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Temperature Rising

It’s days like these that make me appreciate the cold winds of November. July is hot and muggy, and if it’s not humid, it’s raining but not cooling down. Air conditioning is nice if you have it, but not so great if your power is out. Everybody running their AC puts a strain on the power grid, and sometimes the grid struggles to keep up with the demand. Brown outs and black outs aren’t uncommon in some places. Your power goes out and eventually you begin to feel the heat. Computer equipment, servers, and network devices don’t like heat. They also don’t like power interruptions. UPS doesn’t last very long, and some generator backups don’t always work as hoped. The old joke that air conditioning only fails when it’s needed is based in reality. It’s a good idea to be proactive for power outages and heat related problems. Generators, fans, and backup equipment – referring to replacement parts and devices – make good sense. You don’t need a storm to start seeing failures. Things break on blue sky days. Things happen, and it’s a good idea to be prepared. If Internet connectivity is important to you, than maybe you need an alternative network path out of your location. Fiber and copper can break, maybe a cell modem (hot spot) can carry you through a land line outage, but maybe the same outage that affects your land line is impacting your local cell tower. Satellite may be a logical primary or logical backup route to look into.
I’ve had to rely on my phone’s “Hot Spot”, but that’s not something I’d want to do for very long. It could get expensive and you might find out it’s not that great.
Have a plan, and think it through on days that you don’t need it, because someday you may. Don’t just wait for bad things to happen, because when the storm clouds gather you might not have time to react fast enough. Some problems are unavoidable, but doing nothing to prevent or at least mitigate problems is usually not good.

 

Trust or Bust

As the news spins tales of Cyber War threats, malicious activity between power brokers, privacy loss, and now UFO activity the focus still remains on political angles to convince the public all is not well. Everything must have an angle for someone’s agenda, whether it be political, or financial. Yes, we live with the possibility of Cyber War offensively and defensively to some degree. Could this be because we rely way too much on computer networks, a limited selection of operating systems and applications? What’s the average user supposed to do? Simple, don’t rely on something you can’t control. Businesses are limited by financial decisions – sometimes this is not so good. Individuals are also limited by financial realities but will often find that they have more flexibility in the choices they make towards technology reliance.

Many companies are still using Windows 7 and are struggling with transitioning to Windows 10. Many users who use Windows 7 at work usually have already switched to (Windows 10) many years ago – because it’s what was available to them when they purchased a new computer. Why are large companies much slower to transition? Many have expensive software applications and licenses that may incur a cost when updating, or simply require expensive upgrades. (financial reasons). You too may have had to upgrade some software and/or hardware. I’m sure there are still individuals using Windows 7 but remember that corporations often use enterprise versions as opposed to Home or even Pro editions.

You don’t even have to use the same operating system or distribution that everyone else uses – you have more freedom to choose other systems, and other software. The bad guys are going to focus on the most popular and dependent systems. They know who is slow moving and often constrained by inadequate support mechanisms. It’s an odds game, but a smaller company or individual user can be a little nimbler when reacting to and dealing with rapid changes required to operate effectively. Let the propaganda machines spew out their discombobulated sensationalism.

You have freewill – at least for now. Use it wisely. I don’t think anyone should disregard the real news or the fake news. Be prudent and keep your options open. With all the bad press lately about Google, I still have faith in their Chromebook security. I trust it way more than any Microsoft OS. You may have a different opinion, which is of course your choice. It’s good to have choices. I’ll continue to work with Linux distributions, and will on occasion see what’s new with the latest Windows 10 release. I think Windows 10 is secure and stable, just not to the same degree that I feel Chromebooks do for minimal application use. There are many programs that only run well on Microsoft, but I don’t usually need to use them.

I’ll use a Mac once in a while because it is good for content creative work, and to stay up to date with new software developments for Logic Pro X and some video editors, but for basic writing and research the Chromebook is just enough and more.

I did start up my generator yesterday to make sure it’s ready for any type of power outage, but after a few bad storms, it’s a pretty common thing to be prepared. This doesn’t mean I’m worried about UFO invasions, another war, or Cyber-attacks. It just means I choose to be ready for any type of storm – real or imagined. If the Internet goes down, I still know how to get through the day without looking everything up online or checking social media. Believe it or not, computers are still useful without connectivity to the web.

