Thursday, 25 August 2016

10:15 – I’ve about decided to give up on Firefox. With every release, it becomes buggier and slower, as well as taking more and more RAM and CPU. I’m already running Opera Mobile on my Fire, and I have the full Opera installed on my Linux desktop system. I often have to resort to it when Firefox just doesn’t work on a particular site. It’s much faster than Firefox 48.0 (48.0!), and it seems a lot less buggy.

The final straw came yesterday when I was trying to print ten postage labels for kits. The USPS Click-N-Ship website was moving slower than the proverbial molasses in January. I got tired of sitting watching a spinner for literally a minute every time I clicked to a new page. I finally bagged it and got Opera setup with my USPS account information. Response time dropped from a minute/page to a fraction of a second.

There’s a guy out in the yard right now marking the underground electric cable. The Internet cable guy marked that yesterday. If we do decide to put a garden plot out on that side of the property, I wanted to make sure to stay far away from buried cables.

Barbara is building more science kits at the moment. Later today, we’ll be labeling and filling bottles for still more.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

09:42 – Our main BK01A biology and CK01A chemistry kits are our biggest sellers by far. Between the two of them, they probably outsell all other kits combined by a ratio of 10:1 or better. But the other kits do sell, and we build them in smaller numbers to make sure they’re fresh. The dangers of that are, first, that we can get a bulk order for one of the smaller selling kits, and second, that with these kits shipping gradually, I may not notice that it’s time to build more. That’s the case right now with our FK01A forensic kits and our CK01B smaller chemistry kits, of which we’re down to only half a dozen each. The CK01B kits aren’t a problem, because they’re a subset of the full CK01A kits. We always have bottled chemicals in stock for chemistry kits, so it’s just a matter of making up CK01B chemical bags. The FKK01A forensic kits are more of a problem because they have a large number of chemicals in them, most of which are specific to the kit. So I need to make up solutions for and bottle a lot of these chemicals for the next batch. We’ll work on that this week.

My Fire HD7 is usable again. The problem was that both the Amazon Silk browser and Firefox were essentially unusable on it. Last night, I decided to install Opera mobile, which installs and runs without a problem. It’s now setup to let me browse my favorite websites and check my mail, which is all I use the Fire for. I waited so long to install Opera because it’s not my favorite browser, because I expected getting an adblocker running on it would be problematic, and because it got rotten reviews in the Amazon appstore. As it turns out, it solves all my problems with the Fire and I can now continue using it. Opera Mobile even has a built-in adblocker. It’s not nearly as good as uBlock Origin or Adblock Plus running on my desktop systems, but it’s decent for a mobile adblocker.

I need to work on a detailed shopping list before we make our next trip down to Winston for a Costco run. I agree with Barbara’s general plan, which is to continue buying stuff we actually eat that whenever possible is also suitable for long-term storage. We’ll still buy fresh and frozen foods like meats, butter, and so on, but other than that we’ll focus on canned goods, dry staples, etc. That, and non-food items, like boosting our toilet paper stores to a one-year supply.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

10:19 – Barbara is heading down to Winston this morning to run errands and meet friends for lunch and then dinner. She won’t be back until mid-evening, so it’s wild women and parties for Colin and me today.

We got another batch of biology kits built yesterday, so we’re in pretty good shape for the next couple or three weeks unless we get a large bulk order for something. Starting today I’ll be making up more chemical solutions to fill still more bottles.

One preparedness category that’s often overlooked is having the means to prepare food during a long power outage. You may find yourself having to cook over a fire. You could use your current pots and pans, of course, but unless your everyday pots and pans are cast iron using them over a fire will probably damage or destroy them. I found that out by experience back before I met Barbara, when I tried to cook over a campfire using standard thin metal aluminum and stainless steel cookware. It just doesn’t stand up very well to flames.

With the latest delivery from, we now have what I consider the essential minimum cast-iron cookware: a Lodge 3-Quart Combo Cooker–which is a standard skillet and a deep skillet, either of which can be used as a lid for the other–and a Lodge 8 Quart Cast Iron Deep Camp Dutch Oven, whose legs and flat top optimize it for use over a charcoal or wood fire. The Combo Cooker can be used on a standard gas or electric cooktop, but the Camp Dutch Oven is really not suitable for use on a standard cooktop, gas or electric. We unboxed the Dutch oven to check it, but then reboxed it and stored it downstairs. The Combo Cooker lives upstairs in the kitchen, and we’re starting to use it routinely. At some point, I’ll probably add a larger skillet or two and perhaps a standard Dutch Oven for use in the kitchen.

