Love My Chromebook (Provided it’s Served with Croutons)

I bought an Acer CB3-111 for $150 after reading several reviews on Amazon.  This is an 11″ Chromebook with a full fledged Intel Celeron processor.  Immediately after getting it I downloaded the latest Crouton.  For those that don’t know, Crouton is a great little tool for installing and running Ubuntu on your Chromebook.  The process takes about 5 steps and the most annoying thing about the whole process was having to boot the Chromebook into Developer mode and wait the 20 seconds while it says “Hey your booting into Developer mode and should press a key to completely not do this.”  HAHAHA….NOPE!!  Unfortunately, every time you boot the Chromebook it will display this warning and you will need to wait without touching it.  Since I don’t ever turn it off, this is generally not an issue.  I don’t include the steps for installing Crouton, just Google it, there are plenty of sites that give detailed instructions. Once Crouton is installed and you have loaded and launched your favorite flavor of Ubuntu, mine was Xubuntu, now you have a full laptop.  Since this thing is all solid state, I got a hard plastic shell for it for an extra $20 and lug this thing around with me everywhere.

Raspberry Pi 2 4G Raspbian Image Gotcha

I ran into an issue setting up a new 8G micro SD card for use with my Raspberry Pi 2 and wanted to capture the description of the problem, here, because I wasted at least 2 hours fighting this and not finding anything on the internet that described the exact problem I had.  The final solution was a real “DUH!” moment. Steps: I simply downloaded the Raspbian generic image and used dd to load the image onto my 8G SD card.  Then booted the Pi 2 with new image successfully and then ran sudo apt-get update and finally sudo apt-get upgrade.  The upgrade seemed to take a long time, but I wasn’t too concerned since this is a Pi, not an AMD 8350. Symptoms: – The upgrade took a long time. – After the reboot the Pi would not show the normal system loading screen, only a black screen with a sporadically flashing cursor in the upper left corner.  The green LED would flash and almost make it seem like it was going to do something, but nothing ever happened. Problem: The actual problem is a matter of storage space.  Palm to forehead!!!  The files of the Raspbian image took up the majority of the 4G partition it created on the 8G SD card.  Then when I ran the upgrade the packages that were downloaded completely filled the remaining space and didn’t successfully install.  Because the upgrade took so long I walked away and didn’t babysit the install and figured everything was okay. Rebooted and WHAMMO!  NO JOY!!!  I kept thinking something was wrong with the SD card. Solution: The key is to resize the disk to expand the partition back to the full 8G size.  There is a simple way to do this right from the default GUI.  THEN, do the apt-get update and upgrade.

Are you Really Worried About What Others Get?

I read a recent article where a progressive entrepreneur raised the minimum wage of all of his employees so even the lowest paid employee at the company would be making $70,000.  Sounds like a great idea, right.  I mean, who would be upset about this?  It turns out that a lot of people who made more than the new 70K minimum at the company were so upset that others were getting this bump, they quit.  This is something with which I have never been able to identify.  Maybe it comes from a certain level of narcissism, but I always figured it was a great thing when somebody else got a raise in pay or a reward of some kind and what difference does it make what I get in comparison.  Honestly, if I am unhappy with what I am getting in compensation or reward I would either tell those who can change it (the boss) or I would leave for a better offer.  (And make no mistake, I have done this.)  It also helps that I love what I do for a living.   Maybe there is some psychological trigger in humans that says we have to have more than others and if we can’t have more then they need to have less.  Next time you do a comparison of this kind, stop and ask yourself, are you genuinely happy with your compensation?  If you are, why would you begrudge someone else’s good fortune.  Even if you know that the guy getting the raise does nothing all day compared to you.  Don’t let your sense of self worth be driven by comparisons with others.

Laptops – The Abandoned Platform

Is it just me or have all the complaints regarding the lack of HiRes laptop resolutions that have been thrown at the laptop manufacturers simply fallen on deaf ears?  Since 2012 there have been news items where Linus Torvalds and even Flav-a-Flav complained about the 1366 x 768 resolution joke.  I am sick of finding laptops with seemingly great price points only to be disappointed by the lackluster resolution.  MY $250 MOTO X PHONE has a higher resolution.  WTH!!! I found this offering from Dell…..  A 14″ laptop with a Core i5.  This is (or should be) a nice laptop….. At $889 there is NO excuse for the low resolution. Please, Please, Please, laptop manufacturers…..  Don’t forget that platform that lets you produce as well as consume.  I love my laptop, I need my laptop and I want my laptop.  Don’t get me wrong, tablets are great for reading or watching some video or playing a quick game, but just try to sit and write a blog or do your budget on one.  Not gonna happen.  (At least not for me.)  And I am cool with the whole convergence thing….  I know the Windows Surface is supposed to bridge the gap between laptop and tablet, but in my opinion, continuing to produce these laptops that are a complete joke, is simply distracting.  Just stop it already. That is all.

