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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair

Regular blog here, 'microblog' there

Many of my traditional blog post live on this site, but a great majority of my social-style posts can be found on my much-busier microbloging site at updates.passthejoe.net. It's busier because my BlogPoster "microblogging" script generates short, Twitter-style posts from the Linux or Windows (or anywhere you can run Ruby with too many Gems) command line, uploads them to the web server and send them out on my Twitter and Mastodon feeds.

I used to post to this blog via scripts and Unix/Linux utilities (curl and Unison) that helped me mirror the files locally and on the server. Since this site recently moved hosts, none of that is set up. I'm just using SFTP and SSH to write posts and manage the site.

Disqus comments are not live just yet because I'm not sure about what I'm going to do for the domain on this site. I'll probably restore the old domain at first just to have some continuity, but for now I like using the "free" domain from this site's new host, NearlyFreeSpeech.net.

Wed, 27 Jul 2011

Text editor and FTP client for Android?

I just got my Android phone, the LG Optimus V from Virgin Mobile, and I'm naturally looking for my two most important apps -- text editor and FTP client.

Trying AndFTP and Text Edit. As far as an editor goes, I need something that helps with typing HTML tags. This simple editor looks nice, but typing <p> is murder.

AndFTP works acceptably well. Once I get my paths typed in, it'll be quicker and more painless.

(Note:This entry began on the phone but continued at the computer so my typing/thinking speeds match more closely.)

Tue, 26 Jul 2011


Mon, 25 Jul 2011

Simplicity or minimalism? What's the difference?

I'm noticing many writers calling the decluttering of their lives "minimalism," instead of "simplicity," or "simple living." Is there a difference?

A quick Google search yielded the following (we can read together; I'm just link-dumping at this point):

Is this tempest/teapot time? I'll gather more intelligence on this lexical battle as time permits.

Five minutes later: These entries didn't help much. All I seem to get from this small blogospheric sample is that minimalism is more hard-core than simplicity.

But as I say in the short comment after the final link, it's all semantics. Call what you do what you wish. As for me, I'm still thinking.

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS -- I like it better now than I did then

I'm doing an update today on my daughter's Ubuntu 10.04 LTS-running Gateway Solo 1450, the 2002-era laptop that I upgraded from 8.04 in a not-seamless but doable operation for someone with a bit of experience in these matters.

I've done a lot of upgrades. I'd say maybe half were successful. That doesn't say much for upgrades. But when it comes to Ubuntu upgrades, I can generally make them work with a bit of Googling.

I've been hard on Ubuntu 10.04 over the life of the release. (I could find links, but I'm just going to keep writing.) While the UI changes in 11.04 (GNOME giving way to Unity) are bigger, I thought the changes from 9.10 to 10.04 were too huge and unproven for an LTS release. My opinion was and is that 10.04 needed to be 9.10 with bug fixes and not a total reworking of the GNOME theme with buttons on the other side of the screen and lots of unproven, slightly broken Ubuntu-coded (or -ordered) enhancements.

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BoingBoing drops Movable Type for WordPress

The recent BoingBoing post about the busy/huge web site's changes focuses on the move to Disqus comments, but the bigger news is that it's dumping Movable Type for WordPress. Even Matt Mullenweg of Auttomatic fame mentioned it.

A few years ago, BoingBoing, which does something like 1 million views per day, made the move to Movable Type from whatever it is they used until that point. The reason behind the move to MT, as I remember it, anyway, was the high availability of a statically built Movable Type site and its ability to handle the kind of traffic BoingBoing was drawing.

Well fast-forward to now, and BoingBoing's Movable Type days are over. It's still plenty popular but is now running on WordPress. I guess this means that WP is more than able to function in extremely high-traffic environments like that of BoingBoing.

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Sun, 24 Jul 2011

Mozilla still (quietly) updating Firefox 3.6.x series

Mozilla is already casting the enterprise market adrift with its stated wish to stop maintaining the Firefox 3.6.x series of the popular web browser in favor of charging through Firefox 4 right into version 5 and coming up on 6 and then who knows what.

Enterprises hate this. They need to build shoddy web-based applications against a browser, and if that browser changes, their apps will likely break.

Hence they need Firefox 3.6.x, if that's what they're building against, to stick around as long as possible.

No, no, NO, says Mozilla. We're in a development frenzy to catch Google Chrome, and we're upsetting the apple cart now for more goodness later.

The enterprise cares nothing for "goodness." It wants sameness, predictability and as little work as possible.

Can't say I blame them.

From a PR standpoint Mozilla is thumbing its nose at any enterprise users who decided to throw in with a browser that isn't Internet Explorer (and for large bases of users, switching browser allegiance isn't something that happens very often — and yes, they are where you, as an individual, were 10 years ago).

