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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.

Fri, 30 Sep 2011

Debian Stable -- it's been good, but will it remain so?

Debian has been entirely sane and usable for me from Etch through Lenny and now Squeeze. Can I count on Wheezy to be as good or better when it becomes the Stable release?

I say this because of all the trouble I now only see and hear about but don't experience with new technologies on the desktop that aren't quite (or at all) ready for production and sap users' ability to do much but try to get things working.

I've been there, and if that's your thing (latest, greatest), then have at it. I've never had fewer problems than when riding Debian Stable.

Tue, 27 Sep 2011

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion supports some older HP scanners, but not the one I'm trying to get working; Apple rant follows

Long story short, I'm setting up a shiny, new iMac with OS X 10.7 (aka Lion) for my graphic artist mother whose 2003-era G5 decided to die catastrophically and quickly.

Once I figured out the ancient SpeedStream modem's PPPoE issues with her formerly SBC, currently AT&T DSL connection, got her Ethernet-equipped HP LaserJet 4000n printer on the same network as the iMac (once I figured out the printer's IP address through printer-top button-pressing voodoo), all that remained was bringing the HP Scanjet 6300c scanner to life.

It shows up in the detailed view of "About this Mac." But no software is automatically downloaded (that's how OS X 10.7 configures printers and scanners, apparently, and it dealt with the LaserJet 4000n that way).

The USB-connected scanner appears to be dead. To OS X 10.7 anyway.

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Wed, 21 Sep 2011

Pure blogging

I don't have any kind of traffic counter on this site. I could look in awstats on the server. Except that I don't.

This is in contrast with my Debian blog, where every post lists the number of views. And my Daily News blog(s), all of which use Omniture to slice/dice the readership any number of ways.

I have no idea how many are reading these entries. And I'm OK with that.

Back to Ode

I haven't been doing much of any writing lately. Most of it has to do with being overloaded with the rest of my work. It's only going to get busier next week when 1/2 of my staff goes on vacation.

The other reason I've been writing less is that I've committed, in my mind anyway, to do less of this kind of writing and more of other kinds.

It's easier to do this.

Let me turn my attention to Ode for a moment.

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Tue, 20 Sep 2011

From setback to on track

Update: It's all coming together now.

Using self-hosted Wordpress with Polldaddy's Javascript embeds allows that code to pass through to the RSS feed. Hopefully I can hack the CSS for this today and be testing it tonight.

So what am I doing with all of this?

We already run online polls at Dailynews.com, and they are one of the few things our aging CMS does natively. (We need native photo galleries and video, but we have native ... polls.)

But the mechanism is awkward, there is no automatic archiving of poll results. And here's the kicker: Changing the home-page poll requires modifying the home page itself.

And I want editors to create these questions themselves. I don't need to be waiting seven days a week for editors to come up with questions, e-mail them to me, and then have me code up the poll question.

So with this combination of Poll Daddy, WordPress, RSS out of WordPress, then Feedburner (and Feedburner's BuzzBoost output), I will have a syndicated poll question that can be controlled from a WordPress blog.

If I had both the skill and the time, I'd build some of this outside of all of these vendor-supplied products. Probably the next step will be coding custom output from WordPress that eliminates the need for Feedburner to be in this equation.

As we move our entire blogging operation from Movable Type to WordPress, the more I can learn about custom output, the better, because I have a whole lot going in in Movable Type that isn't just blog listing and blog entries.

Original entry from Sept. 6, 2011:

A project that was going so well three months ago when I last worked on it ran into serious problems today.

Things that worked June 1 did not work Sept. 6.

This happens to be an unholy mix of vendors, Javascript and RSS.

Vendors can make things easier at the outset, but they change on you.

I spent the greater part of today trying to salvage the thing.

Tomorrow, moving on. More meetings than I'd like. Time to get some perspective (translation: clean up my desk).

Fri, 09 Sep 2011

LibreOffice Draw -- my new favorite application

I had to generate a report today, one that included a bunch of PDF documents, and I finally figured out how to import PDFs into LibreOffice (with the help of LO's PDF Import extension, which still appears to have Oracle's fingerprints all over it, by the way).

Call it counterintuitive, but once you bring a PDF into LibreOffice, you edit it in LibreOffice Draw.

It's amazing. You can modify the text in the PDFs, move them around, bring in additional images, create text boxes and fill them.

Then you can export the whole thing as a multi-page PDF. Did that. Looks great.

Like the title says, LibreOffice Draw is my new favorite application. This week anyway.

Sat, 03 Sep 2011

I feel like playing again

It's been awhile. I'm tiring of things electronic.

Not sure how I feel about things electric.

But I felt like picking up the guitar. I'm thinking about swing on the steel-string acoustic.

I have a couple PDFs of classic Eddie Lang methods to work with, but as always it would probably be better to learn some tunes.

This post originally appeared on http://jazzguitarjourney.blogspot.com.

What's important

Time gets away from you.

I'm 45. I need to know where I'm going. To feel like I'm getting there.

I need to pay attention. Plan. Execute.

Remember what's important. And who.

Fri, 02 Sep 2011

I will not be testing, trying, or otherwise running Ubuntu 11.10

I don't have anything against Ubuntu 11.10, or the Unity interface. I might even like it. I'm getting so used to the way my Android phone works that I'm open to new desktop paradigms/metaphors.

But Debian Squeeze with Backports + sundry extras is running so well, and I remember so very well how I regretted my move away from Debian Lenny in 2009.

If Ubuntu doesn't fall off the track into "every damn thing is new" crazy for 12.10, then I'll be interested. It needs to work.

Thu, 01 Sep 2011

Debian on an old laptop - advice from Make Tech Easier

The Make Tech Easier site offers a short post titled How to Build a Lightweight Linux for your Low-End Laptop on why and how to use Debian to set up an older laptop.

I've used Debian many times to get old hardware running and, like the author of this entry, Joshua Price, I find the flexibility and lightness of Debian really helps the Linux distribution live up to its billing as "The Universal Operating System," which can run well on many different kinds (and eras) of hardware.

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