Category: technology

Wed. Dec. 6, 2023 – on this day not much special happened.

Cool and clear, again, and still. Nice in other words. This is winter in Houston. Some rain coming though, just not sure when. Long range forecast has us clear through Thursday or Friday at least.

Spent yesterday doing errands and work. Did my kid chauffeuring in the morning and afternoon. Got to my client’s and swapped some gear. The switch I picked doesn’t seem to work in the application. The goal is to get internet and internal net to the remote driveway gate. I used a pair of ubiquiti AC5’s in “cable replacement mode” for the wireless link between the house and the gate, but I need to provide PoE for the AC5 and I need a small rugged switch there to connect the AC5 and the gate company’s hardware, and provide a future upgrade port for a camera, also PoE. I was using a NanoSwitch, which is 4 ports of PoE passthru. The one I was using had a dead port from a lightning strike so I wanted to replace it.

Enter the Flex mini… a 5 port switch, powered by PoE and providing 4 ports of PoE… Seems perfect, and it is smaller and cheaper than the Nano, and part of the unified management system. (ubiquiti has two main management systems, UISP and UniFi, no idea why, but most of the deployed gear at this site is UniFi and it is automagic… and simplifies deployment and management – when it works.) So the Flex looks like a good fit. Except it isn’t. UniFi gear has to be “adopted” by the management console (another piece of gear running EdgeOS and uses a browser as a GUI) before it’s anything but a lump. In other words, the AC5 provides the connection back to the network, but the switch isn’t a switch until AFTER it sees and joins the network…

When I figured that out, I took the switch inside, connected it to the network, adopted it, made sure it was configured to have PoE on every port, took it back out to the gate, hooked it all up and >>>>> Nothing. AC5 still not powered. The f-ing switch is too dumb (by being too smart) to turn on the PoE and enabling the gear that provides its network backhaul. So I add a PoE injector to power the AC5, and connect it to the switch, and NOW everything is fine. But it feels kludge-y and the additional injector is another point of failure in the enclosure, and it’s an example of someone being too clever by half.

At some point, I’ll go back to a new NanoSwitch, even if I can’t manage it with the same tool. It’s a cleaner solution. It occurs to me that I might not have the issues if I actually was trained on the gear choices but as my career winds down, that is less and less likely.

Someone asked yesterday about extending their wifi a little bit, and this is clearly overkill for that. I am happy with a netgear wifi extender at home. It plugs into a wall outlet for power, and it works to extend my wifi into the back bedroom with a good signal. It needs to be rebooted every couple of months, but other than that, once configured it just keeps working. It also has an ethernet port to provide a wired connection to the wifi for older hardware. Using APs with mesh linking and backhaul is another more involved option.


Today I’ll do a couple of auction pickups and some shopping for us and for my party duties. With collecting the kids from school, that will eat my day.


Btw, anyone else have an ulcer/cold sore/fever blister/painful crack on their lip that is unusual for them, along with cold or flu symptoms? My client’s wife has the same symptoms I’ve been having this week, right down to the sore lip. IDK if this is related, something new going around, or just coincidence, so I’m asking the group.


Take this time as the gift it is, and keep preparing. Stacking is preparing…and it’s easy.


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Mon. Oct. 16, 2023 – back to work you slacker.

Cool, almost cold, then warming. Clear for a few days according to the national forecast. Yesterday was nice, starting around 64F and getting warmer. Cooler after sundown of course. With the breeze, it was chilly in shorts.

I didn’t get done much of what I wanted to do yesterday. Sooprise! Not. Spent a good part of the day waiting for and expecting to be interrupted by my wife getting home. Her changing flight times made that longer than I expected and really broke up my day. So that is my excuse. I did get some auction stuff done, and some sorting. Continued feeding CDs into my computer for ripping and storage. I like ripping CDs better than DVDs since they are so much faster to rip. I can really make progress on a stack of discs.

