Category Archives: Tech

Hello Again – Or Back to the Mac after a Linux Attack

So this is my third blog post today. Huh. Something of a record. Mainly trying to test out posting in Markdown instead of using that God-awful Gutenberg. I’m trying to learn to love it, or at least tolerate it, but it is a struggle.

Just wanted to recount my recent adventures in using this aging MacBook Air with Linux instead of OS X for a couple months earlier this year. TLDR: I tried it, it was okay. I am back to using OS X.

For those more interested, here is a longer version. This laptop is a ten year old MacBook Air that has worked admirably. However, it no longer get software updates from Apple and it is stuck on High Sierra, which I think came out over 4 years ago now. No Mac OS X security updates; no Safari updates (not that I used that browser very much) and more importantly to me, no more Homebrew updates soon. I decided to try installing Ubuntu 20.04 on this machine back in February. It worked, but it was kind of pokey slow and was not the upgrade I was looking for. So I decided to give mxLinux a spin on this computer and I was pleasantly surprised. It ran well, I was able to install everything I needed and get updates on a regular basis. I know Debian well, and this distro had all that plus a bit extra tooling that I liked. I installed mxLinux in late February and used it for two and a half months.

So what happened? A few things :) – First and foremost, I borked the boot process one day when I overwrote my GRUB settings during an apt-get session. While I could have struggled through this issue and figured out how to fix the GRUB boot process and gotten back into mxLinux, I started thinking about some other issues that gave me pause. A couple things really stood out to me.

  • First, one of my biggest problems was the trackpad sensitivity and settings. Using mxLinux was frustrating me for weeks. Everytime I tried to type something, the heel of my hand inevitably would brush the trackpad, sending the mouse pointer into frenzies across the screen. I would lose my focus, or click away to another application. It was frustrating. I figured out a setting to disable the trackpad while I was typing, but then trying to use both trackpad and keyboard (like web browsing and scrolling through a page, filling in a form) became a slow… motion… pain… in… the… butt. Waiting a second or two everytime I switch between the two input modes slowly grew excruciating. But I could live with it.
  • Second was the realization that my battery life on Linux was just terrible. I just took the time and effort last fall to replace the battery in this laptop, and using OS X I got 3 – 4+ hours on a charge, using the computer almost constantly with either video or music playing in the background. Under Linux, I was lucky to get 2 hours out of the battery. Worse, the battery percentage was completely off kilter. It would say 62% charge remaining, then just completely die 3 minutes later. Not cool bro.
  • Lastly, I have to honestly say I missed some of the benefits of the Apple ecosystem. Turns out I like being able to take a Facetime on my computer instead of my iPhone. Managing the Apple family plan was easier on a computer instead of my iPhone too. Huh.

So I am back in the Apple fold for now. It was pretty easy to restore everything back to where I was in February. Thank you Time Machine. Only took about two hours to put everything back in place and get back to where I was on February 8, 2021. I got a lot of apps furiously updating themselves right now. Looking at you Firefox, and you VS Code, and you Kindle, and you WhatsApp desktop, and you Dropbox, and you Teams. Just not you Safari :)

AI Generated Faces

I think I posted a few months ago about imagined busts for all the emperors of Rome. In a similar vein, I got these links from the Bad Voltage podcast, a tech focused podcast on my subscription list. Seems like these AI generated faces look almost human. They certainly look better than CGI faces from a decade ago, staring back at me from across the uncanny valley. However, when put up against a photo of a real person, they still lack something, a certain je ne sais quoi. Or maybe it’s when the computer generated face is wearing two different earrings?

Posting A Markdown Test

Is this in Markdown?

I just realized that I can use Markdown on this blog instead of the Gutenberg interface. I just really hate the Gutenberg interface. Testing

  1. List item 1
  2. List item 2
  • Bullet List 1
  • Bullet List 2

I think this might work better than what I have been doing. Oh my yes

How about a link? Something like this link to Markdown or another website of mine called

Yep, that’s the ticket. I remember a billion years ago I took the time to learn Textile instead of Markdown. Bet on the wrong horse there didn’t I?

