Gone over to the dark side ;-)

For many years, ever since I started using Linux I  have avoided Ubuntu. It was just too ‘commercial’ for me. So I have tried and worked with all sorts of distros, mainly Mint in various flavours. At first mate and cinnamon, which looked more like the windows I was used to at the time and still had enough support on the net to take me through various hiccups and allowed me to learn at least some of the ins and outs of Linux. For short periods I tried Manjaro, Bodhi, and others but always went back to Mint for its stability and user-friendliness. For a while I used the KDE desktop and that taught me more about Linux than the years before. It has enormous possibilities but also lots of pitfalls. 

So, just because I can, I changed my computer to run on Ubuntu 16.04. Changing distros is no problem in Linux. You can put your home directory that contains all your files and settings in a separate partition and after installing the new distro you just have to link that partition back to your system and all your files are back! You might have to install some programs/applications if they don’t come with your selected distro,  but that’s it. You’re up and running with your new operating system in next to no time. 

One of the things that are almost inevitable, is the installation of some extra drivers, not a big problem in itself as most of the more popular distros give you plenty of help with this. But Ubuntu was so easy, it was almost laughable. The tower didn’t need any extra drivers, and the laptop (after the tower went so well I changed the laptop to Ubuntu, too) just needed a wifi driver that was available after adding the Canonical partners. Ubuntu installed and runs without problems, I have all my old programs back (except digikam, I am going to check out shotwell instead), no problems accessing folders on my network drive, and all in all a pleasant experience. I installed virtualbox to import my Windows VM (yes, I cannot be completely without MS, my sewing pattern program and a couple of others just do not run in Linux and my experiences with Wine were less than favourable) and all went well there, too.

I’m wondering now why I didn’t use Ubuntu before – but then I probably would not have learned as much about Linux as I did going the other way. I’m running Unity but am looking forward to the re-introduced Gnome that is coming with the next LTS. For a while I am quite willing to go the easy way – I still have my little EeePC if I really want to play dangerously again.

Were did the time go?

I have to apologise for not posting for so long, but real life (in contrast to cyber life) has been a bit busy. Just lots of unrelated things happening but nothing that really made for a good story.

Im WaldOn the horse front there was a weekend to be planned (and then almost didn’t happen because of heavy rain forecast) and it went of really well. Met some new people and realised that even my boring neighborhood can make for a good ride. The beach ride was cancelled though, as the weather started to come in – we managed to get 128mm of rain during that day. There will be a next time.

Technology: I have been playing around with a number of Linux distros trying to find the ideal one to run on my little EeePc, 900HA which is still going strong after about 8 20160709_155414years or so. I upgraded it to 2 GB RAM some time ago, but the Atom Processor is the bottle neck. I found Bunsenlab works really well on it and the grey colour scheme matches the plain look of the hardware. Together with the extra large battery I put on after the original battery died, this machine keeps going almost all day. Just a shame that both the keyboard and the screen are so small.

I had less success with another distro dual-booting my little Medion Akoya e1232t. The machine is so locked down that the only distro that I can load is Ubuntu. I unlocked what I could but still no luck with anything else. It works ok except for shutting down/restarting – both hang on the Ubuntu logo. The Windows side has been upgraded to Windows 10 but I really don’t use it.

And of course I’m currently in the process of setting up my brand new desktop (Core I7 processor, 16GB RAM, 2TB HDD, separate graphics, etc) with Linux Mint 18 Cinnamon, and then restoring my trusty laptop to normality (speak Windows 7) for my daughter. Although 5 years old, it is still better than a lot of machines in the shops now. Core I5 processor, 8GB RAM, 750GB HDD, separate graphics, TV tuner and more. Should be more than enough for her to surf the Internet and play a few games.

Craft: I have been working on a Puss-in-boots for what seems forever, I could not find 20160619_165548a pattern that I liked so I did everything from scratch and had to redo a few parts when they did not turn out the way I wanted. The end result is not too bad. A couple of smaller projects fitted in between; but the next big project is a realistic looking Schnauzer. The original pattern includes wires and discs and it is a completely new way of amigurumi for me. I do love a challenge.