I’m really at the point where I’m ready to blow away the Fire OS on my Fire HD7 and replace it with vanilla Android. Amazon has really butchered Fire OS, all in the interest of locking people into their walled garden and preventing them from using ad blocking software. I’ve had it. I’ll wait a couple months, until the next major release of Android, because the current version has a serious vulnerability that won’t be addressed until then. If I end up bricking my Fire, so be it.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

12:59 – I just spent the last five hours trying to recover from a boot failure on my main system. As it turned out, it wasn’t the hard drive; it was either the power cable or data cable to that drive, or the ATA interface itself. After trying other drives, I finally connected the “failed” drive to a different power cable and interface and it came up normally.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

09:40 – Barbara is in Winston today, running errands, having lunch with a friend, and then making a small Costco run on her way back up here.

The final season of Downton Abbey is now available on Amazon streaming. I was surprised the other night when Barbara suggested that instead of just watching series 6, we go back and rewatch it from the beginning. I have no problem doing that, of course. Downton Abbey is decent television. Not as good as the original Upstairs, Downstairs, but good enough to watch again. We’re interleaving it with another series we’re rewatching, HBO’s Rome. That series is annoyingly ahistorical, but at least it’s watchable and has much better dresses than Downton Abbey. We also have a lot of decent stuff queued up on Netflix streaming, including the latest seasons of Hell on Wheels and Peaky Blinders. We won’t run short of stuff to watch in the evenings, although Barbara is usually doing crosswords and I’m usually browsing the web or reading an ebook at the same time.

Speaking of which, I just downgraded my Fire HD7 from Fire OS 5.x to 4.x. Fire OS 5.x is better in most respects, but I simply can’t tolerate the fact that they’ve moved the navigation bar in landscape mode from the right of the screen to the bottom. The Home icon is in the center, and I’m constantly pressing it accidentally, taking me out of whatever website I was looking at and returning me to the home screen. All I really use this thing for is checking my own web site and checking webmail, so the new features in Fire OS 5.x are pretty much a who cares for me.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

09:43 – Barbara has been gone for 48 hours. It sure is boring when she’s away, for both Colin and me. I didn’t want to bother her yesterday while she was in class, so I sent her a text to check in. That was the first text message I’d ever initiated. She called back at dinner time to say everything was going well and that she was having a good time. Colin and I both really miss her, but she needs to get away from the daily routine around here and going to one of these craft classes with her friend Bonnie Richardson is a good way to do it.

I’m about at the point of dropping Firefox entirely. Every new release is worse than the last, less stable and eating more resources. It’s a bad application, and it keeps getting worse. A year or so ago, I played around with Chromium for Linux and found that I couldn’t live with the gaping holes in its functionality. So now I’m playing around with Opera, which I last looked at probably a decade ago. So far, it’s looking okay, so I may shift all my stuff over to it.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

09:32 – Barbara is working out in the yard today. James, who mows our lawn, is coming over to help her load his truck up with some junk from down in the corner of the yard and haul it off to the dump.

I finally got KompoZer installed on my Mint 17.3 system. Debian dropped it from their repositories, which meant that Ubuntu no longer offered it, which meant that Linux Mint no longer offered it. I didn’t want to mess around with building it from source, so it was fortunate that I came across this page. FTA and for my own future reference:

How To Install kompozer

Kompozer was dropped from the repos, since it is no longer maintained in Debian. But, you can still install it on newer releases.

Use packages from 12.04 Precise

These packages are installable on at least the 12.10, 13.04, 14.04 and 15.04 releases.

First, install dependencies:

sudo apt-get install libatk1.0-0 libc6 libcairo2 libfontconfig1 libfreetype6 libgdk-pixbuf2.0-0 libglib2.0-0 libgtk2.0-0 libidl0 libnspr4 libnss3 libpango1.0-0 libpng12-0 libstdc++6 libx11-6 libxft2 libxinerama1 libxrender1 libxt6 zlib1g

Then, get the two packages, and install them in the correct order.

For 32bit systems:



sudo dpkg -i kompozer-data_0.8~b3.dfsg.1-0.1ubuntu2_all.deb

sudo dpkg -i kompozer_0.8~b3.dfsg.1-0.1ubuntu2_i386.deb

for 64bit systems:



sudo dpkg -i kompozer-data_0.8~b3.dfsg.1-0.1ubuntu2_all.deb

sudo dpkg -i kompozer_0.8~b3.dfsg.1-0.1ubuntu2_amd64.deb

You can now find kompozer in the menu.

11:54 – James showed up with a pickup load of cut, split, and dried hardwood firewood, mostly oak. We helped him unload it and stack it in the rack. It turned out to be more than a full face cord of 20″ logs. Call it half of a full cord. He charged $65, which seems cheap to me. If we ever had to heat the house exclusively with wood because the power was down, I’m guessing that the load we got today would last us two to three weeks. We also have about a half cord of old but still burnable wood down in the corner of the yard, which means we could stay warm for a month to six weeks even in the depths of winter up here, or longer if we weren’t trying to keep most of the house warm. We still need to pick up a couple of tarps to cover the woodpiles.

