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Have you checked your system’s BIOS lately?

Have you checked your system’s BIOS lately?

Maybe you should. It’s pretty simple if you are familiar with your operating systems terminal/command line.


Linux:
sudo dmidecode –type bios

Windows:
systeminfo | findstr BIOS

The simplest way to upgrade my Lenovo laptops was to re-install Windows 10 and use the Lenovo utilities to upgrade the bios Revision , then install my Linux Distro again. I could have avoided some of the pain if I had setup my laptops as duel boot systems, but I didn’t.

There are other methods to go about this without relying on Windows, but using Windows was perfect for my situation just for the fact that it was so simple.
Lenovo’s Service Bridge is pretty simple to setup.
It wants you to download .NET 3.5 – which I did, not a big deal either. I figured I’d end up blowing Windows away and Installing MX back on my machines anyway. (I use MX-18.1 a Debian based LINUX OS) – at the moment.
All I really wanted was the BIOS/UEF1 updates
Only the file listed as Jan 31 2019 was the most recent available for my machine. This was newer than my 2017 version installed on my laptop, so it seemed to be worth the slight hassle I had gone through so far – which wasn’t Lenovo’s fault, just my own process of exploring nonlinear routes to get things done. I consider these side tracks as learning experiences. The flash utility appeared to have worked well, and then my machine rebooted. The reboot is where the BIOS actually get updated.
After Windows 10 rebooted I ran a system check again and this time the BIOS version had version 1.25 (12/24/2018) listed. Well, that’s probably as current as I’ll get with this method.
So I did what any rational pc owner would do and re-installed MX-18.1. (Of course I used the entire drive)
Why spend too much time poking around Windows updates?
Once back in MX I verified the BIOS revision as 1.25.

So did this have any benefits other than good housekeeping?
Probably nothing that would jump right out at you.
Yes, BIOS upgrades can sometimes give some performance enhancements, and resolve certain bugs or compatibility issues. It doesn’t usually increase speed, but it can help with some issues that degrade performance such as overheating.
Sometimes upgrading your BIOS may produce undesirable affects. If your computer is operating well, or as expected, you may not wish to chance any damage to your system with an upgrade that doesn’t work properly.
I upgraded my bios more out of curiosity, and waited for my spare test machine to finish before I upgraded my main machine.
My primary goal was to bring the security aspects of the bios up to date. This may be something that some Linux users don’t always focus on, but are usually aware of. Usually I focus more on available Distro updates and upgrades along with common sense proactiveness to keep my systems secure. BIOS upgrades can factor in there as well, and should at least be contemplated with a little research to see if upgrading your BIOS is a worthwhile endeavor. If anything, you should at least know what BIOS revision you currently have on your system.

So check to see what your BIOS are listed as, and if you do decide to upgrade, and there are newer revisions available – proceed with caution.

You may not need to make any changes at all.

Good luck!

Windows on the Side

Well, it was great news to see that Wireshark 3.0 was finally released, but unfortunately I’m still stuck with 2.6.5 in my “MX 18.1 Continuum” distribution for now. I was able to install 3.0 on a laptop running Windows 10 to start testing the new release, but this will only be temporary until the MX repository is updated with the new version of Wireshark. I guess having a Windows machine around for some types of testing comes in handy once in a while. This isn’t enough reason to drop MX as my daily driver. I chalk these annoyances up as “ to be expected “. I’m sure the new Wireshark release will make it down to the Debian repositories eventually. Windows 10 may have had it available faster, but in the long run I’m sure I’ll be glad I waited for Linux. I’m not a huge fan of PPAs or Manjaro’s AUR repository alternatives. (I do use Manjaro occasionally) They seem to work, but I can usually wait for the main repository updates.
Having seen the latest Ubuntu 16.04.6 LTS release reaffirms my belief that a lot of LINUX users tend to hold on to what works for them more often then leap into the next big thing.
Sometimes this is driven by hardware constraints or limitations. This is probably why I’m reluctant to have updates pushed into my system from Microsoft or Apple as opposed to controlling updates and package downloads myself.
I also prefer to avoid bloatware on my system as well….if possible. Since I’ve started using MX I find myself drifting farther away from some of the other popular Linux distributions. I can spend more time working with Linux, rather than constantly trying out new releases.
I’ve gone a few months without using a Mac, and I don’t miss it yet. I loaded MX onto my very inexpensive Lenovo IdeaPad 110S and it works like a champ. It’s a couple of years old now, but still going strong as a test machine. (Used for testing low resource supporting LINUX distributions).
There are times when I do reach for my Windows 10 laptop to check out any interesting developments in the Microsoft world.
You might think this would be a good reason to duel boot Windows and Linux, or run Virtual machines. I’ve done that, but prefer to run Linux as the only Operating System on a dedicated laptop. If I need Windows for a quick test, I can install it on a spare laptop for a short time, and then re-use the machine to test other Linux distributions. This sounds like a hassle, but it works for me. I can even run Wine to use some Windows applications – like the new Wireshark release, and I have done that to test the 2.9 development releases. This does give you some productive options.
My goal is to be totally Windows free, and I’m getting closer as Linux distributions keep improving. For now, access to a Windows 10 machine is still useful, but it also feels like a limitation.