I think I like this better

So here we are. Seems like I finally got Markdown to work in my browser. That’s good, as I have come to the realization that Gutenberg sucks big time.

This editor is a bit spare, but at least it is not [Gutenberg]( The lousy editor is probably one reason why I post so sparingly now.

Bacon Saver

So this feature saved my bacon this morning. I was able to recover about 10 tabs from Firefox from a computer that accidentally got overwritten last night (thanks GRUB). Using this Firefox feature of Synced Tabs, I was able to open Firefox on another computer and retrieve the tabs I needed. Thanks Firefox. Once again I am happy with my decision to stick with this browser over other options (looking at you Chrome).

Roman Emperors Reimagined

Found a fascinating article on the The Verge this week; a designer created photo realistic images for the first 54 Roman emperors. From Augustus to Numerian, he took historical busts, statues, paintings and coins, fed the images into an AI called ArtBreeder repeatedly, and created realistic images of what these emperors looked like. He tweaked the results with actual photos of celebrities and fed the image back into ArtBreeder; like using Daniel Craig as a reference point for Augustus. The results are amazing. None of that creepy, not-quite-human look that so many CGI renders have. If your interested, let me throw in a plug for one of my favorite podcasts; The History of Rome. This podcast is no longer active, but it covers the history of Rome from its mythical and/or actual founding, through the Republic and Empire, to end of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD. The podcast ended eight long years ago, but I cannot recommend it enough to anyone with an interest in history or the ancient world.

Working From Home

Home with the kids for the next two weeks. They get an early spring break, then start online learning next week. Picked up their books from school yesterday. All meetings more than 10 people are strongly discouraged. Many restaurants are only doing take out orders, hotels are nearly empty. Yet flights from South Korea, Japan continue. Go figure. Manila is on lockdown. My employees there are all at home – some in the provinces outside Manila. Trying my best to work from home. Lots of Zoom and GoToMeetings right now. Our VPN is terribly slow – probably because so many people are on it right now. It is painfully slow just trying to connect and get some files. I was trying to use RDP yesterday, and there was about a 10 second delay in the response time.

So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish

I got some sad news today; the SETI@Home project is coming to an end on March 31. This is the message I found in my BOINC Manager software this week:
SETI@home: SETI@home hibernation
On March 31, the volunteer computing part of SETI@home will stop distributing work and will go into hibernation. We’re doing this for two reasons: 1) Scientifically, we’re at the point of diminishing returns; basically, we’ve analyzed all the data we need for now. 2) It’s a lot of work for us to manage the distributed processing of data. We need to focus on completing the back-end analysis of the results we already have, and writing this up in a scientific journal paper. However, SETI@home is not disappearing. The web site and the message boards will continue to operate. We hope that other UC Berkeley astronomers will find uses for the huge computing capabilities of SETI@home for SETI or related areas like cosmology and pulsar research. If this happens, SETI@home will start distributing work again. We’ll keep you posted about this. If you’re currently running SETI@home on your computer, we encourage you to attach to other BOINC-based projects as well. Or use Science United and sign up to do astronomy. You can stay attached to SETI@home, of course, but you won’t get any jobs until we find new applications. We’re extremely grateful to all of our volunteers for supporting us in many ways during the past 20 years. Without you there would be no SETI@home. We’re excited to finish up our original science project, and we look forward to what comes next.
Well that’s a bummer. I started participating in SETI@Home back in 1999, and I have been running the software on every computer I’ve had since. Well almost: In 2005 SETI@Home moved to a new architecture called BOINC, and I was hesitant to sign up for a few years. Instead I doubled down on another distributed computing project I joined called Folding@Home; I felt bad that I could be using my computer’s spare cycles to work on the cure for cancer instead of looking for little green men. The idea of doing all this distributed work around the world on a common goal really interested me, both intellectually and technically. I actually got a bit obsessed with my ranking amongst all the users. Seems like a lot of other people did too... Around 2008, I started reading about another distributed computing project, something called BitCoin. The idea was to distribute the ledger amongst all the participants, and reward their efforts in computing the transaction with digital BitCoins. I was really intrigued by the idea, but I didn’t want to sacrifice my standings in SETI@Home and Folding@Home rankings, especially for something that had absolutely no value at the time. Man, I am still beating myself up for that decision. I actually started up with another BOINC based project a couple months ago, Einstein@Home, but I am not as enthused about that project. Primarily because Einstein@Home really bogs down my computer. I signed up for as well, but they seem to be a mothballed project like SETI@Home will soon be. So I guess I will just be folding proteins now full time instead of splitting between two projects. Till then I can admire my stats page for SETI@Home and Folding@Home.