Computers and phones still require power, but solar power is usually sufficient if done correctly. There are still radio communications which include shortwave, cell towers, and even satellite (unless the aliens start messing with them). Usually most disasters around here are local and short lived – weather seems to never take a vacation. Trees continue to fall over onto the power and phone lines. Stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The Chromebook won’t be connected, but I can always take on the road to somewhere it can be – or simply take a break from computers and do something else.

Have enough coffee on hand to last at least two weeks, donuts (usually gone by day one), and cans of chicken soup. Water always comes up as a big thing to have on hand, and some cans of tuna fish. I’m not sure how long Mountain Dew lasts because I don’t drink it, but it might be a useful bartering tool for trade should you need to trade for more donuts. This is probably bad advice, but about as believable as most of the news out there.

 

 

Forward Thinking?

I had a whole blog post written about using WMIC.exe for anyone still stuck with supporting a Windows 7 OS machine.
It’s a handy little command-line tool for gathering information-about your system, but then I started thinking “this is so backward thinking!” Who still uses Windows 7 in 2019?
We should be “forward thinking”
and realize that nobody’s still using Windows 7 anymore.
Extended support even vaporizes next January for any stragglers out there. Yeah this was probably going to be a bad idea. You could play around with WMIC.exe on Windows 10, but why? I still can’t believe Windows 10 is Microsoft flagship name even though it will be 2020 in less than seven months.
Of course I’m just kidding, I know a lot of corporate staff is still lugging old tired Windows 7 laptops around.  Maybe your IT department is secretly working on the migration to Windows 10. I’m sure it will be less dramatic than the move from XP to 7. sure sure sure
Imagine if you could do all your work with only a Chromebook and web applications. Now that would be forward thinking. It sounds like a pretty simple solution for a lot of the modern work force. It also might be very cost effective in more ways than just hardware purchases. Support would be streamlined, security simplified, and other time and resource overhead scaled back. Wouldn’t this be handy in a time when many companies are looking at their bottom line and contemplating cutting operating costs?
I’m sure this wouldn’t work for everyone, but does everyone need all the licenses and expensive applications we’ve all been told repeatedly over the years that we must have? (No, not a chance.)
There’ll always be those who are stuck working with old tired software and hardware from a bygone era. Some may need a self contained system that won’t always have a network connection, some will always think they need an over abundance of software and hardware resources – even when they probably don’t. Some just want everything and use nothing. Some want nothing and need everything.
It’s hard to let go of your comfort zone, and yes, change can be daunting.
The fleet footed are already operating and producing content with smartphones and tablets. Sure a lot of those happen to be Apple products. Remember when everyone had to have a Blackberry to be constantly accessible and working all the time? How about a typewriter or fax machine. Don’t tell me your company still uses a fax! Emails are even getting long in the tooth. Does anyone even know where to find an actual pencil?
The future is here for some, but not for those who ignore the lessons of the past. Somehow there a few who muddle through for a while continuing to make the same bad decisions over and over.
Is this fear of change or just laziness.
You go into a meeting and are told “We are the future!” And then you look around the room and see everyone using Windows 7. (or the dreaded PowerPoint presentation with default templates) Surely this cant possibly be the future! Get out of there fast if you can before they start handing out printouts of the same exact PPP shown on the projector overview.
I know that often you can’t pick the tools you are given to work with. I’m not even advocating for Linux as I usually prefer, but I do know that everyone has been given ample notice to upgrade before support ends – therefore I would hope you wouldn’t have to wait until the last minute before trying to retrain users, retool hardware, or upgrade a plethora of software applications that may or may not work in their current integration with Windows 10. Keep in mind the transition from 32 to 64 bit architecture also can cause a negative impact on your workflow. Not all programs that may have worked on a 32bit Windows 7 system will run smooth on a newer laptop running a upgraded OS. I hope you have tested all your required applications on your new system builds before the actual roll out. If you haven’t done this yet, then look out!
How many users are running “Virtual XP” in their Windows 7 laptops. You probably should be aware of this. Yes believe it or not, there are still some 16 bit applications floating around. Hopefully you can weed those out and upgrade to newer software. Maybe you’ll discover it’s not only no longer a supported program, but it may no longer be required for any critical or less than critical dependencies. (Possibly no one really needs that software any longer)

