All posts by Hank

Blog/site owner, author and otherwise normal guy.

Physics Says You Can’t Have Cake and Eat It Too With Laptops

I’m a bit baffled by this Motherboard article on “screwing ourselves” with the pursuit of thinness in laptops.  This is of course coming out of an Apple controversy where some bad software and a lot of tipping the scales in favor of form over function has lead to a haus looking laptop spec turning out some pretty bad real world performance numbers.  As has often been the case, once the initial outrage of some Apple stumble starts growing old people start looking around at other vendors and then the quiet problems of the industry are shown the light of day.  Apple’s MacBook Pro thermal problem is more egregious than others but turns out they all are essentially hobbling performance on their UltraBooks and compact laptop chassis making the list specs nothing real world.  Why are we surprised by this though?

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Food Is Life, A Segue Thought on Vampire Immortality

While I was recently re-watching Interview With the Vampire for the first time in awhile I was thinking about what it would be like to live for hundreds of years or more. Then I flashed back to a line from the beginning where Lestat says to to Louis, “I’ve come to answer your prayers. Life has no meaning any more does it? The wine has no taste. The food sickens you. It seems no reason for any of it…” and then goes on to convince Louis to become a vampire. However we then find out in this vampire mythology that vampires can’t eat. For me the majority of the joy of life is one way or another connected with food. I’m a foodie because I love all kinds of food, simple and cheap to complex and expensive. Living hundreds of years without being able to enjoy the exploration and enjoyment of food seems horrible to me, before we get to any of the other complications that substantially increased longevity brings (as Armand gets into later). Food is life.  Whether it’s following the teachings of Buddhist monks and learning how to thoroughly enjoy each sip of a cup of tea or each bite of a piece of fruit, baking cookies from scratch with your family at the holidays, scarfing down a delicious soft pretzel as you drive down the road, taking in a pint or two with friends at a bar, or getting to experience a luxurious meal at a Michelin Star restaurant, food is so integrated into my experience system I don’t see the point of living even a normal lifespan without it much less living for hundreds of years.  The bigger lesson for me is also to remember to enjoy the simpler things that I experience every day and not always be looking for something new, unique, or exotic to try next.

Twenty Pounds On My Back

I was getting ready to head to the airport and noticed my backpack was feeling really heavy.  It has two computers, all my clothes, an iPad, all the charges, etc.  I decided to weigh it and sure enough it was just a hair under twenty pounds in total. I thought to myself, “That’s a lot of weight to be hauling around an airport for a couple hours in each direction!”  Yet just a few months ago I was carrying an extra fifteen extra pounds of fat on my body each and every day.  Hopefully as I carry forward having my fitness routine dialed I’ll be carrying around twenty five pounds less weight than I was at the beginning of the year.  There’s obviously a toll for carrying around all that extra weight.  Plopping twenty pounds on your back to experience that briefly is an interesting exercise in reminding ourselves of that.

Ubuntu MATE 16.04 to 18.04 Upgrade Hiccup on VirtualBox Guest Additions

Since the release of Ubuntu 18.04 I’ve been using it a bunch in various VMs.  I do love the new minimal install feature.  Even though it doesn’t save that much hard disk space it does make things a lot less  cluttered, which I absolutely love.  Because I work in VMs I’ve been experimenting with migrating OS’s up to 18.04 rather than crushing old VMs, building from scratch, and porting data over.  This process has worked almost seamlessly the dozen or so times I’ve done it across many VMs from various different baselines: Mainline 16.04, Mainline 17.10, Ubuntu MATE 16.04.  The actual core software itself seems to work perfectly fine out of the box, but as I said it is almost seamless not seamless.  There seems to be a bit of a wrinkle with the Ubuntu MATE update with respect to the VirtualBox Guest Additions, specifically with respect to shared folder drives.

I first ran across this in one of my main VMs when I tried the update.  Everything went great, I re-applied the guest additions and voilà my shared folder drives mounted and I was in business.  The next day when I fired up the VM they were missing.  It was a hectic day, so I thought perhaps I had remembered it working so I applied the guest additions again.  The drives reappeared.  This time I rebooted to confirm it stuck but sadly they did not.  I’ve continued to do some experimenting and have come to discover that while they are there the systemd process doesn’t seem to want to start on reboot even though it is set to. So to fix it I just need to do the following command to get them to show up:

sudo systemctl restart vboxadd-service.service

I wasn’t having this problem on Ubuntu 18.04 or Ubuntu MATE 18.04 virgin machines so this was either a problem with the general Ubuntu 16.04 to 18.04 upgrade process or specific to Ubuntu MATE 16.04 to 18.04 upgrade.  I therefore went about creating two brand new VMs, one each for mainline Ubuntu 16.04 and one for Ubuntu MATE 16.04 and then went through the upgrade process directly.  Those steps are:

  1. Fresh install OS with 3rd party and upgrades turned on
  2. Follow https://virtualboxes.org/doc/installing-guest-additions-on-ubuntu/ for installing guest additions
  3. Shutdown/Power on
  4. Add user to the vboxsf group (sudo usermod -a -G vboxsf <username>)
  5. Restart
  6. Confirm RW shared folder
  7. Bring up graphical updater, do any additional updates
  8. Invoke Upgrade to 18.04 through graphical system:
    sudo apt update && sudo apt dist-upgrade
    update-manager -d
  9. See if shared folder drive there
  10. After Update re-apply kernel extensions
  11. Restart
  12. Confirm shared drive

I can repeatably show that mainline Ubuntu 16.04 goes through these updates without this artifact but the MATE version does not.  Again, a fresh Ubuntu MATE 18.04 install doesn’t have this behavior at all.  I wonder if this write up can shed some light on this problem for the Ubuntu MATE team.

Adjusting to not-as-social social media alternatives

I’m now three weeks into picking up and using non-walled garden social media systems instead of traditional ones, specifically Diaspora over Facebook and Twitter.  It has mostly been a good experience despite some major disagreement on some of their decisions on user experience and other rough edges that I hope to help fix soon as a contributor.  But the thing that puts social media apart from blogging or other static production ecosystems is the concept of sharing and interacting with other users.  By the nature of the the fact these massive digital halls are still pretty empty I’m just not getting my fill of that.

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Kotlin Compactness Example from Swift Blog Article

This pro-Swift article came across my RSS feed recently and while I don’t want to do a direct comparison of Swift versus Kotlin since I haven’t done Swift coding I did think it was interesting to point out similar points of efficiency in their simple example built as a product of the Kotlin language compared to others like Java, the language they picked on too.

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Completing leaving the user data selling walled gardens

Over the weekend I had made a bunch of progress on migrating away from the walled garden systems.   I’m happy to report substantially more progress.  This will of course be an ongoing process of refinement and testing.  However I’m currently getting substantial amounts of my needs met in enough areas that I’m prepared now to start pulling the plugs on Facebook, the Google Ecosystem, Twitter, and so on.  When I wrote about this over the weekend I had completed my hypothetical replacement of several systems.  I have some updates to those elements as well though.   My current replacement portfolio looks as follows (summary at the very end):

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Progress on leaving the user data selling walled gardens

As I wrote earlier this week after the Cambridge Analytica event came to light my nagging feeling that I needed to get off these Facebook, Google, etc. platforms crossed a threshold.  It was no longer something that I thought I should do but something I was going to actively do.  In one week I’ve made progress in pretty much every dimension (scroll down to the bottom if you just want my list of alternatives).

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Replacing Facebook/Google Et Al With Open Platforms

I’ve had my moments in the past where Facebook pissed me off and I tried Google+.  That didn’t work out too well so I went back to Facebook after they addressed some of those problems.  I had my moments in the past where I was concerned about the amount of tracking Google does in searches so I went to DuckDuckGo.  That’s still my main search engine but sometimes I need results that come out better in Google so go there.  I also use the Google platform for my e-mail, documents, etc.    The concept of them selling my data in exchange for giving me free service has bothered me to varying degrees over the years, but seeing how greedily it was manipulated recently is really amping that up to me.  The amount of information available to the highest bidder has always been a known quantity to me but these recent stories are just putting that up to eleven.   It’s not just the Cambridge Analytica story.  There is also the story about Facebook and other companies forcing users to turn over their keys, so to speak, so they can look at any and all their personal data as a condition for working for them.  There is the way they exploited that data in difficult discussions.

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What Makes a Successful Bread Experiment?

For years now I’ve been an amateur bread baker that keeps trying the new and upcoming thing that runs across my computer.  In the 90s I started with a focaccia recipe I found on USENET and Julia Child’s baguette recipe scribbled out of my mom’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  In recent years I’ve picked up no-knead recipes, sourdough recipes and the like.  I’ve also taken to radically changing some recipes with expectations on specific results.  I see others doing the same thing in my groups.   As we move around and try things the question becomes: “What makes a successful bread experiment?”  Obviously if it turns out exactly as you intended that’d be a success but is that really it, or do we sometimes see a success staring right back at us but we don’t know it.

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