Update:

MX Package Installer does support flatpacks, which I was able to use to Install Wireshark stable (3.0). This will work for me for now until the MX Stable Repo replaces 2.6.5.1 with 3.0 This was a much simpler solution than using Wine or a Windows OS.


When The Wind Blows

All day yesterday I received storm alerts for this big wind storm we are expecting in the next few hours.
Batteries are charged, my generator tank is full, and the truck’s fuel tank is topped off.
Pantry is stocked, and water is on hand. I get ready for any storm I think is heading our way, but lately the weather predictions have been either overblown, or just wrong. Best to be safe either way, but I had hoped technology would have advanced a little more in the accuracy department.
Usually my dogs are better weather predictors when a storm is coming. When they start acting goofy, I know we’re in for something bad.
So if this storm does knock out the power and even the cell service for a few days, I’ll at least have the one tool on hand that is always useful in many situations. No it’s not my phone, or my laptop. It’s my old school Swiss Army knife. It doesn’t require power or an Internet connection to function, just your brain.
Almost everyone appears to have a smartphone with them these days, and I would categorize that as having a “Swiss Army Knife” of sorts, but other than games, flashlight, notepad, or a camera function, many are quite useless without a internet connection. Without power, they become a paperweight that you probably could use as a sun reflector for emergencies.
A real jackknife only requires a little dexterity.
Of course if you have a reliable source of power (solar or fuel) and possibly a satellite connection – or even a cell booster, you might be ok as your local area takes a hit from storm damage.
If you get high winds, like we are expecting, it could move your satellite dish enough to lose your link. That is sometimes worse than some brief attenuation from rain fade or cloud cover. You can prepare for a storm, but sometimes they throw you a curve ball you weren’t expecting.
So keeping with my Swiss Army knife theme, I also keep my cell phone with me as my “tech tool” of choice. I don’t really rely on my laptop too much anymore unless I’m working on a special project that requires support from a operating system other than IOS or Android.
Now I’m starting to consider the creative possibilities of the IPhone’s camera. I have a 7plus which has 4K capability at 30 FPS. It’s not something I would have ever considered playing around with, but that’s a better camera than my old Kodak I rarely use.
I’m thinking about playing around with some video editing, which I might even try to do all in the iPhone.
I did look at using my Linux laptop running OpenShot, and I also tried the Windows version.
It works fine, but my old laptops might be slightly under-powered for any heavy cpu and memory demands.
I looked at using the Chromebook, but didn’t find any solution I really liked.

I am interested in Adobe’s Project Rush if it becomes available for Chromebooks. I see it’s available for Windows, Mac, and IOS.
Maybe I should film the pine trees I see starting to sway in the breeze. Hopefully this storm is not too damaging.
Anyhow, I think I’m ready for it, but who knows how the wind blows.

On to 2019

Christmas has come and gone, and now we approach the end of 2018. This is the cold and dark part of the year. If you like very cold rain, ice and snow, you’re probably enjoying this. If you’re a robot, you may not.
Typing on a frosty keyboard with gloves or mittens is a bit of a hassle, but there are times when you make do regardless of the environment. Working on a smart phone is less frustrating, especially if you have nifty gloves that sport special screen friendly finger pads or you use a “pen” and don’t drop it in the snow. 
Smart watches, and voice assist are all useful, but there are a few of us who still do the majority of their “computer work “ on a laptop. Not bringing an entire tower, monitor, keyboard, and mouse is mobility enough for some. If you work inside, that’s cool, but it’s nice to get out once in a while. 
I don’t consider working from your laptop in a coffee shop “field work” but I can see where that is much more enjoyable than being stuck in a cubicle. Do people still sit in cubicles? There are of course, worse places….so I am told.