If you do move to Linux – which I would prefer, make sure you can still do whatever it is you need to do with Linux applications or by using “Wine” to support some Windows applications.
As with typing “HELP” at the Command prompt in Windows to list available commands you can also run, at the Linux bash shell a command called “compgen”.
Type compgen -c to list all the commands you can run. You can see how much potential a basic LINUX system has. Maybe you should get familiar with some, if not most of the available commands.
Linux has some great applications available in most repositories that do much of – if not more of what you need to be productive in many business environments. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should migrate from Windows 7 to a Debian based Linux distribution, but there are possibilities here.
What I’m looking “Forward “ towards is having a basic business work solution that leverages Chromebooks or IPads and web based applications as a very simplified alternative to the old guard standard of “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach. This is really just a procrastination technique that can cause bigger headaches down the road. 
The big question mark will be about security updates and any patches you may need for your system beyond the January 14th 2020 deadline. I’m no Windows 10 super fan, but it is better than Windows 7, and it will be supported beyond the Win 7 support expiration date. Windows 10 will support web based applications via a browser of your choice – so there is some flexibility on how you approach productivity and collaboration among multiple users. I still think it’s way more than most need. I’ll be interested to see how many people start simplifying their approach to productivity via a very streamlined laptop, tablet, and or smartphone setup as they not only “forward think”, but actually “Forward Do”

If you are “the company” or run a small nimble operation you’re probably already way ahead of all this. For sure !

Expect the Unexpected

I started off on this holiday weekend expecting to write about a simple text based calendar/scheduler program I can run from a Linux shell. This was “calcurse”. It’s a nice simple program that works for me and is in line with the “Keep It Simple” philosophy.
Well, that was the plan.
I didn’t stick to the plan.
I got sidetracked playing around with a few Distros and ended up spending more time than I should have with some old computers and the latest releases of AntiX, Ubuntu Budgie, and Netrunner.

It’s fairly easy to while away the hours setting up and trying out multiple Linux distributions. 
I wouldn’t say it’s a waste of time because I always learn something new tinkering with my computers.
These are all very solid Debian based Operating systems, but that doesn’t always work out to being perfect for the systems I have – most of which are fairly under powered compared to some of the newer hardware that’s on the market.
Ubuntu is getting better, and the Budgie Spin is probably my favorite looking desktop. Netrunner is very elegant, the Debian based version at least.
AntiX is probably the fastest and probably the best suited for older hardware. MX has been my daily driver for a while now, and very close to AntiX, but AntiX does almost everything I need and feels a little faster. For a minimal approach I’d have to give the edge to AntiX, but I’ll continue to use MX for now on my main machine. I duel boot NetRunner and Ubuntu Budgie on my more powerful laptop – mostly as a testing setup.
While going through this exercise I found myself thinking I was still looking for a total replacement for Windows 10, and should probably install Microsoft on one of my machines to see how the latest update compares, but I usually don’t keep Windows for too long before getting disappointed. The only saving grace is PowerShell, which I admit is probably the most interesting thing I’ve found useful on any Microsoft OS machine.
I even tried getting GhostBSD running this weekend – and it does work on one of my older laptops, but it’s not something I would really use as a daily driver. 

I do recommend trying it out if you have a spare machine to install it on purely for learning how Unix compares to Linux based distributions. Distro hopping can be fun and insightful, but it can also be frustrating if you can’t find an operating system that meets your daily work requirements. Worse yet is the realization that you often find that you’ve wasted a lot of time. You can go the Virtual machine route, but I never consider that a true test unless you dedicate all your machines resources to the operating system your testing. That’s just my own personal opinion of course. I know a lot of people run Virtual Box on Windows machines to test Linux Distros.
That’s just not my thing. Duel booting seems to be a little more realistic, but that sometimes can be an issue if you tend to encrypt your hard drive. 
Someday I may settle on the one perfect Distro, but not today. I should probably schedule these testing forays with a decent text based scheduling program.
Oh ya, that’s what I started out doing. I wonder which Linux box I should run that on.

I can appreciate all the time and effort developers put into each of these projects. These are very good options, or should I say alternatives to what I have used in the past. I can get a lot of work done without adding very many new applications. Everything I need usually comes included in the distribution, and anything I usually need to install is available from the main repositories.

I am looking forward to the next major Ubuntu LTS, but until then any of the latest Debian based spins could work for me, as could the various Ubuntu flavors. I will probably not use the KDE desktop, but will continue with Xfce on most of my systems mostly because it always seems a better fit for how I navigate around the system. KDE looks great, but Xfce looks good to me also.

There’ll be more interesting distributions to try, and I probably will test drive a few in the hope that the unexpected is more dazzling than the expected.

