Sun. Dec. 6, 2020 – Gang aft agley*

Cool and damp.  Maybe rain, maybe not.

We did get a super light sprinkle late in the night last night, but the day was otherwise mostly clear, and overcast.

I slept late, drove across all of Houston, drove back, stopped at my secondary location to retrieve some presents, and got home late in the day.

Then I sorted more auction and ebay stuff, sorted Christmas presents, and stayed up WAY too late.   I really shouldn’t have had any iced tea after 6pm.  I barely noticed when it got to be 130am.

While I was doing other things, I started going through 2 big binders of music CDs that I picked up.   They were mostly full of commercial disks but there were also a bunch of “backed up” CDRs.   They appear to have been written in around 2009 and almost every one has errors.  Many have flaking reflective material, or holes in the foil.  Some have damage to the edge of the disk, either from moisture or hand oils.  All have a network of fine scratches from use.  In general, at least one track is unreadable, and for many, no tracks are readable without errors.  The problems are across all brands, memorex, office depot, the verbatim disks that look like 45 records, pretty much all the ordinary brands.  If you are counting on CDRs or DVDs for long term data storage, you should probably be rotating and re-burning your data, or putting it on spinning rust with periodic checks.  and if you can see through the foil when you hold the disk to the light, you might want another brand from the beginning.

Today I have to get to my secondary location and move some things.  There will be some inspector there on Monday, and some of my stuff is out where it shouldn’t be.  This can only happen if it’s not raining though.  Same for putting up lights and decor, or for most of the stuff on my list.

I really better get cracking on some of this or I’ll fall even further behind.  And that would be extra special not good.

So I’m off, to unstack, pull, toss, sell, and restack.  And in the mean time, also try to ‘live my best life’ as the whiny brats say.

I’m sure there is something you need to keep stacking….





Tues. Oct. 27, 2020 – Taco Tuesday! Or maybe not.

Cooler and humid.  We’re supposed to get some Fall weather for a few days.  The national forecast also says ‘rain’ or really thundershowers possible.

Monday was mostly overcast depending on your part of town.  Houston is a collection of micro-climates and even the local forecasts aren’t local enough.

I did my pickups, got some gub stuff and some household stuff.  That ate my afternoon by the time I got the stuff and went by my secondary location to drop some of it off.  I brought home some of what I need for my halloween candy dispensing machine too.

Before I left the house though, I went looking for a drive for my NVR pc.  Grabbing some drives from my box-o-random drives, I plugged them in to see what was what.   Two of the 4 were dead- clicks and whines, no platter spin up.   Two were fine, spun right up, partitioned and formatted no issues.  The dead ones were both Seagate, the good ones both WD Caviar Green.  Tiny sample size and old random drives from who knows where, but it was striking.

Had a police chopper orbiting over the neighborhood again too.  Then he went straight up a major street until it ended, then followed another to a point where he orbited, then back to the barn.  Looks like they were watching someone, who ran.  They followed until he ran out of road, watched for a while, then left.    The flight radar website was very helpful.

That led to some playing around with scanners for a while, but nothing productive.  I never did hear any chatter about the chase.

Closer to home I put the motion sensor for the “Driveway Patrol” on the porch and the receiver at my desk.  Even with the camera covering the front porch, I’ve been surprised to find a package waiting on the porch.  I really want to know if someone is at my door.  So I picked one up at an estate auction, and it works great.    Now I see the flashing light when someone approaches the door and I can glance at the camera and respond or not.

Small steps, baby steps, but steps nonetheless.

And I encourage you to take some steps toward your own goals.  Some of those steps should be stacking the stuff you might need later…



Wed. Oct. 21, 2020 – busy at home today

Cooler, cold front supposed to be coming in, and I can’t wait.

