For want of a nail, the kingdom was...delayed

I have an open-source project I am very enthusiastic about (Codidact). Mostly my role does not involve the code directly: I'm the community lead (i.e. primary talker-with-people-who-use-it and triager of feature requests), and I do some design of features, workflows, wireframes, internal documentation, and stuff like that. And I beat up on the test server a lot when there's work in progress to poke at. We have infrastructure to support all that.

But sometimes I'd like to get a little closer to the code, mostly for my own education and partly so I can maybe help do smaller things because our team is pretty small still. And there was that one time that I really wanted to fix a front-end bug that I admitted was limited in scope; it was bothering me, but not something to drag a developer off of something else for. And it was in the Javascript code, which I can bumble my way through, so ok, I figured, I can do this. (And there was that weird thing about dates in Javascript, but I digress.) But I didn't have a dev environment to test it with, and ended up putting it in a userscript to test and then asking somebody else to plug it in for real, which meant I needed help from one of the developers after all, and I shouldn't be that lame.

My Mac with its older operating system is not compatible with some library or other that we use (details forgotten; I just remember the long setup sequence that ultimately failed). And people said "why not update your OS?" and I said "ha ha no" -- not going to break what's working on a machine I depend on. Clearly, what I need is an inexpensive dev environment somewhere, maybe something I could connect to remotely or maybe outdated-but-more-current-than-mine hardware that would be good enough for this purpose.

I went to the elves for counsel, and one suggestion was a cheap AWS instance (considered it), and then our team lead said "a Raspberry Pi would be fine". And lo, Raspberry Pis are cheap, but they're also aimed at the do-it-yourselfers, and to say that I am not a hardware tinkerer would be an understatement. I am not at al enamored of the "ooh, let's take a bunch of parts and build a fabulous machine!" project; I just want a working machine. I will spend money to keep more of my hair attached to my head. I said this to our lead, who said "here's a place that'll sell you all the stuff including a pre-loaded operating system, but you have to put it into the case yourself", and I said "deal".

My box of Pi stuff came, but did not include any assembly documentation and there were a few things I was mystified about. (I had a package of heat sinks but no clue what to do with them, for instance. They were three different sizes, so I thought it was a general package from which I was supposed to choose one. Got that sorted.) With some further help from the elves I was able to sort out what goes where, and this afternoon I assembled it all, pulled out a spare monitor that I knew spoke HDMI because it still had an HDMI cable dangling from it... and found that the other end of that cable was not HDMI but some older fatter connector type with pins (yeah I've lost track of video-connector history), and I do not in fact have a spare monitor with an HDMI port.

But wait, I said. Surely in the vast world of gadgets and connectors and adapters, there is a thingie that lets you plug in two HDMI cables, maybe because you need a longer cable (extension-cord style). And lo, this is a thing, and when my $5 part arrives I will be able to set all this up and see if it works.

It's always something, isn't it?

(I believe that, longer-term, I will be able to set this up so that I can connect to it remotely, from a few feet away, and it won't need its own monitor, keyboard, and mouse, at least most of the time. But for now, it can have a corner of the desk to get up and running until I learn how to do that.)

I see one more benefit to doing all this, one that's not about Codidact. Someday I will need to replace my primary machine, as all hardware goes the way of dinosaurs eventually, and I'm not sure I want to keep buying into the Mac ecosystem. I moved from Windows to Mac some time back (the Windows option at the time was Vista), and maybe I will move from Mac to Linux next time. I'm comfortable on the Linux command line, but am unfamiliar with the Linux GUI setup. This seems a way for me to explore that world some.