EPH

Computer enthusiast

Getting Weirder out there

Yes, things are getting crazy out there. If you watch the news you see a lot of strange things that really seem too weird to be true, but apparently this is the new normal. When news shifts from information to opinion, reliability suffers. I have nothing against expressing opinions, but presenting one’s opinion as the only truth is irresponsible. I have my point of view, but you may have an opposing or different one. That is totally understandable and deserves appreciation.

We all may have a slightly different view of the world. Computers on the other hand may have a predetermined processing of the world based on their programming, information availability, and potentially skewed processing algorithms. This doesn’t disqualify a machine’s ability to formulate an accurate composite of reality, it may actually substantiate it.The world may weigh heavily on emotion (good or bad) but emotion is not always supported by reality, rather the perception of reality which can often hinge on propaganda.It all boils down to the quality and accuracy of information. “Garbage in = Garbage out” is the weakness of media. More information does not always distill down to better information – which is a modest assertion of surveillance. More information could simply distill down into more garbage.Quality should not dilute for quantity, but it does appear that way at times.When errors become acceptable and mistakes negotiable, we have more than likely dumbed down our program with bad code. As with any bad code, you don’t always spot the faults unless you look for them.

desk

“If You’re Gonna Die”

“Die with your boots on.”

Yep, it’s a perfect night for some Iron Maiden. Crank up the Marshall and work with some good tunes blasting. With a desktop showing Meatloaf’s iconic Bat Out of Hell album cover on my latest Lenovo 110S incarnation running Mint Desktop: Xfce 4.12.3 tk: Gtk 2.24.31 wm: xfwm4 dm: LightDM Distro: Linux Mint 19.2 Tina base: Ubuntu 18.04 bionic

I’ve been running MX 18 on my daily driver, but decided to give the latest Mint spin a try. I’ve used Mint quit a lot over the last few years. I usually recommend it to anyone looking for a nice alternative to a Windows 10 upgrade from Win 7.

Basically the 110S ideapad feels like a cheap plastic lightweight netbook, but amazingly enough it still works well when running Linux – not super useful running Win 10, but it will run the latest MS OS. It runs well with Mint and supports Chrome, so it actually does more than my Chromebook. If I kill this machine, at least I will have gotten a lot out of it – no regrets. If you haven’t tried Linux yet on a old or budget laptop you don’t know what your missing. Put Nena’s ’99 Luftballons’ on your loudest boombox and get cracking. If this is Pumpkin Spice Latte season, then it’s probably a good night for playing around with Linux.

Say what you will about other operating systems, but you can’t kill Linux – it’s here to stay! All the promises made by the two mainstream choices always feel empty, while Linux leaves it up to you to make it or break it.

The more you practice the better you usually get. Everything takes time, but each step you take will get you farther down the road to someplace that can often be amazing. Just exploring a Linux distribution or even just installing an operating system is an opportunity to learn something new and strengthen what you already know.

I still view all computer work as a bit of alchemy and magic. As you learn more about your computer and what it can or can’t do – you either learn to fear the dark, or see through the shadows.

Now for some Post Malone (with Ozzy) “Take what you want” as loud as this thing will go – all the way up to 11. What a perfect tune to end with.

desk

Linux Proactive VS Reactive

Don’t get yourself in a situation where you spend most of your time doing damage control after problems become unavoidable. Running around putting out fires is usually unproductive beyond temporary patches and band-aids. Use your system to keep watch on issues that may arise from resource limitations, application errors, and the health of the system it’self.

A good approach may be to develop a daily procedure for daily system checks. A good place to start is with log files. Logs can be collected from multiple locations within your system. You should have a process to review the logs and to analyze what these logs are providing for clues to the health and security of your system. Some of the available information you may access and retain for further review or documentation.

Logs can provide insight into configuration issues, buggy software, and your system’s security. They can also provide you with hardware and resource status.

Even if you have automated your system checks, log alarming, and/or use centralized logging via a dedicated monitoring application, it is useful to understand how to manually retrieve and analyze some of this information.

If I want to see what tools/commands are available on a Linux system check the /usr/bin/ directory. This will show you what executables are available on the system you are working with.

For a quick error check through the log files located in the /var/log/ directory use:

sudo grep error /var/log/*.log | less

This will show all the plain text with the word “error”,

Also replace “error” with “fail” and remove “less”

$ sudo grep fail /var/log/*.log

If your system is running systmd then the “journalctl” command will print the messages logged.

sudo journalctl | grep error

Don’t limit yourself to only looking for obvious errors noted in the text messages.

syslog also contains a lot of useful clues that you can filter by keywords associated with severity levels:

emerg – alert – crit – err – warning – notice – info – debug.

below simply filter for the keyword “warning’ to look for warning messages.