Advances in mobility technology have made it easier to work at almost any site, and remote applications have allowed some to work from distant locations. 
Which is better, on site, or offsite (from a cubicle)? I have to lean towards on site, but that’s not always practical. 
Out on an ice field of blowing snow at negative 30 degrees Fahrenheit isn’t always more preferable than a nice cozy office cubicle or desk, but sometimes being there in the cold gives you a whole different perspective and appreciation for the equipment and operating mechanisms on site than a long distance remote view ever could. 
That’s all changing for some types of work. Drones, and artificial support will impact how some resources are deployed on site, and offered remotely.
With the new year ahead, I expect to see more practical use of artificial intelligence for application and diagnostic support, and drone usage for inspection related i.e monitoring or surveillance operations. 
I don’t think AI needs a cubicle to work, possibly some rack space and lot of power. Drones won’t require ladders, lifts, or climbing harnesses.

As widespread adaptation of IoT, G-5 telecom, and cloud computing services evolve in 2019, watch how your once “state of the art” non-mobile work force drifts towards a persuasive argument for “less office space based work”. Consider how many tasks AI and faster Internet access has played a major impact on work life already.
Flexibility to work in both office based and remote site locations might prove to be a productive skill in the near future. If you’ve already cleared this hurdle, you’re probably in good shape.
Technology continues to march onward. If you can work
“Anywhere” especially where technology hasn’t already automated and crowded humans out completely , than you may have a very desirable skill set that you might not normally consider a positive.
I guess it isn’t that cold and dark after all.

It will be interesting to see how some in-house IT support is affected in the coming year. Help desk support, desktop support, and unique product support, usually hold the keys for administrative tasks. Many professing their bland “tricks”, some reading from their “problem solving flow charts” This is wonderful if you view your workforce as low tech skilled workers. Not all desktop support is like this. There are some very skilled techs who work in desktop support that are truly helpful and productive. Unfortunately it only takes one bad experience to sour one’s opinion.

On the other hand a lot of OS X and Linux users often seem slightly irritated by any form of desktop support from the world of Windows. Hand a thin client to a skilled coder and see what kind of look you get. I understand the security implications, but where’s the soft spot actually located?

I prefer the approach of giving the tools to those who actually do the work that keep the machine running. Sometimes you need to have faith in the person with the screw driver in their hand. That brings me to my point of useful skills for the future. Learn Linux, work more from the shell/terminals, and learn how to use a screw driver (tools). Of course these are all just considerations that may not be widely accepted.

Reading is good, gaining experience through “doing”, and figuring out what works, and what doesn’t may improve your confidence level. Confidence is good to have, but it should be based on some productive abilities.

Practice on non-production systems, offline, and with proper permissions. Never “test” on any system that could have negative impact due to some preventable mistake.

Many companies invest a lot of resources into training low skilled workers to do “higher skilled” focused jobs, but that doesn’t mean these workers can’t learn on their own. I think you should always try to improve “your skills” which may not necessarily be the skills you are required to have or limited to in your present situation. The world is full of surprises. Prepare for your future.

With AI, G-5, Robots, companies contemplating “right sizing”, and cloud computing all picking up momentum in the coming year – what should you do? Here’s my simple advice; don’t let stress sidetrack you. Get enough sleep, remember what your priorities are and be yourself. Sounds like bad advice, but it may not be. You’ll figure it out. Have a cup of coffee and watch the snow drifts change the lay of the land.

Howling In The Night

October ends on Halloween night. Spooky, cold windy nights relinquished to thoughts of witches, ghosts, and monsters. There’s nothing to fear, or so we are told. Are the ancient incantations of old simply a cloudy evolution on our current computer coding? The programs and configurations that run our modern world misunderstood by many who rely on this magic everyday. The disembodied voices from beyond time and space now traveling the world on multiple high speed networks. Of course we have new monsters to loath superimposed against vague shadows cast by massive assemblies of robots spawned by artificial intelligence run amuck. Oooh Scary stuff!

Presumably very little has truly changed over the years beyond the current presentation. Writing code has morphed into the new wizardry which often baffles all who neglect to fully comprehend the full potential augmenting our perceived world. Anything poorly understood or under appreciated is often looked upon as awe inspiring and mysterious.  Programmers assume the role of Alchemists, who pursue processes which convert something of limited value and commonality into gold.

Electricity and ingenuity is the true power behind all this magic. Water, fire, and light, the power behind the electricity. We can trace many of these wonders back to one of the greatest magicians of all time: Tesla. (Alternating current)

Where there is mystery, rumors of good and evil forces take root. On some levels we have too much reliance on things we fail to fully comprehend.

Magic and wonder are all around us if we look deep enough. The lightning that flashes in the sky, and the thunder that shakes the ground….will still make you look up.

It’s the mystery of darkness, not knowing what’s lurking in the night. The creaks and groans from the unseen, the flashes of blue light blinking endlessly in the night.

Then there is the dread that washes over with a shiver as you finally realize all your files were deleted by your latest OS updates…….

……….And they never returned…….ooooooooh haaaa haaaa

Happy Halloween!

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