It was very humid but a bit cooler yesterday.  That made it nice for most of the day.  It was a bit too warm in the afternoon for me to wear my LA Police Gear Covert Casual Shirt.  I don’t know why but it’s the hottest shirt I own, short of flannel.  The idea is great- longer tail and hem, snaps instead of buttons, pattern to break up any ‘printing’… all details that are well executed and aimed at concealed handgun carriers.  Unfortunately, I broil in the shirt.  Oh well, maybe it’ll be cool enough next month.

Today’s agenda includes the computer work I didn’t get done yesterday which is mainly getting the PC I use with my security cams completely switched over to linux.   If that goes well, maybe I’ll get my NAS out of the safe and run some backups.

At some point, in the interest of reducing clutter (for my wife) I want to start ripping all my bluray and dvd movies.  Anyone who has built a home media library, I’d like to hear about what you did and if you like the result. Also, what you use to access it.  It’s something I can do in between other things, just feeding disks into  a machine while working at my desk.  I think it’s a massive undertaking, but I might as well get started.

I’ve also got to get more stuff out of the house.  I did get a few more things listed, and even got a lowball offer one item.  SO MUCH more to go though.

Socially, there is Halloween coming too.  With the rain, I haven’t done any more decor, but I did decide what I want to do to keep my distance from the little disease bags that come begging…  I think I can do it with a minimum of effort, using stuff I already have.  Just have to dress it up a bit.  I want to do at least one of the new elements I’ve been planning for a couple of years to the displays too.  I’ve got everything I need for an awesome 3D Eye of Sauron.  I haven’t picked a spot for it or put all the elements together yet.  I still have a couple of days to do something.   I think it’s REALLY important to continue participating in the social and cultural milieu especially as things get bad.  Not ‘band on the Titanic’ bad, but I want to keep the normal traditions going as much as possible.  It’s our culture that needs to be preserved.

Add in the normal ‘kids are home’ and domestic bliss activities, along with my never ending list of cleaning and organizing, and my day should be full.

I can’t even begin to make a prediction about the current Presidential race, but I don’t see how Sleepy Joe can avoid the taint of what’s coming out involving his son and family.  If it was Trump’s son in Hunter’s place, the mob would be screaming for his blood, not making excuses and trying to discredit the revelations or bury them.  The world has gone mad, with the population gone bi-polar.  I try to sit on the fulcrum and watch both sides move up and down, but I know which side I’d declare for if I had to.  I put up my Thin Blue Line flag last night, even if it gets me on some lefty’s list.  It’s not very grey man, but then I normally fly the Stars and Strips, and the Lone Star, so adding a flag isn’t much of an additional statement.  They already know where my sympathies lie.

I’m trying to get my house in order, and make room for more stacks… I’ll suggest that if you haven’t started putting some by, it’ll cost you more at this point, but it will likely be invaluable later.  Get started.  Keep going.  Keep stacking.



Tues. Oct. 20, 2020 – 10-20-2020 huh.

Cooler and wet.  Maybe some sunshine later.

Got rain and humidity yesterday.  Lots of both.  It kept me inside, since I was home with my student, and my wife was at the office.

So I decided it was time to mess with upgrading my NVR computer and software.  I was running ispy Agent on win10.  I am very tired of windows updating and killing my recording.  Agent has a version for linux….   well.   I updated agent and it failed to restart, so I had my motivation.

I also needed to add a much bigger hard drive, which has just been sitting here waiting for a good time.  Putting the UPS that’s sitting here in line with that pc has been on the list for a while.  Fractal.  That’s my to do list.

Had to clear a spot for the UPS and that meant vacuuming up the dust bunnies.  Then it wasn’t charged so I got to listen to that beeping for a while.  Pulled the pc and opened it up.  Blew it out.  I had installed the second 4TB drive with zip ties.  I don’t remember doing it, but I guess I did.  There isn’t any second drive cage in this little HP midsize case.  So where would the new 8TB go?  Pliers.  Case mod.  Foam and zip tie.  I fit the 4TB in tighter and strapped the 8 to it.  It’s pretty clean if a bit tight.  Budget models are technically expandable, but they (probably rightly) don’t really think anyone will.  Still would have been nice to have the drive cage included.  I noticed I still have a ram slot open.  I’ll have to look at filling that.

