Thanksgiving – Weathering the Storm

Yesterday, while sitting in Starbucks writing a few notes with my iPhone and waiting for my coffee, I could see storm clouds darkening the sky far off in the distance. It’s not an unusual sight and often is nothing to get too excited about. The news reports have all been about the high winds and wintry weather warnings due in our area. I’m referring to the news I actually pay any attention to. Politics are avoided. With Thanksgiving in a few days, it’s not a bad strategy to avoid unnecessary nonsense.

Now a day later I can hear the rain on the roof of the shop start tapping along with the blowing wind as the temperature drops down to a more seasonable cool temperature range of misery. I had spent some time earlier this morning playing around with the Chromebook’s Linux beta support and running Tshark and tcpdump in the Linux shell. I was able to install non-graphical dependent programs using apt. Apt seems to work better than expected, but I’m not convinced I’d actually use a Chromebook for any pcap file decoding. Lately I’ve been trying to be more practical in my minimalist approach to any computer usage I would use as a “grab and go” daily driver.

With the latest Windows 10 update, I must reluctantly admit that the latest Microsoft OS incarnation does fulfill the majority of my computing needs. I had expected that I would limit my choice to either Debian on a IdeaPad or a Chromebook. Neither has proven to be as flexible and as functional as the latest Windows update. This is somewhat annoying to me because I always feel the need to have Wireshark available on my laptops in case I need to assist someone who needs help troubleshooting communication issues which may actually be application related as opposed to true telecommunication issues. Since Wireshark has such wide protocol support it has become my favorite troubleshooting tool for many situations. OSX, Linux, and Windows support Wireshark well enough, however most of the users I deal with predominantly use Windows 10. Some have recently moved from Windows 7 to Windows 10, and sometimes have issues that I don’t see Linux users dealing with. Message analyzer is no longer supported, so Wireshark continues to be the easiest network monitoring tool for many.

I would still recommend Chromebooks for anyone who needs a low cost and efficient computer for basic web browsing, email, content writing, and basic photo editing. I know Thanksgiving can be an opportunity for friends and family of some fellow computer enthusiasts to ask for computer assistance and or recommendations. This year I would not be surprised to find Windows 7 to Windows 10 as one of the popular topics – other than politics or smartphone comparisons.

This year weather will probably be a safe topic to discuss, but don’t be surprised if the conversation turns to Black Friday shopping. What better topic to discuss the pros and cons of different operating systems, Phone, tablet, or PC based upgrades with associated “savings” deals could spur interesting conversations – provided the weather doesn’t dominate the conversations.

My advice this year is either go for a Chromebook if you have basic Internet related content needs, but if you happen to be one those workforce members who just got updated at work from Windows 7 to Windows 10, then having your own personal computer running Windows 10 Home might be useful for some self learning opportunities. This could be useful in becoming more comfortable in using an upgraded work computer. You can still load Linux as a virtual machine, or Windows Subsystem for Linux. I find myself using Powershell more than I had expected just because it’s available and has a lot of potential for simplifying some tasks you might otherwise normally use the dreaded point and click method

If you’re more involved heavy with media related content creation, than a Mac is probably worth the additional cost. If you already have a reliable computer, than you may find the latest Windows update as a fresh install is all you need. This could make your computer feel like a brand new model. The only issues that limit this is how long a certain model of hardware is supported by the OS upgrade, or manufactured driver support. Usually I can get more use out of a older computer by installing a lightweight Debian based Linux distribution. Unbelievable as it sounds, the latest Win 10 upgrade is running rather well on some of my older laptops – including Netbooks. It may be worth looking into before spending your hard earned money on a new laptop.

I think I might just hold onto what I already have. I’m getting everything done I need to, and I rely more on my phone than any laptop. Upgrading could be worth looking into since my iPhone 7 is starting to lose battery life.

I guess if the weather degrades anymore this Thanksgiving, I’ll at least have my phone with me. Maybe this Thanksgiving laptops aren’t even a topic that will come up. It’s all about phones this year. Even tablets seem to have faded into the background. The weather is always topical – especially if the rain blows hard enough, and the temperature becomes hard to ignore.