/var/log$ cat syslog | grep warning

Your system most likely has a lot of logs that you can review, and usually there is a graphical program or programs to check logs and system resources.

combine checking your logs with checking real time resources. You have tools such as “top”, “du”, “free”, “netstat”, “ping”, “ifconfig”,”lsof”, and the usually very interesting “uptime” and “who” that compliment your log file checks that you can do manually to gauge how your system is functioning.

Memory, CPU, Network, and application logs can be useful for a proactive approach to maintaining the health of your system and application functions. If you have a system for monitoring everything, than make sure you monitor the monitoring application.

There are a lot of tools and resources to keep ahead of issues that could at some point create a lot of problems and even system failures.

Nice and Quiet

Sometimes a quiet day or two is just fine. No bad storms, no asteroid collision, no interesting tech news, just dull mediocrity. Yes, there’s been some Linux Distro releases, and Apple product announcements, but nothing to lose any sleep over. There’s no real reason to upgrade to a new laptop, no real need to update my iPhone, there’s really nothing going on to get all worked up about, and that’s not so bad. I can hold onto my wallet for a while, because I can’t think of anything new recently announced that I really feel like I’m missing out on. That’s good for me, but probably no so great for the industry.

Too much excitement can sometimes cause real interesting news to get lost in a wave of noise. It’s all perception. If you’re actively looking and waiting for a particular hardware or software development, than maybe all other events are just distractions you can disregard. I’m not waiting for any particular sign that would cause me to change anything I’m using or working with. I’m always interested in any type of application or device improvement, but I also try to resist the impulse to chase after the latest fad or something I really don’t need. If you’re happy with what you have, than you’re probably in a good place.

Now is a good time to get things done without wasting too much energy chasing after the next great thing. I am looking forward to the next Ubuntu 19.10 release “Eoan Ermine” slated for October 17th 2019, and will start playing with the beta release – hopefully on September 26th.

The Latest MX 19 beta (2.1) is really solid, so I’m also looking forward to the Official release (traditionally released in December) It might be a toss up between the two distro releases for me. I expect both to be worth the wait. For now I will continue to use the latest beta, but as far as new hardware I’m actually keeping my eye on Chromebooks. I don’t see any reason to pick up a new iPad, PC Laptop, or Macbook, but the iPhone 11 Pro is interesting.

Interesting doesn’t necessarily translate into exciting. More and more it looks like laptops are easily replaced by smart phones, and even tablets seem to be less of a primary computer platform for many users and more of a compliment to a smartphone. I still use laptops, but I’m not so sure I will continue to use any for a daily driver. It’s the iPhone for me, and yes I do think about moving to the new Note 10.

I expect things to get more exciting in the next few weeks as everyone starts preparing for the Holidays. This temporary lull wont last long.

Days Grow Shorter

The great push to get all timely side projects done before the Holidays begins. “The September and October surge” tasks I know I should start before the snow and ice sweep across the land.
Summer is over and suddenly, as if by total surprise, approaching seasonal imposed deadlines become priority. “Didn’t I just come off the Spring – Summer surge?” It’s the yearly temperature influenced push that some might misinterpret as productivity preparedness. If you plan on working within some level of comfort from the cold you should start thinking about things you can do before the weather changes. Pace yourself and avoid the last minute frenzy. Most likely there will be a few late nights where the wind will be howling and the cold will have to be kept at bay in order to focus on work. Maybe now is a good time to find my hoodies.

Of course this is a bit melodramatic, but it does make sense to get as much done before the holidays begin and frosty mornings become the norm.
This time of year has some positives; there will be less daylight to distract me from my tasks at hand and limit the temptation to step into the winter sun – if there is any this year.
Yes, the dreary weather and gloomy skies will be perfect for staring at the computer screen for hours and hours, but first any outdoor work that can be done before the approaching ice age will have to be squeezed in. Managing time to accommodate both in and outdoor work is sometimes a challenge.

Once I think I have everything perfect for working late into the night, I can settle and focus on writing, learning new computer skills, or testing out new Linux developments. Ill have the radio playing quietly in the background. Sometimes Ill just sit and read through a few technical manuals for hours.

Hot coffee from a thermos I bring out to my workshop is usually close at hand. It may not seem too exciting, but I enjoy working late into the night. There’s always something new to learn, or sometimes old skills I rediscover.

At least I won’t have to worry about the heat and humidity that limited the amount of time I worked in my shop this summer.

I’ve been following Hurricane Dorian developments. There’s not much if any impact due where I am, but as the tracking changes it does make me wonder how well we actually predict the weather. It does underscore the need to prepare for rough weather even when skies are clear. I don’t see any particular weather event in the near future, but I’m positive the cold is coming as it does every year.

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