Why leave the 4TB drive?  Mainly as a place to archive any interesting video.

Formatted the 8TB drive under windows, made sure the Agent software really was borked by the update.  Inserted USB stick and booted to Mint.  Decided to just install it as a dual boot, but couldn’t.   The stock Dell drive has like a thousand partitions hidden on it– well at least 4.  Mint couldn’t or wouldn’t figure out how to just install alongside windows (even though that was a choice) and I couldn’t figure out what the heck I needed to do.  So I decided to try installing the Agent software on the live distro…

Which actually worked, after some cut and paste errors, and some user error on my part.  Remember that I’m just really sitting here monkey punching the keyboard.  But after several tries, I got it installed and started.  And it works.  It’s pegging all 8 cores, but the video is smooth and clear.  I did quickly run out of disk space, because the default install uses the same drive for storage, and there just wasn’t any space.  That’s when  I tried to point it at my new 8TB drive.  Sorry Charley, read only file system.  After poking at it, doing what seemed logical and watching it LOOK like it changed the permissions, it still didn’t really.

I shut off recording for the night, and have been just watching to see if the server is stable, which was my other issue with the software running on windows. (agent runs as a server, you interact with it using a browser.)   It’s always disconnecting from the server and I get a blank screen rather than the camera views.  So far it’s been stable and hasn’t disconnected yet.

Today I’ll be swapping the main drive for a blank and installing Mint for real.  I’ll have to reinstall all the codecs, software, and settings but hopefully that will be good and stable for a long time after that.

I might boot back to windows to do the file deleting and space clearing I want to do  on the 4TB first, just because I’m more familiar with it.

All in all it’s more messing around than I wanted, but MS is making it increasingly clear that they consider your pc to be theirs and they’ll do what they want, whenever they want.  I don’t care for that.

I’ve also got to pick up a couple of things today.  Wife is working from home so she can watch the younger one while I go out.

More household stuff from the auctions.    I’ve created a monster.

The news isn’t getting any better.  Biden would be cooked, resigning in disgrace if he weren’t their only hope to defeat Orangeman.  They literally can’t acknowledge that he’s crooked because of what they’ve got invested in him emotionally.  HE can bow out, but I don’t think he will.  I do expect a rash of single vehicle crashes, and overdose/suicide/mystery deaths.  I expect some other distractions too.

Stay away from crowds.  And keep stacking.



Tues. Oct. 6, 2020 – client visit today

Another cool but sunny day I hope.  Yesterday was nice, with some clouds but really a nice day.

I did my pickup, and drop off in the afternoon, so I did get out of the house.  It was my wife’s first day back in the office “for real” so I was mostly home with the kids.  I spent the morning fighting with USB sticks and microSD cards, with the goal of installing linux and the linux version of my security cam NVR software.  I’m done with windows updating and taking down my cameras.    Some of that tale of woe is in yesterday’s comments.   Late last night I got the image onto a USB drive but didn’t have time to install or test.  I won’t today either.

I’ve got to do a site visit and install some stuff for my client out in the country.  That will take whatever of the day remains when I head out there.  Before that, I’ve got some access points to configure.

And we’re meeting with the roofer this morning to sign the contract for our hail damage replacement roof.   Once that work is done, getting the HVAC replaced is next on the list.  We’ve made it through summer one last time (touch wood) but neither I nor my wife want to roll the dice for next year.  And we don’t want to have to do the work in the hot months, or under the gun.  Comments about HVAC manufacturers welcome.

Trump is home at the White House and people are acting like he’s going to Outer Mongolia.  He’s still going to get the best care available and Walter Reed is still just a short helo ride away.   Given the back stabbing doctors, he may not have felt safe there anyway, and there were far too many leaks and comments from people who should have known better.