Yep, It’s Load Shedding Time

Just to confirm my last post…

Yes, Guam is in the midst of load shedding again. This was a common theme throughout the 90’s on Guam, with months and months of load shedding. At the time, my response was to just stay late at the office (with backup generators) then hit a couple bars and not come home until later at night when the demand for power was less and load shedding was over. Not really an option this time around. There are kids to be fed and bathed now, homework to be done, laundry, dishes, etc.

Sunday night GPA took a couple more generators off line and finally owned up to the situation. Instead of just bonking out neighborhoods at random they have started publishing schedules for load shedding. Back in the 90’s they were terrible at keeping to their schedules, and it would appear they still have difficulties. My power went out at about 10:15 last night, so I went around and secured the house, brushed my teeth and headed to bed. As soon as I laid down however, the power came back on about 30 minutes later.

I am sure this is just going to cause havoc with my appliances and the computer, tv, etc. Time to just keep those things off indefinitely and hunker down with flashlights and candles. And here I was so excited about the new solar farm coming online. Maybe it’s time to talk to Pacific Solar or Micronesia Renewable Energy about outfitting my house for solar power. Both these outfits offer affordable plans and basically take the place of GPA as the power utility. They take the excess power harvested from my rooftop (like during the day when I am at work and all that sunlight is shining on my empty house) and sell it to GPA. Guess I should make a phone call and find out if they can help with this load shedding situation.

Three Cheers For Google

I recently picked up a couple used Google Nexus 7 tablets for the kids. My daughter had one for about a year, but it got submerged in a storm sewer last November (that’s a story for another day). With the prices being so affordable now, I picked up two about a week ago. Sure the device is three years old, but it is still plenty fast for the kids to use. One for her, one for the boy. They arrived on Saturday, and they were presented to the kids during our brief staycation at the Westin this weekend.

Barely 24 hours after getting his tablet, my son broke his screen. Argh. It was in the biggest, most protective case I could find online for the Nexus 7 too. No stopping an irate 4 year old with no parental supervision I guess.

That evening I assessed the damage and took a stab at repairing the device. I still had the water damaged Nexus 7 from last year’s fiasco; it never worked again, despite being taken apart and stowed in a ziploc bag with uncooked rice for a week to draw out all the moisture. But it was stashed away in a drawer because I figured it could be used for parts someday. I actually replaced the screen and the speakers on that old device last summer after my daughter dropped it and I was surprised at how simple it was to disassemble and replace parts on the machine. A far cry from working on Apple iOS devices like the iPod Touch and the iPad. I worked on several of those the last few years and I don’t relish the idea of doing it again.

So kudos to iFixit for their simple and easy to follow instructions. Kudos to Asus and Google for making such an easy to repair device. After about a half hour of tinkering with the two devices, I was able to cobble together a working tablet with the old device’s screen and the new one’s innards and back casing. Kudos to Asus and Google again for making such a rugged device that the screen still works after being submerged for several hours in rain water. Well done everyone.

So now the boy has a working device again – but I think he will have to wait a few days before it magically makes a reappearance, this time under constant supervision. I don’t have any more of these things just lying around.