I have been mixing in the occasional DVD, and found one that was rotten in a way I haven’t seen before. I mention it because of our previous discussions about media longevity. It was an expensive and well produced copy of Edward Scissorhands (10th anniversary). Some DVDs are better than others, with thicker discs, thicker coatings, better packaging, etc. This was a better one, and yet something seems to have gotten between the base disc and the protective coating. The result is the reflective layer is a darker color in an irregular donut shape, almost as if you trapped a circle of oil between two glass plates. I’ve never seen one fail in this way before, and it is completely unreadable. The packaging is in good condition (no indication of moisture or heat) and there isn’t a scratch or mark on the disc surface. Weird.

Today I really do need to get some of the stuff done I’ve been pushing off. I’ve got auction, home, and holiday stuff to do. I need to just get moving and let inertia carry me along with a busy and full day. I am feeling better, I think the cold is almost done, so that should help. I just wasn’t feeling great yesterday, after being up late and having a mild headache most of the day.

To that end, time to get to it.

Stack. Stack. Stack. And then stack some more.


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Fri. Jan. 21, 2022 – or 01212022 – another week slid by, yet this month is really long…

Cold, but I don’t know yet how cold it will get, or how cold it got.  It was 35F when I went to bed.  It is supposed to be clear today anyway, and tomorrow as well.

Mostly spent yesterday poking at things.  I did get to the grocery store, and noted in comments that  there were big gaps in the shelves in several areas.   Cat food and cold and flu OTC meds being the most prominent.

Today should be more auction and ebay stuff. If the weather stays clear I’ll go to my storage unit and clean and sort.  If not, I’ll do some more ebay stuff here at the house.  I’ve got stuff to test and clean and list.   Last night I had stuff sell in the auction by the guy who changed his mind about taking all of my stuff.   I think I did well with LPs and with books, of all things.  There were a couple of collectibles that didn’t do badly, and there was some stuff that sold for $1, but  at least it’s gone.

I hope he’ll be happy and take another load right away.

This afternoon and evening, my wife and D2 will be joined by the rest of her troop and they’ll be off to GS camp for a Gymkana, whatever that is.   The hope is sports on horseback, and related to horses.  Hard to be sure from the GS description.  Friday and Saturday night away, home Sunday afternoon.  That leaves me with D1 and a bunch of work to do.  We’ll see how that goes.  Cookie season is in a week or two, so the last bits have to be out of the house to make way.  Of course that was supposed to have already happened, but …  plans vs reality.

While I was at the grocery, I did add a flat of canned peas to the stacks,  6 pounds of bacon, and some pork chops and loin.  Beef was in short supply and none was on sale.  A little voice keeps poking me to add alternatives to fresh milk.  I have a bunch of Lido powdered full fat, and we don’t use as  much as we did a year ago, but I think I’ll add more.   It keeps fairly well.   I should open an old can and see how it’s doing.  For science or something.   But seriously, when I get little pokes from the universe like I’ve been getting about the milk, I ignore it at my peril.   YMMV but I’ll be checking the old and adding some new.

Anyone else getting weird vibes or feel short of something?

If you do, stack it up.



BTW, I’ve now been doing this officially for 4 years ( a bit longer if you count the days I was just filling in for Bob while he was sick), without missing a day that I can remember.  Some days the end product was pretty weak, but at least the lights were on and the door unlocked.  All y’all are the reason I do it, to keep this unique thing that Bob built alive.  Thanks for sticking around and making this place somewhere I enjoy spending my time.  And thank you Barbara for letting us, and Rick for making it all work.  We’ve got a rocky road ahead, but we’re all better prepared for it than we were, and we will get through it.



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Mon. Nov. 15, 2021 – which is crazy, since that means we’re half way thru November

Cool and clear, with sun! Supposedly for the next few days the weather will be nice. I hope so. It was Sunday, with a bit of dark scattered cloudiness in the afternoon, clearing later.

I spent Sunday cleaning the house, hoeing weeds in the raised beds, greeting my returning pack members, and generally doing home front things.