And last not least, I still have a coat to finish. If anyone out here is familiar with Vash the Stampede you know the style; daughter wants to go to Supernova with it later in the year.

I void warranties!


Have a look at the poster above (thanks to ifixit.com) and think about it – does it strike a note? It certainly does with me, I love taking things to pieces to see what makes them tick and not many things annoy me as much as these insidious ‘warranty void if removed’ stickers.

If everything works as it should I’m generally a good girl and leave things alone, for the first few months. But the day inevitably arrives when the urge or need to check inside becomes overwhelming, and there I go again, removing stickers, undo ‘safety screws’ and generally turn into an anarchist.There is so much to learn when you’ve finally uncovered the secrets inside, and sometimes this knowledge helps fix things that need fixing, and sometimes it is just magic.

We have had one of those weeks: first the washing machine wouldn’t turn on, then the sewing machine spat the dummy and then the pond pump stopped working. Great!

The washing machine was the most urgent, I did not fancy a trip to the laundromat. So, disconnect everything, take the top of, find the circuit board and how to get at it. Take it out, have a look at all the little micro-switches: yes they seem to work, can’t see anything wrong with the thing. Brush/blow a few bits of dust and insect parts off the board and reinstall. Bingo! It worked again and hasn’t missed a beat since. One down, two to go.

Next the sewing machine. I opened it up and saw the circuit board – very complicated with lots of chips, any one of them could have gone. Tried my clean-up routine but this time, it didn’t work. The local sewing machine repair man told me the machine was too old and there were no spare parts. “It’s a doorstop,” he said. I love this machine, yes it is 20 years old but it has sewn everything I have thrown at it, and to replace it with a modern machine that can do what this machine can, I would be looking at $2000-$3000 – ouch! I took out the circuit board, threw it in the car and showed it to a friend with a background in electronics. “Can’t see anything obvious, probably one of the chips” – drat! Throw it back in the car, leave it on the desk for a few days, finally, decide I better put the old thing back together, just for looks. Might as well try it one last time. And she worked! If anything, she has improved. I have no idea what was wrong or what fixed it, but I’m keeping my ‘doorstop’.

The pond pump wasn’t that easy, the underground cable to the pond had a problem and we actually had to dig it up and replace it.But a few meters of cable was nothing in comparison to a new washing machine and a new sewing machine.

The moral? Always open things up when they don’t want to work (unless you have a warranty that you want to hang on to), and you never know, sometimes just the act  of opening and showing some concern might just convince the machine to get it’s act into gear and work again!




Exerpt from Bruce Schneier’s Blog

Why We Encrypt

Encryption protects our data. It protects our data when it’s sitting on our computers and in data centers, and it protects it when it’s being transmitted around the Internet. It protects our conversations, whether video, voice, or text. It protects our privacy. It protects our anonymity. And sometimes, it protects our lives.

This protection is important for everyone. It’s easy to see how encryption protects journalists, human rights defenders, and political activists in authoritarian countries. But encryption protects the rest of us as well. It protects our data from criminals. It protects it from competitors, neighbors, and family members. It protects it from malicious attackers, and it protects it from accidents.

Encryption works best if it’s ubiquitous and automatic. The two forms of encryption you use most often — https URLs on your browser, and the handset-to-tower link for your cell phone calls — work so well because you don’t even know they’re there.

Encryption should be enabled for everything by default, not a feature you turn on only if you’re doing something you consider worth protecting.

This is important. If we only use encryption when we’re working with important data, then encryption signals that data’s importance. If only dissidents use encryption in a country, that country’s authorities have an easy way of identifying them. But if everyone uses it all of the time, encryption ceases to be a signal. No one can distinguish simple chatting from deeply private conversation. The government can’t tell the dissidents from the rest of the population. Every time you use encryption, you’re protecting someone who needs to use it to stay alive.