Proxmox VE (Virtually Serving the Home User)

I have been a long time user of VMWare and have used the product extensively to run Windows on Linux or vice-versa.  In addition, I have used it to virtualize many of the services I use at home.  For instance, my Samba and FTP server is a virtual machine running Ubuntu 10.04 on an Ubuntu 12.04 host.  This has saved my ass in the past when I’ve had hardware issues and had to migrate from one computer to another.  Since the Samba and FTP server was a virtual machine I merely had to move it from the computer it was on and host it on a temporary computer while I repaired the hardware on the main computer.  Once the hardware was repaired I simply moved the virtual machine back.  I recently added Owncloud to my virtual server collection.  This has been very effective and I have been very happy with the decision to virtualize the server since moving it will now be very easy and making backups is as simple as stopping the guest, making a copy of the file and then restarting it.   The virtualized servers have been running on my fileserver which is mostly responsible for storing the 2 TB of data in a raid 1 configuration and making it available to the household users.  This has all been working quite well, but in the words of Tim Allen, I wanted to give it “More power!!!!”.  It was a simple enough decision to split the virtual server part off of the fileserver, let the fileserver continue to host its 2 TB of data and let a new computer do all the virtualization….  Enter Proxmox VE.  Proxmox VE is similar to VMWare ESXi in that it is installed on bare metal and runs virtual machines that you have to remotely access.  Proxmox supports fully virtualized KVM and OpenVZ or containers.  This was ideal for me since most of my home based virtual machines run Linux and containers are known to be much more efficient than KVM, but can not run Windows. With the platform selected the next step was to purchase the hardware.  I selected the AMD FX-8350 processor with its 8 cores feeling that this would be perfect for CPU hungry virtual machines.  I snapped this into an MSI 990FXA-GD65 which would unleash its power giving it 6GB SATA III ports.  I then added a Seagate Barracuda 1TB HD, but this failed after a week and I replaced it with a Western Digital Red 2TB for nearly twice the price.  Last I put in two 4GB sticks to take advantage of the dual channel memory, but planned to upgrade later.  As for video and case, these things are merely fluff on a headless PC, so any old one was fine.  In the end it came to about $630, a little more than I wanted to spend, but a lot less than if I had purchased something prefab.   Installing Proxmox was a breeze as everything is open … Continue Reading →

Get YOUR Religion OUT of my HEALTHCARE!!!

