It’s Halloween night.

The wind is howling and the rain is pounding. I can hear it on the roof of my secret laboratory, I mean work shop. It is not a great night for Trick or Treating, but perfect for watching some classic monster movies from the 1930’s and 40’s. Think Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi. Perfect movies to have playing in the background on such a night as this. On Halloween a pizza (preferably a garlic pizza) is traditionally a good option, or just a good cup of coffee to warm you up near a cozy fire. It’s a spooky night for sure. My work shop is dry and well lit, but I do keep one eye on the door just in case I hear it creaking open or the wind catches it. No walking dead zombies to worry about here I hope, unless you’re referring to the latest Windows 10 updates. I haven’t even bothered with the latest updates. I use Linux and Chromebook laptops. I’m not afraid of the dark, but I certainly don’t need to spend all my quality time messing around with incremental updates to turn on hidden features already installed from a previous update. Most people don’t need to spend so much time fixing things when they could be spending that time being productive. For most users, if all you need is a web browser, media player, office suite, and email, then a Chromebook is perfect. Because they are less expensive, have a faster on time, and have built in basic security needs, chromebooks are not a bad alternative to an iPad, and usually cost much less. If you like to tinker around with your operating system, do some programming, and consider yourself somewhat of an amateur Dr Frankenstein in your laboratory, then maybe Linux is more your style. If you want ease of use, then a iPad could be a solution. Windows 10 has a lot of cool features, and is a very good operating system for the majority of users, but why follow the majority? Sometimes doing things a little different isn’t so bad. Those who play lots of video games tend to migrate to Windows 10, as do many large corporate businesses for their workforce, but not all businesses do that. Chromebooks and Apple devices appear to simplify maintenance and application collaboration for some groups. Providing a intuitive and simplified user experience can lead to faster and more productive output from end users. When it comes to content creation such as audio or video, MacBooks are quite nice. You pay a little more for such a “nice” solution, but sometimes it’s well worth it. Now it’s pouring out. If my Chromebook gets soaked from the rain, it’s not as big a deal as if I get a MacBook Pro wet in this crazy weather. Imagine the cost difference between deploying Chromebooks vs business class laptops with some type of in-house desktop support. Of course you can all work online from anywhere even an old foggy cemetery if there is Internet access via a VPN. You should be able to simplify your network and server infrastructure by leveraging cloud based services. If you’re a small shop, say only a mad scientist and an assistant, think simple and cost efficiently, think less wasteful and more productivity. My only hang up with Chromebooks is the lack of support for some network troubleshooting tools like tcpdump, or Wireshark. In some cases that could be a deal breaker if the operating system you choose doesn’t support the software tools you need to rely on to get any meaningful work done. No sense dealing with ghosts of old licensing past for any out of date software either. There’s some very good open source alternatives that give some propriety software a run for their mummy…or I mean money. If you’re upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10 you might need to buy new software and new licenses for that software. Maybe this is a good time to do a reassessment of the cost of upgrading hardware and software and look for some more efficient solutions. The world of work is changing rapidly and that can be scary enough to make your blood run warm. If you take the wrong turn you could be wondering deeper and deeper into the very scary woods.

Have a Happy Halloween!


“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.


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.

Nifty Linux Monitoring Tool “Netdata”

This week while supplementing my usual coffee intake with Dr Pepper’s Venom Black Mamba energy drink (not a sponsoring plug-I just like it) I’ve been test driving the new MX Linux 19-beta 1.

I installed it on a few low powered laptops, and wanted to get a good idea how it really was performing. So far, it’s been a very smooth experience, but the most interesting part of this endeavor has been using Netdata to monitor my machine in my browser. Usually I’ll use Htop, Glances, and Nmon along with built in Linux shell based tools to analyze and monitor my systems. I decided to give Netdata a spin, and I think I like it.

You’ll probably see this tool’s full potential more applicable to server builds, but I can also see this useful for a standalone machine.