Later in the evening, I sat down to do some quick drawings for my install this week. Oy vey. When I was doing it full time, I used a specialist CAD package tied to a DB for system layout drawings. I even bought my own copy when I went independent, for $1500 US. It’s been a while, and I don’t even have it installed anymore, but I looked and I can D/L the fully functional demo for free. So I did. And 8 years later it still sucks. The main selling point is their library of symbols for all the av gear you might put in the drawings. 1200 manufacturers, many thousands of symbols. And they suck. Balls. Still. Back in the day I ended up drawing about 1/3 to 1/2 of the symbols myself and I am still seeing the same thing. No rack gear symbol for Directv receivers? REALLY? They have schematic blocks for the DVRs, but no “front view” for the rack layout drawing.

Worse, the style of all the symbols is horrible. I’d need to print C size or bigger just to get text labels that were readable, and since that used to be one of the major problems with the software, I’m not even sure that would work.

I’ll be taking a big drawing pad to site, free handing the layout, and then drawing it from scratch in Visio. At least in Visio I can produce a good looking drawing that accurately and simply conveys the information needed. And once I get back in the groove, I’m almost faster producing the ‘stencils’ than looking them up in the other software and adding them to the drawing.

The same company also produced a tool that was the best in the business for what it did. It was called ‘Rack Tools’ and let you build drawings of equipment racks from their library of symbols, or easily add your own. I started my old version up, it phoned home (said there were updates, and asked, but I said Yes) and then bricked itself saying it wasn’t supported any longer. Flocking Axholes. I can’t even use the old version anymore? can’t open old drawings and print or copy them out…? I’ll reinstall the software, and not update, but iirc it phones home to ‘register’ so that might not even work. Who nukes your installed copy without warning? Jerks, that’s who.

Proprietary tools that self destruct are the absolute worst. And anyone who builds them that way sucks. I hope you get ransomwared out of business you jerks.

So that’s what I’m doing this week, starting today. Rip and replace, with some reused gear, that I’ll find out about today when I meet my partner on site. I don’t like ‘winging it’ for things like this. I like to solve as many of the issues before starting the work, because I know there will be plenty that arise as we go. But it is what it is.

Stacking some FRNs with this project, and for a while at least, they are a useful thing to stack.

Stack some of your own.


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Friday, 14 April 2017

09:02 – It was 55.2F (13C) when I took Colin out at 0715 this morning, with heavy fog. Our back fence line and the trees along it were barely visible, but everything beyond it was a uniform gray.

More and more web sites are now on my no-visit list, as they implement anti-ad/script-blocking measures. I run Adblock Plus and NoScript on Firefox. I happened to use Firefox yesterday afternoon to visit one of those sites. The main page looked normal, but clicking on any of the articles displayed an error page that said there was either a problem with my internet connection or I was running an ad or script blocker and that I should disable it. Yeah, right, like that’s gonna happen. Instead, I took the action that most of their former readers will take and removed them from my bookmarks. Anyone who allows ads to display or scripts to run on a website is just asking to be infected with malware or other serious problems.

Attempts to block adblockers and script blockers have become rampant over the last few months. I blame it on Trump, since it seems to have started right around then. Facebook famously tried to implement blocking of ad/script blockers and failed miserably. The same is true of other sites. But the thing is, even if a site somehow succeeds, all it’s doing is driving off most of its readers. The problem is that sites regard ad revenue as the only way to pay their costs, while readers regard ads and scripts as completely unacceptable. There simply are NO acceptable ads. If you want to monetize your site, put up a paywall or a tip jar.

If that drives you out of business, so be it. Die gracefully instead of polluting your readers’ screens. Just be aware that most readers don’t consider your content to be worth paying for at all, let alone by letting obnoxious, dangerous ads be displayed on their systems. And only a tiny fraction will donate via tip jar, let alone by subscribing. You simply don’t have any content that is worth paying for. And by “paying for” I include such minimal things as giving you a valid email address.

