticked “intermediate”. I was sure that when they saw that I’d put my e-mail address at xcski.com they’d accuse me of giving a fake address, but they didn’t say anything.
The equipment was quite good quality and new this year they told me. The new bindings are so much better than they were when I was a skier. And the ski lengths aren’t multiples of 5cm for some odd reason. I got a pair of Madshus Actives at 207cm because I used to race on 215s and I was a lot lighter back then. The wax less system felt like a combination of steps and skins. It worked pretty well at first.
Felt like old times. Set off and hey, my diagonal stride isn’t too bad in the grooves, but the muscles you use to keep your skis in a straight line when you aren’t in the grooves, or to skate around corners, or snowplow turn on a downhill, are all completely atrophied. Oh well, I’ll get this back.
My heart was pounding pretty hard, but the values displayed on my watch were ridiculously low. Stupid heart rate strap had had problems last time I’d erged. I didn’t think it had been long enough to need a new battery, so I hoped it would start reading right after I’d worked up a sweat. I figured it was probably in the high 140s or more because I’d had to stop to catch my breath on a couple of climbs.
I did the yellow trail out to the blue and did the blue loop, and when I got back to the yellow I thought “I don’t need to go back to the lodge yet” and set out around the blue trail again. Even though it was only 1.5 or 2 kilometers, it felt like a victory. And when I got to the junction with the orange trail, I took that one. Half way through the orange trail I got a notice on my watch that the heart rate strap had a low battery. I stopped to take it off, hoping that the watch would revert to the built in optical heart rate. I’m not sure what it did, because it was still giving me numbers around 100 bpm when the pounding in my chest was telling me it was actually over 140. I wonder if the strap was continuing to broadcast crappy data in my backpack.
When I finished the orange and blue, this time I took the yellow trail back to the lodge. I didn’t note the actual distance, but I think it was somewhere between 4.5 and 5.5 kilometers. My goal for the day had been to make it for 5 kilometers total, so I was feeling pretty good. And after having a brief sit down in the chalet to drink some water and eat a banana I’d brought, I was feeling good enough to go out and do the blue trail loop again.
This time, I think the wax they’d put on the skis to improve the glide had worn off, because my skis stopped abruptly instead of gliding a few times, once pitching me onto my face. I had to stop a few times to do the old “scrape the ski over the edge of the other ski” trick to get my glide back. I was also definitely tired now. But my heart rate was now showing up properly on my watch, and I was seeing numbers in the very high 140s and low 150s.
I finished up back at the lodge with a total of 6.6 kilometers. Goal exceeded! But I was really done – I don’t think I could have done even the yellow loop again. So I returned my rentals, suggested they renew the glide wax, and headed off to the car. It was barely 10:30. And it was snowing quite hard.
The first part of the drive was plowed but now bare, but after taking it easy on that I soon got back to bare road and headed home. Once again, the sore butt problem “reared” it’s ugly head but it was an excuse to stop for a Coke at least.