Focus, Focus, Focus

We begin a new year, with a new focus, or shall we say a re-focus on working smarter, more efficiently, more productive, more economically, and hopefully with less stress. If you’re still using Windows 7, then make note that the support clock may be winding down. If you’re using Windows 10, then you may be looking forward to the possible Spring update, or not.
I’ll most likely continue working with Windows when absolutely necessary, but Linux based objectives should remain my main focus.
As noted in early posts, I remain a big fan of Lenovo laptops (mostly older models) – which really shine once you dump the Installed OS and install an up to date version of Linux.
It’s possible that some people are not overly excited about using older, less powerful hardware, but once you find the Linux Distro that suits your requirements you may be pleasantly surprised how well things function.
I’ve gone to using Debian based MX on my older laptops, and started using the Ubuntu flagship on my latest and “slightly” more powerful ThinkPad.
For content creation I’ve retired my old MacBook (the new ones are a bit expensive) and reluctantly decided to walk away from Logic Pro and see if I can squeeze any more out of LMM and Audacity. I haven’t decided if I should just install Ubuntu Studio or stick with the main Ubuntu LTS

On another interesting note, it looks like my favorite packet decode tool for troubleshooting networking issues is getting a refresh – Wireshark 3.0 will be available in the next few weeks. I’ve looked at the Windows development release 2.9 in the last few days, and look forward to the Debian and Ubuntu supported releases. If I was a true minimalist I would see if I can get more out of tcpdump and not rely on Wireshark as much. That will take some discipline. I have worked with Tshark at times when I probably could have used tcpdump. It might be worthwhile to go old school more often.
I believe the latest version is
4.9.2 released in 2017. I’ll have to explore this a little more.

It looks like 2019 could be a great year for Linux, at least from my perspective, and support of Linux apps also promises to be a interesting Chrome OS development heading our way. It’s already available for some Chromebooks, sadly not mine – yet.

I’m not quite as excited about the latest predicted Windows 10 browser changes, or underlying Linux support. I’m sure some users will be, but part of my New Year’s resolution is to simplify my work flow. I don’t need to get too distracted with MS developments at this time unless something truly amazing appears in the horizon.

I would like to eventually pair down to using only one OS, one laptop, and improve my personal and productive time management in the process.
Even with all the security concerns in the news recently (last year was not so good) I still think Windows does a good job of addressing security. That isn’t enough of a reason to restrict my options to Windows only. Linux may have had the edge years ago, but whatever OS you use requires some effort on the user’s part. Sometimes this boils down to what system you are more familiar with, and how much control of the system you have.

There are a few things I would like to see from any new Windows release, such as the option of a true minimalist installation without all the programs I would never use anyways. I’m also not a fan of the “store”, but a repository similar to Linux installs would be a considerable improvement. I’d also be very interested in a simpler, more streamlined HotFix/patching update process. This would also apply to the big system-updates that seemed to get pushed as opposed to downloaded when I want them downloaded – unlike most Linux Distro upgrades.
On a more positive note;
I do appreciate the development of Powershell. Microsoft’s new shell continues to get better with age. I’d also like to see some developments with the mysterious Microsoft Message Analyzer application. I thought that it had a lot of potential and was very useful, but I haven’t seen much noted on it’s future development lately. I thought it was a nice complement (not competitor) to Wireshark. (anyone need a second opinion?)
In all it looks like some operating systems and applications may be improving in the next year. It looks like Windows and Linux users should have a lot of enhancements coming.

On a side note, I’m sure many will continue to use their smartphones more than any other tech device in the coming year.
Smartphones still appear to be the most portable, and the easiest devices to use.
I think we might continue to see laptop use decline this year. I would also not be surprised if someone actually builds a tablet that really gives the iPad Pro some real competition. This could cut even more into laptop use if the price is attractive enough to compete with entry level laptops.
If Apple ever releases a full fledged version of Logic Pro on the iPad Pro (no Mac required) – I’d probably venture down that road and possibly – if not temporarily forget all about my laptop OS. That would really make 2019 a fun year for tech – at least for me. Talk about simplifying your work flow.
I guess there’s always GarageBand. Hmmm? Interesting concept, but it might wind up being another distraction. (If it we’re to become available)
Focus, focus, focus, that’s what I need to do.
Alright, so now where was I?
Oh, yes, I’m going continue to concentrate my energy on working with Linux for the majority of my efforts and opportunities for efficiency as well as productivity.
As you can see, with so many options, it’s probably is best to limit my time to a few stable Linux Distros and concentrate on improving my skill set. Any other diversions could ultimately cut into my forward progress. There is always more to learn. There never seems to be enough time to focus on one operating system let alone trying to learn everything about every system. Just like last year we’ll just have to go one step at a time.

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