PS – Here’s a great tip for speeding up the Nexus 7 after upgrading to Lollipop. Follow this guy’s instructions to delete the upgrade cache files to free up space and improve performance.

Talking Statues

Just caught this story on CBS this morning and it struck a nerve:

More than 30 historical figures and monuments around Chicago have been outfitted with mobile technology. It allows them to have their voice and even give their opinions, CBS News’ Dean Reynolds reports.

Basically the city of Chicago installed plaques next to the statues with QR Codes displayed. People scan the QR Code and it plays audio recorded by celebrities associated with Chicago.

Statue Stories Chicago runs for the next year and it is garnering all sorts of positive press. Hopefully this program encourages people to explore the wonderful city of Chicago and learn about the history of the city of broad shoulders. This sounds like a great idea, but I can’t help but think it seems a bit familiar somehow

Goodbye Fink > Hello Brew

Spent some time this morning trying to install some software (lynx actually – anybody remember that?) on my iMac. I tried using Fink, but apparently the repos are no longer maintained, or have shifted their location.

This led down a rathole for almost two hours as I tried to get Fink update and upgraded to use OS X 10.9 Mavericks. I originally installed Fink many many years ago on OS X 10.5 Snow Leopard. Yeah my iMac is that old. Still kicking though.

Anyway, it proved insurmountable to me. I am sure a couple more hours of tinkering and I would have set the path to the 64 bit binaries, but my frustration bucket was filled by 11:30 am. With no clear upgrade path and I ended up uninstalling Fink. And I was fine with that. But then the Mavericks distro required me to compile from source. Ugh. Fink was clearly showing its age, and a cursory examination of the packages in the 10.9 distribution was less than exciting. Too much friction, not enough payoff. Sayonara Fink.

But I felt I needed a package manager – I still wanted to scratch that geeky itch and install Lynx. And I didn’t want to compile it from source. I got two kids running underfoot this morning, I can’t focus completely on the computer.

So enter Homebrew, a more modern package manager built around Ruby and Git, two tools I am quite familiar with. Took about four minutes to download and install and now – presto – I have lynx running on my computer. And now I have htop too, my favorite activity monitoring tool these days. Gosh that was painless. Hey about another trip down memory lane with tin? Crikey that works too! I will draw the line at elm however.

Television On Guam

Let’s talk about television on Guam.

We cut the cord years ago, and got rid of cable in 2011. Been streaming Netflix and Youtube on the TV ever since, but I missed live sports. Especially football. So last year I installed a television antenna on my roof last Christmas and now I get seven glorious channels of digital content (and one fuzzy regular TV station) here on Guam.

  1. NBC affiliate KUAM NBC at 8.1
  2. CBS affiliate KUAM CBS at 8.2 (hellooo football…)
  3. PBS affiliate KGTF at 12.1 and 12.2
    1. 12.1 is the regular station; Masterpiece Theater, NOVA, Sesame Street etc.
    2. 12.2 is local content; public affairs, Jr. ROTC drills, and local documentaries produced through the years
  4. ABC affiliate KTGM at 14.1
  5. Fox affiliate KEQI-LP in regular TV full of static at 22 – This channel is supposed to be at 14.2 as it is a sister station to KTGM, but I cannot seem to get that channel
  6. Iglesia Ni Cristo programming at 26.1 and 26.2 – This used to be KTKB (The CW), but it doesn’t seem to be that anymore.

If anybody’s listening I have a couple questions I can’t seem to figure out. The audio drops in and out on 14.1 and I can’t fix it. The colors tend to drift on 12.1 sometimes, then snap back. And of course that thing with 14.2 not showing up. Anyone with any ideas, please comment below.

My kids are generally befuddled by regular television. They are used to all cartoons, all the time. On demand and streaming of anything their little heart’s desire. Lion King? Sure. My Little Pony? You betcha. Phineas and Ferb? Winx? Octonauts? Lilo & Stitch? Spider Man? All just a few clicks away. The idea of scheduled programming is beyond their ken.