There’s apparently a new report out that has panicked commercial websites. In Germany, 40% of internet users use ad/script blockers; in France, it’s 30%; in the US, it’s still under 20%. It’s time for us all to strike back. Those figures need to be 100%. For many years, every time I install or degrunge someone’s computer, the first thing I do is install AdBlock Plus and NoScript. We should all be doing this. Every time you see someone’s computer running without blockers, tell them of the dangers of running barefoot and offer to install blockers for them and show them how they work. If everyone with basic computer smarts does this for all of his friends and acquaintances, we can get the percentage of systems running blockers up much closer to 100%, making it impossible for parasitic web sites like The Atlantic, Facebook, etc. to earn money from ads. Any web site owner who thinks ads are an acceptable way to generate revenue needs to be awakened rudely. Let’s drive them out of business.

And, yes, I’m looking at you, Google.

I got another one of “those” emails overnight. I periodically get emails, sometimes from long-time readers, who think I’m not just expecting a TEOTWAWKI event but actually looking forward to it. They’re wrong on both counts.

On the first, I’ve said over and over that I’m not expecting a TEOTWAWKI event but instead a gradual (or not-so-gradual) slide toward dystopia. Yes, a TEOTWAWKI event is possible. In fact, it’s likely, depending on your time frame. I’ve guesstimated the probability of such an event at 0.03/year, so over the long term it’s more likely than not to occur. But if my guesstimate is correct, that also means that the probability of things continuing pretty much as they are is 0.97/year. So our preparations focus on that 0.97 probability, with just a nod when possible to the 0.03.

As to the second point, not only am I not looking forward to a world-ending catastrophe, I dread it as much as any sane person does. Probably for different reasons than most people. I’m not concerned with the humanity thing. I don’t really care if 100 million Americans die, except to the extent that such an event affects me, my family, and my friends. Yes, if I could wave a magic wand and cause every prog/neocon/politician/bankster to cease to exist, I’d do so, but only if it didn’t inconvenience me and mine. That’s not an option, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed that no such event occurs.

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Friday, 31 March 2017

09:14 – It was 53.5F (12C) when I took Colin out around 0715 this morning, foggy and raining. We had several deluges overnight. The electronic rain gauge claimed we had 1.62 inches (4.1 cm) total, but it reads very low, particularly when we get heavy rains. We don’t have the tube gauge outside now because freezing weather fractures them, but my guess is that we had somewhere between 2 and 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) total. And it’s still raining. Things have been pretty dry since late January, and now it looks as though we’ll get an entire month’s worth in a couple of days.

I was disturbed this morning when I turned on my Kindle Fire HD7 and the splash screen told me that Alexa had been installed and needed to be activated. I never asked for Alexa. I don’t want it on my tablet, listening to everything we say and sending it to Amazon’s cloud servers. Several times in the past I’ve thought about rooting the Fire and installing Android, but this latest outrage by Amazon may actually be the final straw. If I brick it, it’s no great loss. I think I paid $69 for it. Once I figure out how to install Android on my HD7, I’ll also install it on Barbara’s HDX7. I really resent vendors like Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple, who seem to think that they’re entitled to use other people’s hardware and resources for their own purposes, especially when those purposes are against the user’s interests.

Speaking of annoying software, LibreOffice has gotten worse and worse with each update. For the last several months, it’s been crashing periodically, taking down all instances on the taskbar. Lately, it’s also started hanging frequently. I’ll save a document or send it to the printer, and LO hangs for 30 seconds or a minute before it brings up the save or print dialog. To make matters worse, yesterday the LO rendering went wonky. When I scrolled up or down in a document, it became unreadable.

So yesterday, I decided to uninstall and reinstall LO to see if that’d help. My Linux Mint installation doesn’t offer an option to nuke all of LO; I had to remove each of the applications separately. When I finished doing that, there were no instances of anything LO-related showing as installed. I use only the word processor and spreadsheet, so I installed those individually rather than installing the whole package. When I finished doing that, I rebooted the system, just to be safe.