None of these Linux distributions will replace my Chromebook. If all you need is a laptop to write with, a Chromebook is so simple and fast, you’ll spend less time tinkering and more time creating content. That was something I did not fully expect. I still will use Linux full time – except when time is limited. Maybe what I’m really looking for is a Linux/Chromebook hybrid. They might just be working on that. We shall see. One more thing, my Chromebook has a real nice calendar app that’s perfect for scheduling

Quiet Please

I like to have a nice quiet place to get some computer work or studying done where the distractions are minimal. Not everyone wants this, needs this, or has such a place This isn’t always the same “work/study space “ some might have in mind. Don’t get this confused with some place to play video games or work on you next music project. It could be at the library (if people still a actually go?)
On a train, in your car, at your kitchen table, you bedroom – whatever works for you.
I’m kind of partial to “workshop “ type setup. A place to fix things that aren’t broken, or break things that shouldn’t be fixed. A halfway decent work bench, some decent lighting, and a few handy tools make for a nice workshop even if it’s in a run down worn out Hockey shed in the swamp. It is what you make of it…..especially if you actually make most of it yourself.
It’s Spring, but Winter still has it’s clutches holding the north fast in swirling snow and ice. (How these tree frogs can be so active when it’s still kind of cold is a mystery to me)
So close to May and still snow in the air. Howling wind, driving rain, and powerful storms swirl across the land. The ground is soggy – mud is a common theme. Thus the swamp designation.
Deep within said inner sanctum the wind is but a faint howl in the distance (actually it’s the insulation that quiets the wind noise). Thunder claps muffled slightly as an old radio’s speakers crackle with each flash of lightning. This is Spring? It feels more like late October than mid April. At least the bitter cold is no longer a frosty issue. The temperature is cool and damp, reminisced of a scene from an Wild Western cowboy story setting.
(One where it rains a lot.)
The generator is prepped in case the power should fail, and the glow of the display monitors light the room.
The room is cold, but dry and pleasant, exactly what you would want for a small work shop. A hot cup of coffee only enhances atmosphere adding a certain pleasantness.
This will have to do as my fortress of solitude away from the noise of Fake News and political nonsense where one can still watch some playoff Hockey in peace.
Isn’t that what a workshop is really for ?
Sure I can putter around and work on a random project here and there, but come on – we’ve all learned to multitask. (Watch Hockey and listen to Baseball)
It’s good to have a small space to hunker down and really concentrate on getting some work done. Something productive like rearranging all my hockey sticks by curve and brand. Stacking pucks, or wondering why the hell I threw my old CCMs out – they were still good. The blades were a bit bent, but who noticed that?
With a few old Linux laptops you can watch the game, and review player stats – sort of a Hockey command center. It’s all good until the power goes out, or the Internet connection fails.
All your tech, now virtually useless unless you decide to drain your battery power and operate in crisis mode. You know you must remain calm.
The power will come back on.
The old radio still works (it’s really just used for local weather updates)
You could start up the generator, but wouldn’t that noise drown out the game. Plus that would Probably draw attention to some “non-hockey” fans more interested in actual survival than what’s going on in the third period. “you got a generator?” Nope – just working on my lawnmower over here.

Oh my goodness, what if there’s another overtime.
There are always headphones, but that won’t help much if the Internet is down. If cell service is down, I’m really in for it.
This is the moment you’ve been prepping for. This is why you brought that extra box of Ho Hos.
Maybe you should have bought some Twinkies like a true survivalist, but they haven’t tasted the same since they came back on the market.
Ho Hos always taste good.
So you pop a Ho Ho in your mouth – don’t even chew it. What would be the point?
Then it hits you! Of course, OTA television! The sad frustrating replacement letdown to the good old analog days.
Find a “old” …not too old television and rig up a Stone Age Antenna.
You’re probably not going to pull in the CBC Hockey Night in Canada, but you can try.
Oh yeah, I guess I would have to start the generator to power the television. (Mental note:
Look for a battery powered television that works with digital signals)
If all else fails you can always try to get some actual work done. Actually “working” in a workshop just sounds wrong.
I hope lighting doesn’t hit the Koho I’m using as an antenna mast. That would not be good.
If there truly is an apocalyptic event coming, I hope it’s in the off season.
Of course it’s always some type of sport’s season.
I guess I could always re-read another Linux manual.
Wait a minute – that’s not such a bad idea.
It’s a perfect night for a little lite reading.
It’s stopped raining and all the swamp critters are making all kinds of weird noises.
The power is on and I just remembered…..my team already played earlier today.
Well, I’m here now, I might as well be productive and get some work done.

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