Despite all this, I still have updates coming to my remaining Firefox 3.6-running machines (of which there are more than a few, especially because there's not Firefox 4 or 5 for Macintosh PowerPC unless you count TenFourFox).

Yes, they all recently climbed to 3.6.19.

But if you can find the Mozilla Firefox 3.6 page, there is supposedly an end in sight for 3.6.x:

Firefox 3.6.x will be maintained with security and stability updates for a short amount of time. All users are strongly encouraged to upgrade to the latest version of Firefox.

If Mozilla wises up (and I hope they do), they'll continue patching Firefox 3.6.x for security issues for at least the next year if not two.

They don't seem ready or willing to do this, but I bet they're plenty able. Especially if they want to cement (and not rend) its relationship with enterprise users.

Fri, 22 Jul 2011

I'm far enough behind in my Distrowatch Weekly reading that I only heard (I listen to the podcast version when I can) a couple days ago that I got a link

... in the news section. Thanks, Ladislav.

P.S. The link was to my Debian blog, which I'm going to be moving over here at some point in the middling future.

P.P.S. This post was initially created without a subject line in Ode's Editedit addin, but I later modified the title so the link out was in the body of the entry and not the title.

Thu, 21 Jul 2011

Windows Update doesn't like my Linux-Windows dual-boot system

Just when I'm thinking, "Windows sucks less than it used to," here I am with my dual-boot system - Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit on one partition, Debian Squeeze 64-bit in LVM (with encrypted swap and home partitions) on another.

Everything has worked well until the arrival of Service Pack 1.

It just won't install. It won't install via the Windows Update mechanism. It won't install after downloading a 900 MB file.

A 900 MB file. For a service pack. Let's ponder that for a minute.

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Virgin Mobile -- pricing schizophrenia for prepaid carrier

I've been long intrigued by the prepaid cellular market. The traditional "contract" mobile carries that dominate in the U.S. generally fleece their customers and do so by offering "good" phones cheaply while making it all back with higher monthly costs for the duration of the contract.

I haven't yet written anything, but Virgin Mobile sent me a couple of devices over the past few months -- an LG Optimus V smartphone that runs Android and a MiFi mobile broadband device.

While I thought the LG phone a bit overpriced at , knowing full well that phones often available for down to free on a contract plan can cost much more from a prepaid carrier, my enthusiasm for the LG Optimus V was dampened when I learned that the phone had been introduced months earlier on Virgin Mobile at .

Upon Virgin's announcement that they would bring out a "real" Android phone, a Motorola with a bigger screen that compares more favorably with the better Android handsets for (ouch!), the drop of the LG Optimus V's price from back down to made me think all was not wrong with Virgin Mobile.

And they did have that killer Beyond Talk plan. No contract. per month for 300 minutes of talk, "unlimited" texting and web (really 2.5 GB before throttling, or so I understood, but not 200 MB like other carriers, so it was still a great deal).

Call me anachronistically cheap, but per month, even with a phone, sounded pretty good to me. Almost great, in fact.

But now I learn that on the day (July 20) Virgin Mobile releases its "grown-up" Motorola Android phone for , the Beyond Talk plan is suddenly a plan.

Wait. From to ? That's a 40 percent price increase.

Can I repeat that? A 40 percent price increase in the service overnight.

While nobody matches per month, there are plans out there for with unlimited everything, including talk minutes.

I don't claim to be a mobile-market expert. I'm just a guy who can't see spending to (or more) per month for mobile phone service.

I'd just as soon have no talk minutes and all texting and web. For . But nobody's offering that to me, either.

Virgin Mobile is "grandfathering" in current users, if they continue paying their bills monthly, and allowing them to keep the -per-month Beyond Talk plan. New people? It's 40 percent more.

Forty percent more. Overnight.

Virgin Mobile isn't offering 4g service. It's 3g. You can't use your to phone on "regular" Sprint (the network Virgin uses for its service).

Now the service from MetroPCS and the service from T-Mobile is starting to look a whole lot more competitive.

If my employer was paying the bill, I'd be fine with a "regular" plan. But that's not happening. This will come out of my own pocket. And I'm surprised how cavalier the average person is out there about paying or so per month just to carry an Android phone around in their pocket.

Disclaimer: I realize I'm in "get off my lawn" territory.

Wed, 20 Jul 2011

Sometimes a leak stops on its own

In the days of galvanized piping, you could sometimes count on rust to eventually stop a small leak. I've had small drips occasionally "go away" as the piping ages, sometimes after a matter of weeks.

This doesn't happen all the time. Or much of the time. Most leaks must be dealt with.

Electricity can "leak" too. To ground. But it's much easier, in my experience, to keep the "hot" and "neutral" wires apart than it is to keep water under pressure within a plumbing system. Ditto for natural gas, which runs to the home at something like 4 pounds per square inch of pressure instead of anywhere between 50 and 300 PSI (do I have my numbers right?) for municipal water.

Yep, water's a bitch.