And commercials? A couple months ago I took my boy to the doctor’s office for some illness or other. While we were waiting in the play room/waiting room, a television was playing Disney Jr. and on came this Toy Story Short – Toy Story of Terror. He got really into this show, but when they paused for a commercial about 10 minutes into the program, he was utterly confused. “What happened? Where’s Woody?” was all I heard until it came back on. He could not fathom what commercials where in the slightest. I guess that’s a good thing.

DBA Horror Story

Came across this story a couple weeks ago. It’s the kind of thing that makes me as a DBA cringe in horror. Basically a DBA destroyed the company he was working for after he was fired. He was caught stealing and shown the door. On the way out he destroyed the company’s SQL Server RAID array. The real disaster was the non-existant backup strategy the company had. The RAID array was their backup, a solution developed by this DBA. I think it’s fair to say this guy will never work again as a DBA. Drive mirroring is not a backup solution.

I never saw or used JournalSpace, and apparently I never will. After this debacle, the owner closed up shop and is selling the domain name. UPDATE: Looks like somebody bought JournalSpace’s domain and is trying to resurrect the site. That are taking pains to emphasize the backup solution for this new incarnation.

Incredible Visions

Take a look at this press release from NASA; it includes two time-lapse video clips taken by the EPOXI, nee Deep Impact, spacecraft. They show the earth rotating in space over the course of one day, and the highlight of the series is when the moon slides across the face of our lush blue world. That is extremely cool.

A Little Bit Of Knowledge

Like my oh so crunchy, lefty, elitist, intelligentsia peers I listen to This American Life from Chicago Public Radio. Hell at this point, it’s probably uncool to listen to it anymore or something, but I don’t care. I like it.

As far as I know, my local public radio station KPRG1 does not broadcast the radio show, but that’s okay, I download it as a podcast. Last week’s show was especially entertaining, A Little Bit of Knowledge (is a dangerous thing I guess). It was a rebroadcast, but still entertaining stories of knowing just enough to get into trouble. Give it a listen, especially the story about getting something into your head as a kid and not figuring out the truth until well into adulthood. Like the guy who always wondered why only people named Nielsen get to rate what is on television.

1Postscript: I can honestly say I don’t listen to KPRG much anymore. The iPod is so ubiquitous now I don’t have much reason to listen to any radio. And when I do tune in to KPRG, I can’t stand listening to it. I don’t know what happened, but their signal is just atrocious now. Alex Fields used to maintain it I think, but he’s no longer on island. And their signal has degraded. It sounds like a lonesome prairie wind is blowing constantly at that station, making listening to conversations or music not a pleasant experience.

Hello Firefox 3

Okay, I’ve been using Safari and/or Camino for the past couple weeks and they are both totally cool and functional programs. But I have to admit, I missed Firefox, despite the abysmal performance it gave after a few days of being open. Mostly I missed Adblock Plus and the almighty Filterset.G – I’ve got PithHelmet installed on Safari and CamiTools installed on Camino (oops, Camitools is no longer developed – how do I uninstall that now?), but neither was as extensive or configurable as Adblock Plus with Filterset.G.

So I downloaded the release candidate for Firefox 3 a couple weeks ago, and updated to the release version last week. It’s pretty nice. Spiffy look and much faster performance. I haven’t made the complete decision to jump back to Firefox yet, but it is looking good.

Treo’s Back Down

Well that fix didn’t last very long. I guess the software patch is not particularly useful after all. It needs a hardware fix, which means I’m back to the Razr and the Treo gets sent to the back burner for now. Oh well, premature excitation about my phone after all folks.

The darn thing works, but there is a problem with the audio earphone jack. The phone thinks it is always plugged in and cuts off the speakerphone and regular receiver and microphone functions. This guy will fix it, but I have to ship it to Northern California. Sigh…