The latest MX Beta I installed – It’s no secret I’m a MX fan.

Latest MX Beta-1 simplified the installation process using Apt

Netdata available options – I stuck with all the default options.

Advanced options

Follow netdata on Twitter @linuxnetdata or facebook for more detailed information and updates.

The web view is very cool. Everyone likes cool graphics. Netdata doesn’t disappoint.

You can view a lot of details and see what your system is doing from CPU usage, memory, processes, network health, system applications and much more.

Yes I still have a Windows 10 machine running the May 2019 release so naturally I have WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) installed to use Debian

Naturally I had to see if it would work on Windows 10 Linux WSL and it did!

This was from the Windows Browser – no need for a Debian GUI

The info page to view Netdata’s configuration on your system.

This was just a brief glance at what you can see with Netdata. You might want to check it out and see if it works for you. You also might want to keep an eye on the next version of MX Linux and future Windows 10 WSL developments. While you do that I think I’ll try a few more energy drinks this week.

Hold steady for now

Another week, another post, but not what I had planned. I’ve been spending more time working with the latest Windows 10 upgrade. Today I just shut it down and went back to MX. There’s nothing about the new version that I really need. It’s not a bad design, and I think it’s probably the best incarnation of Windows OS I’ve ever worked with, but I don’t really need it. It won’t be my daily driver, I tried, but I seemed to spend more time navigating around than I really needed. Having Ubuntu supported was useful, but I could see how things were starting to get a bit busy in that if I’m just working with the Linux shell – why do I need Windows?
It feels like carrying around a huge tool box full of tools when I probably won’t need any of them, or when all I really need is a Swiss Army knife.
Too much noise when I’m really trying to simplify how I work.
I would recommend the New May update to anyone who currently is still using Windows 7. It works. I like it a lot better than 7, but I also don’t recommend Linux to anyone who is already very productive with Windows.
I used to because this version of Windows 10 wasn’t available until this summer. Now it’s here and a lot of Windows OS users should be very happy. I’ll just keep one machine setup for Win 10, but go back to using Linux as a daily driver, and my Chromebook as an occasional lite travel alternative. What works for you may not work for me, and what works for me may not work for you.
I would suggest trying different operating systems out if you can and pick what works best for you. I’ll still use Windows when I need to, but I don’t always need to.
I’ve been following the news lately and “if” there is any economic slow down or recession, I think I’ll try to get more mileage out of my old laptops. I haven’t seen any reason to upgrade my current hardware, and really don’t foresee any compelling reason to on the horizon.
I still get a lot of use out of my budget buy Chromebook. I’m still hoping to get by for the most part with just the Chromebook, but I still find that I can do everything I need with MX Linux on an old Thinkpad. I also don’t feel the need to upgrade my phone just yet, but that too could change. I’d be more inclined to upgrade my phone than to buy a new laptop or even pick up a reasonably priced tablet. My phone is always with me, which at times can be annoying, but that has become my main computer. I just still happen to fall back to working with a laptop for some odd reason. Maybe it’s because I can see the screen a lot easier, and even though I can use a folding keyboard for the phone, the laptop remains what I’m more comfortable with. I try to get the most out of everything I purchase. Sometimes it can be a challenge, but such a challenge can also be fun. This next few months could be very interesting to see where the economy is heading. The market’s going up, the market’s going down – who knows?
It used to be that a new operating system from Microsoft resulted in the perceived notion that one had to upgrade their cpu, ram, storage, or just upgrade their computer completely.
I don’t think that’s a thing anymore. In fact the new Windows 10 has probably extended the life of many systems. That was something I relied on Linux for – to squeeze more useful life out of my laptop.
Throw in a Chromebook for most users, and you probably save even more expenses. There is however usually a new MacBook Pro lurking just around the corner for some, and that would be a nice machine to work with, but I think I’ll muddle through for a while with what I already have. It works, and that’s usually an important consideration.

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