And to all the people acting like he’s going to infect people on purpose because he’s evil, HE got the wuflu from someone else.  All those other people could also have gotten it from the same source or each other.  I haven’t seen anything convincing that Trump is personally spreading covid.  And if he is?  If freaking grocery store workers are ‘essential’ and MUST work with strangers and coworkers all day long, what is the President and the halls of government?  I guess no one cares if the deli clerk gets it from a customer, but if a White House aide gets it at work it’s a national event?  Gimme a break.

Anyway, stuff to do.  Better get to it.  I need more room for preps and less room for things that aren’t selling.  So I can keep stacking the good stuff.


Thur. Sep 3, 2020 – just another, just another day ay aay, just another…

(er….not August, Nick….I fixed it….RickH)

Hot, humid and overcast.  National forecast shows possibility of T Storms.

I got very little done yesterday.  Picked up some things.  Unburied some stuff at my secondary to take to auction.  One of the things I picked up and then stored away was incandescent light bulbs.  Yup, I buy them if I can get them cheap and in bulk.  There are places I really just like the light from the bulbs and they are getting harder to find.  These are “rough service” and fit through an exception in the eco wienie law so they’re not truly ‘unobtainium’ but getting 2oo clear bulbs for $2 was too good to pass up.  I got some others in a variety of wattages too.  Incans don’t last very long, so you need replacements.  Another long term consideration, they work just as well on DC as AC.  That’s a very post-apoc consideration, but it is a small contributing factor.   I saw LOTS of small incan bulbs running off car batteries when I was in China, and I’ve seen pictures of the same thing in other countries.  Useful, basic, and cheap.  Naturally they need to be banned.

A bunch of purchases were delivered including parts for my gennie repairs, and two of the three items I ordered from Home Depot.  The lightweight bucket lids came UPS in one box.  The 10 food safe buckets came in one big box, and I’m still waiting for the box of 10 heavy duty lids.   The weird thing is, both of the Home Depot shipments were opened.  It’s like someone looked inside to decide if they wanted to steal them or not.  Strange.  I never get opened boxes so getting two in a row, from the same shipper was more than odd.

Today, if it’s not too hot and sunny, I’ll move some of the gennie repairs along.  With stuff shaping up in the Atlantic, we might be looking at some storms in a few days.  It’d be comforting to have a working gennie before then.

I did get my replacement laser printer in place and installed.  Took downloading the HP drivers.  Man, win8 sucked when it comes to included drivers.  It turns out that I did manage to install my wife’s canon inkjet to my win8 machine, but didn’t know it because the Canon install hung.  It took killing the process in Task Manager to get the error popup (failed remote procedure call) and then the machine blue screened and rebooted.  After reboot, I had the printer installed and usable.  No idea what failed or why it failed like it did.  The inkjet was free from a neighbor, and is an All in One with a scanner for the kids to use.  Some of their classwork needs to be scanned (or photographed) and uploaded.  Since we got rid of our HP all in one, at my wife’s insistence, I was a bit taken aback when she sought out a new all in one.  Grrr.  I had a huge bag of ink for the old one…

Vet decided that my little dog’s hearing loss is not complete, and is most likely natural aging.  She recommended doing all the ‘senior dog’ organ function tests.  I agreed.  We’re grid up, and it would be nice to know his status and if there is anything we can address.  She prescribed joint supplements, and gabapentin for pain as needed.  If MY joints hurt, his are likely to be hurting too, so give him a dose.  We’ll give it a try anyway for now and see what the labs say.

Elsewhere, the world continues it’s downward slide.  Still time to improve your situation.  Keep stacking… or find yourself lackin’.



Fri. Aug. 14, 2020 – what, where did the week go?

Hot and humid.  Nasty.

Yesterday was very nasty outside.  Really hot and really humid.  I sweated through my shirt just going into the garage to get dinner out of the freezer.

So I didn’t get any work done outside.

I did get to the chiropractor and get my wife’s honda’s battery replaced.  Now I need to find my windshield washer fluid and fill that up.  Wish she’d have mentioned that earlier.