Barbara just announced that we should think about replacing the Trooper with a pickup. I think I’ll start keeping my eye out for a used Ford F150 or F250 diesel 4×4, or the Chevy equivalent. We’ll want an automatic transmission and AC, but that’s about it. I don’t care if it has some mileage on it, and a vehicle that’s ten years old or more would be fine.

I’ve never owned a diesel vehicle, although I almost bought a diesel pickup back in 1979 when I bought my Jeep CJ new. I know that small diesel engines used to have a lot of problems, but I assume those have been pretty much fixed over the last 35+ years.

Friday, 8 April 2016

10:17 – Barbara is off to the gym and supermarket, after which we’ll be building more science kits. We built a batch of the FK01A forensic science kits yesterday. Today, we’ll get another batch of BK01 biology kits built and at least get started on a new batch of CK01A chemistry kits.

Lori just showed up with the mail, including a box from Amazon. A couple of years ago, my workhorse Brother HL-5250DN laser printer started printing an empty line down the middle of each printout. The problem was the drum unit, but when I checked for a replacement, the only option was a Brother-branded unit for $180. I paid something like $225 for the printer originally, and there was no way I was going to pay that to replace the drum on a printer that had already had some heavy use. The 5250 even with the stripe was fine for most of what I printed as it was, so I decided to just use it until it dropped. Then the other day, I was on Amazon and decided to search for a drum unit. Sure enough, they had a third-party replacement drum unit with excellent reviews for $18. (They also had a different one with not-so-good reviews for $12.) I’ve had good experience with third-party toner cartridges bought on Amazon, so I decided to give the $18 unit a try.

Not much time available for prepping this week, and we’re being careful about unnecessary spending until we get the house on the market and sold, so the only prepping-related thing I did was buy a print copy of All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space 2nd Edition. The last time I had a garden of my own was about 50 years ago, and I want to try growing some herbs and vegetables on a small scale.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

09:27 – I see that David P. Goldman believes that Ted Cruz is our last, best hope. Wishful thinking, boy. I agree that I’d rather see Cruz as president than Trump and certainly than Clinton or Bern the Commie. But I don’t believe it would make much, if any, difference to how things unfold over the coming years. Things might be a bit better under a Cruz presidency, but all it would really mean is that our slide into dystopia would be a bit slower. Nothing can stop it now.

Barbara is going to cut my hair this morning, and then we’ll do more work around the house.

Barbara’s drink of choice has always been sweet iced tea, which she makes up in gallon pitchers. I’d always drunk mostly Coke, but I’ve cut way down on that. I used to go through maybe ten 2-liter bottles a week, and now I’m down to more like one a week. Instead, I’m drinking iced tea, so Barbara is now making at least twice as much as she used to. One of the things she picked up at Costco the other day was two boxes of tea bags, 624 total bags. That’s enough to last the two of us three to four months at our current consumption rate. It also cuts down on our cost for Coke by about $500/year. From Barbara’s point of view, the major advantage is that we won’t be adding to the hundreds of empty 2-liter bottles that I save for LTS food and water.

14:21 – What a relief! I can finally work normally again. I now have Linux Mint running on a new hard drive in my old Core i7-Extreme system, with all of my data migrated over and all the programs I use installed. The sticking point was these damned powerline Ethernet adapters, which I simply couldn’t get to work between the WiFi router and my little corner in the dining room that’s now my office. Just now, I installed the D-Link DWA-140 USB WiFi adapter, which Linux Mint recognized automagically. All I had to do was enter the password for the WiFi AP. Our Internet service is nominally 20 megabits/s down and 2 up. I just ran the HTML5 speed test from, which tells me I’m getting a 21 ms ping with about 11 Mb/s down and 4 Mb/s up. Not bad, given how far I am from the AP.

We finished watching the final season of Justified the other night. Like the other seasons, it’s set mostly in Harlan County, Kentucky, which is only about 160 miles WNW of us in Sparta. As Barbara said, she’d be as careful back in the hollows around here as she’d be if we were living in Harlan. My attitude is that pretty much everyone around here minds their own business, so if we mind our own business we should be fine, but Barbara does have a point.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

07:14 – We’re working around the house today. There’s a lot remaining to be done in the lab area. We moved our generator from the garage to the lab area yesterday, and picked up some concrete blocks and pressure-treated lumber at Blevins that we’ll use to build a firewood rack. I’m not sure we’ll get to that today, but it needs to be done soon. We got enough components for a rack large enough to hold a face cord. Once we get that one set up and some wood delivered, we’ll probably add another one or two racks. I’d like to have at least a full cord in place before autumn. And I definitely want to get things setup as soon as possible so that we can use our generator to power the well pump and pressure tank.

I wasted a lot of time trying to get our Brother 3070 color laser printer working. The best explanation I have for the problem is that that USB port on the printer seems to be only partially functional. Linux sees the printer and thinks it’s available, but print jobs sent to it simply disappear without printing. The printer also has an Ethernet interface, so I may set it up as a network printer, but for now I’m using our older Brother 5250-DN laser.