This is probably more of a rant, but I just have to respond to this insanity that was the supreme court’s decision to allow Hobby Lobby to opt out their employees from birth control coverage.  Unbelievable!!!!  This sounds more like a subversive means of employee discrimination allowing employers to say, “You can work for us, but only if you share our religious beliefs regarding YOUR healthcare.”  For the money grubbing companies who feel like they want to get back at the government for regulating healthcare coverage in the first place, this is an open invitation to make up any “against my religious beliefs” nonsense they can think of to allow them to drop healthcare coverage for their employees and save themselves a few bucks.   This is what I think… “SCREW YOU…  HOBBY LOBBY!!!!”  and any other company that tries this maneuver.  If you felt THAT strongly about where your money went or where it came from you should be screening your customers for their beliefs.  Could you imagine a Hobby Lobby cashier saying, “Before I ring this up can you please tell me if you use birth control?”  I’ll bet the owner of Hobby Lobby has no problem TAKING money from the infidel.  What a hypocrite!   I plan to make a list of shame for all these companies and keep it here.  If you find any and can provide some source verifying the data, PLEASE send it to me and I will add it.  Let’s use the consumer power we have to boycott these companies that would deny health care based on so-called “religious beliefs”.   THE LIST OF SHAME: 1. Tyndale House 2. Freshway Foods 3. Johnson Welded Products 4. Willis & Willis PC 5. Trijicon, Inc. 6. Barron Industries 7. Midwest Fastener Corp 8. Electrolock Inc. 9. Zumbiel Packaging 10. Encompass Develop, Design & Construct, LLC. 11. Holland Chevrolet 12. Autocam Corporation 13. Dominos Farms 14. Mersino Management 15. Eden Foods Incorporated 16. MK Chambers Company 17. M&N Plastics 18. Mersino Dewatering, INC 19. Korte & Luitjohan Contractors, Inc., 20. Truine Health Group 21. Grote Industries 22. Tonn and Black Construction 23. Lindsay, Rappaport and Postel LLC 24. Hart Electric LLC, 25. Ozinga Brothers 26. O’Brien Industrial Holding 27. American Pulverizer Company 28. Annex Medical Inc 29. Sioux Chief MFG. Co, Inc. 30. O’Brien Industrial Holding 31. Bick Holdings Inc. 32. SMA LLC 33. Medford 34. Feltl and Co. 35. Randy Reed Automotive 36. Doboszenski & Sons, Inc 37. Hastings Automotive 38. Stinson Electric 39. Hercules Industries, Inc. is 40. Continuum Health Partnership & Conessione 41. Cherry Creek Mortgage Co. 42. Beckwith Electric Co. 43.  Geneva College 44. Weingartz Supply Company 45. Sharpe Holdings Inc.   NON-PROFITS:  (In my opinion, these still have no excuse…  You want to have “corp” status, you provide heathcare.  If it conflicts with your beliefs then talk about it with your employees.  Don’t take it to court.) 46. Catholic Benefits Association 47. Belmont Abbey Coll. 48. Wheaton College (Illinois) 49. Roman Catholic Archbishop … Continue Reading →

Practical Entanglement

I have heard a lot recently about particle entanglement and wanted to make sure that people didn’t get too “entangled” in all the technical mumbo jumbo.  I wasn’t able to find too many articles online that dealt with the important part of the breakthrough.  Most of the articles had to do with saying Einstein was wrong and focusing on the “spooky action at a distance” nonsense.  I am going to break this down into layman’s terms (at least as far as how I understand it) and focus on the engineering aspects.  To begin with let me explain the difference between an engineer and a scientist.  A scientist’s job is to discover and to describe how nature works.  He/she is fascinated with the discovery of new things and that is enough.  The engineer, on the other hand, is interested in what you can DO with that new knowledge.  He/she says, “Wow, that is really neat, Mr. Scientist, but, so what?”  If the new knowledge provides no practical application then it is merely academic to the engineer and serves no purpose other than to enlighten.  This is not intended to make the search for truth and knowledge trivial.  It is simply a different point of view.  Keep in mind, without the scientific breakthroughs, the engineer would have no practical knowledge to work with in the first place.   So, while I have read a lot lately on “Particle Entanglement”, I wanted to focus this article on “Practical Entanglement”.  The thing that makes the recent work done by TU Delft:   IMPORTANT is not the whole proving Einstein wrong…  I could care less.  It’s that they somehow figured out how to change the spin of one end of an entangled particle and then detect the “instantaneous” change at the other end.  Now, if I have jumped too far ahead, please, Google “Particle Entanglement”.  There are a dozen very good explanations.  I don’t plan to explain it here.   So let’s concentrate on the important part of what this means.  This is the PRACTICAL part.  If they figured out how to change the spin of one end of an entangled particle, which essentially has two states (call it “up” and “down”), then read the change in state of the other end of the particle and these two particles are separated by a great distance, then they will have completely revolutionized the computing and communications industry.  This is because the change in state is practically INSTANTANEOUS.  They have measured the change (or transmission of data) to be at least 10,000 times faster than if they had transmitted the data using radio (or light).  This was over a distance of about 10 feet.  Their next test it to separate the two entangled particles by almost a mile.  There are a couple other things to understand…..  Our current means of transmitting data requires line of site, since the radio waves must travel from the transmitter to the receiver.  My understanding of this technology is that since … Continue Reading →

Worried About Dropbox? Get OwnCloud!