When I then clicked on a document file in File Manager, it came up normally, albeit ugly looking and with a different color scheme than I’d had–blue rather than Linux Mint green. But the real PITA was that when I minimized that document, it didn’t show up on the task bar. That makes switching between/among open documents very difficult, since it appears that there are no open documents. I can still use Alt-Tab to toggle through the open (but invisible) tabs, but that’s very awkward.

So I downloaded Apache OpenOffice, which, like LO, is a fork of the discontinued OOo, this one sponsored by IBM. I haven’t had time to install it but it may come to that.


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Sunday, 26 March 2017

09:44 – It was 51.9F (11C) when I took Colin out around 0715 this morning. We’re supposed to get rain pretty much all day today, and well above average temperatures for the next several days.

I’m about ready to bag Firefox. It’s slow, bloated, and has a lot of other issues. I’ve had Vivaldi installed for several months and have been using it from time to time. Barbara has also been having minor nagging issues with Firefox on her notebook, so yesterday I installed Vivaldi for her and imported all her Firefox data. We’ll see how she likes it.

I’ve been thinking about our medical preps and looking at various prepping sites for ideas. What strikes me immediately is that many preppers are going about things the wrong way. I try to apply systematized decision making, using a simplified type of n-dimensional multivariate analysis to decision making.

For prepping decisions, the n-dimensional part is 3-dimensional:

  1. How likely is an event?
  2. How easy or difficult is it to take measures against that event?
  3. How much will it cost in time/money to take those measures?

When you finish your analysis, you end up with each event ranked as likely/unlikely, easy/difficult, and cheap/expensive. Deal with the likely/easy/cheap ones first and the unlikely/difficult/expensive ones last, if at all.

With regard to medical preps, a lot of people have built what amount to trauma kits, which fall into the unlikely/difficult/expensive class, but have ignored the likely/easy/cheap ones. It’s all well and good to have what you need to deal with gunshot wounds, assuming you have the skills to do so, but gunshot wounds are definitely in the unlikely group. Sure, it might happen, but it’s not the first thing you should be preparing for medically. Unless you’re a physician or a trauma nurse, you’re as likely to kill the patient as help him.

GI problems on the other hand, are not just likely but almost certain. Between greatly elevated stress levels and less than ideal sanitation, you’re going to be dealing with diarrhea and constipation, not just occasionally but regularly. The former can kill the patient; the latter will just make them wish they were dead.

Fortunately, both problems are probably going to be pretty easy to deal with. Stock up on loperamide for minor diarrhea and oral rehydration salts for more severe cases. Both are cheap and effective. (By the way, unless you really know what you’re doing and have the resources to culture and identify STEC versus non-STEC bacteria, NEVER EVER treat even the most severe diarrhea with antibiotics; doing so may kill the patient.)

As to constipation, stock up on laxatives. The cheapest and one of the most reliable is the saline laxative Epson salts. One tablespoon in a glass of water normally works within a few hours. You can buy a large retort bag of the stuff at Costco or Sam’s for a few bucks. PEG laxatives are also safe and effective. Costco sells a 3-pack with 90 daily doses for about $20 in stores and on-line.

In med school, one of the first things they teach is that when you hear hoofbeats, don’t think about zebras. In other words, consider the most likely cause, horses, first and only after you’ve eliminated the likely causes should you consider the unlikely ones. The same is true for prepping, medical or otherwise.

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Sunday, 5 March 2017

09:13 – It was 30.4F (-1C) when when I took Colin out this morning, with light winds. Barbara is cleaning house this morning. This afternoon we’ll be doing more kit stuff, including filling a bunch of chemical bottles.

Barbara’s notebook is now happily running Linux, with all her data transferred over to it. The system is noticeably snappier with the SSD and Linux than it ever was with Windows. She’s just happy that it works, as am I.