I had some issues with windows 10 yesterday, and Marcelo asked about commenting to remind me that patch Tuesday was here again.  Um, Yes Please!   ANYONE who has something to share that fits with the spirit and history of this place, and the interests of the people hanging out here is welcome.  Especially if it’s in an area I don’t cover well or at all.

I realized I’ve transitioned from ‘playing with computers’ to ‘using software ON the computer to do other real life stuff.’  In other words, I don’t see ‘computers’ as a hobby anymore.   In fact I often see them as a hindrance to getting work done or an annoyance.  That’s likely equal parts me aging, and most of the stuff to do with ‘computers’ becoming “good enough”.   It’s not necessary to even be aware of most of the things we used to consider basic knowledge- startup files, boot files, config files, interrupts, comm ports, cables, drives, terminators, performance tweaks, regedit, command line, etc.    In the way NASA made spaceflight boring, MS made computer use dull.

That’s probably a good thing for most people and uses.  It is a bit sad when you realize that your powerful and esoteric knowledge does you no good anymore, except to leave you with the certainty that things used to be different and that stuff should be possible that isn’t any longer.  But the wheel keeps turning, and complaining about it is like trying to command the tide.

I’ve got a couple of things to do outside the house today, and the usual list of stuff to do in and around it.   Or I can waste time on the internet with my friends. . .   hmmmm.  What should I choose?




PS- keep stacking, the world isn’t going away!

Fri. May 29, 2020 – fifth Friday this month…

Hot and damp, possibly sunny.

Yesterday was a dog’s breakfast. Depending on where you were in Houston you either got no rain or were dumped on. I got dumped on.

Got my errands done later than I’d have liked, and then went to my client’s house. And the tale of woe continues. More issues with connectivity both on the internal network and externally to the internet.

The AT&T tech was NOT good. He failed to save the account credentials to the DSL modem (which he replaced, as the other one got hit by lightning.) He also used the wrong account and failed to test it with the client’s devices. Seems that AT&T DSL will accept almost anything for account name and password, and tell you it connected to the internet. You can even use the built in tools to ping or traceroute, and they work. But if you launch a browser, you get an AT&T “fix the problems with your connection page” and a wizard that bombs out because of java errors when using Ipads. Iphones and laptops work, but not ipads. Much time was spent trying different combinations of account and password, until finally I got two to match. Before I could do that though, the wizard broke another way. I’d changed the default local lan IP address and gateway for the router to match our internal scheme. The wizard NEEDS you to have not changed any settings in the box for it to complete. SO MUCH SUCK.

After finally getting the DSL box configured, ports forwarded, rules created, we could finally get out to the internet, but some of the local lan stuff didn’t work… specifically our ipads couldn’t talk to our AV control system. After thinking it was a config issue, and wasting a bunch of time looking at that, I looked at the switch.

Some blinkenlights, not enough blinkenlights. Turns out, the lightning strike on AT&T’s line came in through the copper, smoked the DSL power wart (which shut down the UPS it was plugged into) but not the actual modem, and also smoked the port on the network switch it was connected to. I moved it to another port and got that back up but still no connection to some local hardware. MORE troubleshooting and I discover more dead ports on the network switch. Swap it out for an old HP switch I brought ‘just in case’ and viola, we’re back up. Score one for ‘hoarding’ gear.

Now I’m wondering what gear might have gotten a ‘tickle’ through the network switch and will be failing over the next year…

Moral of the story, lightning strikes have weird consequences. Everything connected to the piece that got hit should be considered suspect. And, AT&T DSL support sucks dead bunnies.

I got home very late, but with a working system behind me. Dinner was more saute’d frozen shrimp, and some instant rice. My wife made it for the kids and I had a plate waiting.

Oh, I took the trash out and realized I’ve got a bunch of rotten potatoes stored. That is going to be my gruesome task today, after swim team practice… cleaning out that mess. Then see if the above ground pool has all the necessary parts, and get sidetracked building same…

But hey, we got an extra Friday this month.

Keep your awareness up, and avoid crowds.

And keep stacking.