After using Dropbox for years, I finally hit the 5G free limit.  I looked at the prices and while they are fair, it hurts to pay for something I know I can do for free using rsync or a simple FTP.  In this case, I got lucky and found that ownCloud is even easier to use than ever before, and does all the same things Dropbox does and more. Since I do practically everything in a VM, the first thing I did was spin up an Ubuntu 12.04 Desktop, go to the web page and following the links for installing the DIY server edition.  Thank you, OpenSuse for hosting the install packages!   I drilled down and got myself to the appropriate version of Ubuntu (and don’t worry, I know everything says xUbuntu, but they don’t mean Xubuntu, they mean any Ubuntu flavour….LOL). From there, this website provided the best instructions for me, although it is written specifically for using a VPS on DigitalOcean.  Still, most of the instructions apply for someone hosting their own ownCloud server.   Once I got this up and running, the next thing to do was uninstall Dropbox on my laptop and install the ownCloud client.  I got this from as well.  After I got the ownCloud client going, it wanted to sync the whole account.  I didn’t want this and tried to stop it and remove the default ownCloud folder, but it basically hung.  After doing some research I found that the best practice is to quit the sync client and then open it back up, then immediately go to settings and pause the sync.  THEN, remove the default folder and create the new one.  I chose my Dropbox folder.  Why not?  It’s already there and it’s already where I put all my stuff.   The last thing to do was set things up on my phone.  I have an Android phone and the ownCloud client is in the App Store, so again, no worries there either.  Once it was installed and I logged into my server, BAM! all the dropbox files were available.  And don’t worry, it doesn’t download the files to your phone unless you tell it to.   I finished things off by adding linked folders on my server to my fileserver, setting up SSL and configuring the automatic camera upload feature on my phone, but it was all downhill from there.   If you are looking for an alternative to Dropbox and want to be in complete control of your data, I suggest you try it.  Have fun!

The ultimate pet… The dat?

I was visiting with my brother and sister-in-law over the weekend and they have three cute little dogs.  I am more of a cat person, being used to the low maintenance of the feline pet, but couldn’t help appreciating the smothering love these dogs gave their owners and anyone else, once they got to know you.  They have a shitzu, a morky (maltese/yorky) and the offspring of the two breeds (a mitzorky?)  So these are all very small breeds.  Probably smaller than my cats.  I consider this to be a plus.  These dogs are also very hairy causing me to ask about the shedding, but no, they do not shed.  They’re actually hypo-allergenic and do not shed.  Not believing this I had to look around the house, but to my surprise there was no hair to be seen.  This started sounding pretty good competition for my favoritism toward cats.  But alas, they started barking….  This ruined everything, but did get me to thinking…. Why can’t we create a loveable, non-shedding, non-barking, adoring, low maintenance, self potty training, ultimate pet?  With all of our genetic research and cloning technology we should put it to real practical use and somehow take the best of man’s best friend and our favorite feline and create the perfect pet…..  The cog!…  No….. That’s no good…. wait…. the dat!  Yes, the dat! Think about the fact that we already genetically manipulate these animals through breeding.  In fact, we have been doing it for centuries.  I am just suggesting we take it to the next level.  Sprinkle a little fun-loving friendship with a little crapping discretely in the sandbox convenience and what a wonderful pet you would have.  I am sure once we isolate the best genes we could really raise the bar and create a whole group of combinations of traits tailored to the owner’s preferences.  Sort of like Gattica becomes Cattica.  As long as we are careful not to create the ultimate predator that comes back to kill us all, we should be fine.      

Heartbleed – NOOOOOOOO!!!!!

Wow, some big news hit the computer security industry recently.  It turns out when the mostly unused heartbeat feature built into OpenSSL IS used the server returns a packet LARGER than what was sent by the client.  This wouldn’t be such a big deal except the portion that is larger contains a snippet of recently used OpenSSL memory from the server.  So, the word is that the OpenSSL developer’s decided to write their own memory allocation manager instead of using the system allocator and as a result the memory wasn’t completely random or initialized, but instead contained actual recently used UNENCRYPTED data from the OpenSSL application.  It has been proven that it is possible to extract not only user logins, but also the actual certificate from the memory leak that is returned to the client.  This is absolutely CRAZY!!!  I have updated all my servers and am good to go, but the bigger concern is, did anyone else know about it before it was revealed and actually get certificates for bank servers and the like. Without actually knowing, since using this “attack” leaves no trace, the only assumption that can be made is that the certificates HAVE been compromised.  How will the certificate providers ever keep up with all the new certs they will have to create and all the old ones they will have to revoke?  This is going to cost a fortune.  UGH!