It’s important to remember that encryption doesn’t magically convey security. There are many ways to get encryption wrong, and we regularly see them in the headlines. Encryption doesn’t protect your computer or phone from being hacked, and it can’t protect metadata, such as e-mail addresses that need to be unencrypted so your mail can be delivered.

But encryption is the most important privacy-preserving technology we have, and one that is uniquely suited to protect against bulk surveillance — the kind done by governments looking to control their populations and criminals looking for vulnerable victims. By forcing both to target their attacks against individuals, we protect society.

Today, we are seeing government pushback against encryption. Many countries, from States like China and Russia to more democratic governments like the United States and the United Kingdom, are either talking about or implementing policies that limit strong encryption. This is dangerous, because it’s technically impossible, and the attempt will cause incredible damage to the security of the Internet.

There are two morals to all of this. One, we should push companies to offer encryption to everyone, by default. And two, we should resist demands from governments to weaken encryption. Any weakening, even in the name of legitimate law enforcement, puts us all at risk. Even though criminals benefit from strong encryption, we’re all much more secure when we all have strong encryption.

From: https://www.schneier.com/

What is happening to Australia?

So, this week has been a very sad and incredible time in Australian politics. The Data Retention Bill has made it through both houses of parliament with the united support of both main parties and another bill to introduce internet censorship in the guise of ‘protection’ tabled.
Our lord and masters in Canberra are hell bent to make the idea of a free internet a quaint notion of the past. And all under the guise of fighting terrorism and crime – what a joke!
No self-respecting criminal will be stupid enough to get caught in this net, but every single innocent citizen of this country is now being watched 24/7. And the sad thing is most don’t even know what happened today and that they are paying for it, either through their charges for phones and internet or through their taxes.
And all this after Europe decided that a scheme like this is ineffective and too costly – so, of course, our politician know better, especially seeing most of them have absolutely no clue about technology.
Is it cynicism that makes me think all this has something to do with another secret atrocity currently being negotiated, the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement?

Sidetracked -again!

Why are there so many interesting things that are just begging to be tried out and tested? When I originally started this blog it was to be a record of me building my second robot, all the parts sitting in my drawer ready to be assembled into this mechanical-technological masterpiece. Yeah well, things and plans change, I keep getting distracted by new boards and shields and sensors and other doodads, by new ideas what this robots function is going to be, by the eternal search for the ideal programming language and the need to learn it, the question whether Android wouldn’t be more suitable as OS, and now I’ve come across internet university and the robot has taken a back seat again while I’m learning basic horse care, chemistry and other subjects. Now there is this Linux course starting tomorrow -I really can’t pass this one up!

And then there is Owncloud, I could use my pi to run this and finally give dropbox, Evernote and Google calendar the flick.

There is enough material there to keep me entertained 24/7 – but I still try to have a non-digital life as well apart from going out and earning the pennies.

Glutton for punishment

Yes, well, I really must be. My Galaxy Tab developed funny battery behaviour, so I took it back to get it checked under warranty. So no tablet – dig out the old Eeepc, didn’t like the OS, decided to install Linux Mint 16 Mate; and while I’m at it, why not install Mint 16 KDE on my perfectly good laptop that has been working dual booting Windows 7 (OEM) with Mint 14 Cinnamon?

Three days of fiddling, testing, reinstalling, learning KDE – I think hubby is ready to divorce me!

But, its all good, my backups worked and I’m really impressed with KDE. Not the desktop of choice for a newbie, but I have been playing with Linux now for awhile and I’m having a ball! Love the clean look and the customisations. Why I had to do all this at once though, I really don’t know – still, its Easter and what else can you do?

Needless to say that the roboting has taken a bit of a backseat – I did get the pcDuino working again though, both with Linux and Android and am ready to start testing a few minor things with python.  There just isn’t enough hours in the day for all the things I want to do, and then work gets in the way as well. And the horse, and the dogs, and the garden, and the family; multitasking! Perhaps I can set up the laptop while riding the horse and let the dogs run alongside?