Tuesday, 3 February 2015

08:31 – When Barbara mentioned to her physical therapist yesterday that she planned to go back to work four weeks after her surgery, he said that just didn’t happen with knee replacements. At least six weeks, he said, and often eight. Four was unheard of. She told him that she’d gone back to work four weeks after her first knee replacement in October 2011, and he was very surprised.

The refrigerator is doing fine, so far. Of course, it hasn’t had time for much frost to form and for the auto-defrost function to melt the ice and let it run down into the refrigerator section.

I read a short article on Obama’s proposed $4 trillion budget. I think he needs to simplify things considerably. What if everyone’s paycheck, dividends, interest, profits, and so on just went directly to the federal government, which could then just give each person whatever it thought they deserved? That would eliminate the “income inequality” that progressives are so concerned about, because everyone would have nothing.

12:35 – Well, I’m now running Linux Mint 17.1 KDE, which is an LTS version. The system had been acting hinky for several days. Yesterday the power failed for an hour or so. When I tried to reboot the system it gave some disk errors before it finally booted. I made backups of all my data while it was still limping along. This morning it died completely. The drive was a Seagate Barracuda 1.5 TB that had about 18 months of run time on it. I wish I’d had a Hitachi spare, but all I had was an unused Seagate Barracuda 2.0 TB drive, so that’s what I installed.

I had been running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS because Linux Mint didn’t have their LTS version available when I installed Ubuntu. I checked and found that their 17.1 is an LTS version based on Ubuntu 14.04, so I went ahead and installed the 64-bit KDE version. It’s updating right now. I’ll get my data restored to the new drive this afternoon.

All of which reminds me that I need to do a section in the prepping book on using Linux on desktops and notebooks. In a situation where the Internet may be down, the last thing anyone needs is a computer running Windows that decides it has to phone home to Microsoft before it’ll work.

Friday, 29 August 2014

09:19 – As usual this time of year, we’re run ragged trying to ship science kits and build more. We got orders for 17 kits overnight and so far this morning, which wouldn’t be a problem except that we’re running out of stock on some of the kits. So I’ll get the kits shipped that we do have in stock, and then go build more of what we’ve run out of.

It’s funny. I remember the day we sold our very first kit. At that point kit #100 seemed very far away. Then we sold kit #100, and kit #1,000 seemed very far away. Then we sold kit #1,000, and kit #10,000 seemed impossibly far away. But it’s probably not as far in the future as it seemed at the time, particularly once we get our classroom kits available. When that happens, instead of a good month being 100 kit sales, it’ll be 1,000 kit sales. And at that point, we’ll need a lot more space and some employees. I’m still of two minds about that.

15:06 – Wow. Talk about advice so bad it’s scary: Why Your Passwords Should be at Least 24 Characters Long

And this comes from a supposed computer security expert. I have no problem with suggesting a 24-byte password. The issue is the kind of 24-byte password the author recommends. Here’s an example: HarleyDavidsonStarbucks!!!

That’s exactly three dictionary words and three bangs. Better than a six-byte password, but it needs to be a lot better than it is. Crackers use dictionaries, too, and a supercomputer is just as capable of concatenating dictionary words as it is of working byte by byte. As a matter of fact, there are special dictionaries for crackers.

I would suggest a 24-byte password, but using purely random characters generated by a hardware random-number generator (AKA, dice or coins). So you end up with a password that is 24-bytes of random gibberish. Everyone seems concerned that such passwords are impossible to remember. So what? Write them down and let Firefox store them. Sure, doing that creates a gaping security hole, but again so what? If someone has physical access to your premises and your computer, you’re screwed anyway. What you should be worrying about is someone gaining electronic access to the hashed versions of your passwords, either on your own machines or on, say, Target’s corporate servers. If the plaintext of your passwords is 24 random characters, they can crack away to their heart’s content and not gain access to the plaintext for many decades. Unless, of course, someone figures out (or has already figured out) how to quickly factor the products of large prime numbers. If that happens/has happened, all bets are off.