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Friday, 3 March 2017

08:56 – It was 29.1F (-1.6C) when when I took Colin out this morning, with snow flurries and light winds. Barbara is off to the gym and supermarket this morning, and plans to take Bonnie, our next-door neighbor, out for lunch. Bonnie turns 89 years old today.

The SSD for Barbara’s notebook is supposed to show up with the mail this morning, so I’ll spend some time today getting her notebook running on the SSD with Linux Mint 18.1 LTS. I’ve been using the Cinnamon environment for years, but I think I’ll install the KDE version for Barbara since she’s used to MS Windows.

Finally. The price of powdered eggs skyrocketed when the chicken plague struck, and has stayed high since then. When I last bought powdered eggs, right before the plague, I paid $17.50 for a 33-ounce #10 can. Almost overnight, that price doubled, and finally reached about $50/can. It’s gradually declined since then, but as of even a week ago it was still at $27/can or so. When I checked Walmart yesterday around dinnertime, they had Augason #10 cans of powdered eggs for $12.99.

At first, I figured they were actually going to ship the #2.5 cans rather than the #10 cans they were advertising, but I checked Amazon, which also had the #10 cans for $12.99. Obviously, the new, much lower price of eggs has kicked in. So I ordered four more #10 cans, which is just under 24 dozen eggs.

Augason rates the shelf life as 10 years, but as usual that’s imaginary. I remember in 1979 spending the night with a prepper friend. The next morning, his wife made bacon and scrambled eggs for breakfast. After breakfast, he handed me a #10 can, which was military-issue from 1944. I’d just eaten 35-year-old eggs reconstituted from powder, but I noticed nothing out of the ordinary. I’m sure these Augason powdered eggs will be as good decades from now as they would be if I opened them today.

At $12.99 per can, if you need powdered eggs to add to your preps, now is the time to grab them. I’m not storing enough eggs to have scrambled egg breakfasts, but they’re also useful for cooking and baking.

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09:58 – Here’s an interesting datum about the longevity of writable optical media. I just downloaded Linux Mint 18.1 (I decided on Cinnamon for Barbara because it’s not the pig that KDE is) and was looking around for a disc to burn it to. There was a stack of old Verbatim DVD+RW discs just lying in a pile, so I grabbed one. It had last been written on 14 May 2006, almost 11 years ago. It read fine. The last six digits of the checksum, which were all I’d recorded, checked out. I just wrote and verified LM to the disc without error. Understand, this pile of discs wasn’t even on a spindle, just a random disc I grabbed from a random pile of old discs. So maybe there’s hope for very old writable discs.

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Thursday, 2 March 2017

09:16 – It was right at freezing when I took Colin out this morning, with winds gusting to about 50 MPH (80 KPH). The next couple days are to be the coldest since mid-February, but still well above normal.

Barbara’s Windows notebook has been giving her fits. Have I ever mentioned just how much I hate Windows? It’s a progressive operating system, versus the libertarian Linux. The latest problem is that Windows insists on changing “connect to WiFi automatically” to “connect to WiFi manually”.

Enough is enough. Barbara’s and my notebooks are identical, and I run Linux Mint on mine without any problems. So I’m going to switch her over to Linux Mint. Rather than install Linux on her hard disk, I decided to pull her hard drive, put it on the shelf, and install an SSD. She doesn’t use the system for much other than reading email, browsing the web, keeping her blog, and keeping checkbook register spreadsheets and personal documents. Her current Windows installation takes only 52 GB of disk space, most of which is probably bloat. I was about to order her a 240 GB SSD, but upon reflection I decided that a 120 GB SSD was more than large enough. So I ordered her a SanDisk 120 GB unit, which is to arrive tomorrow.

When it arrives, I’ll pull a backup of all her data, pull the old hard drive and put it on the shelf, install the SSD, install Linux Mint, and restore her data. She’s already running Libre Office, Firefox, and Thunderbird, so there won’t be much work involved in getting her up and running.

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