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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.

Thu, 26 Apr 2012

I'm testing SpiderOak backup

Google Drive just made its public debut, so I'm testing something totally different: SpiderOak.

You can file SpiderOak under, "everything's encrypted, unlike Dropbox and Google Drive they can't see ANYTHING you do, more geeky and more powerful."

I've been meaning to try SpiderOak for years. Today I downloaded and installed the client software on my Debian Squeeze laptop, and right now I'm backing up the exact same files I have in Dropbox.

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Thu, 19 Apr 2012

I had an Epiphany ... about the Epiphany Web browser

You know what I'm doing? Using the Epiphany Web browser that ships with GNOME. In my case, that's GNOME 2.30.2 in Debian Squeeze.

Why? I've been having trouble with one of my most-used web-delivered apps in Firefox and Google Chrome.

So I decided to try Epiphany.

Sure it's slower than Chrome. But it compares well with Firefox. And I've solved a few lazy-developer issues (i.e. things that work well in some browsers but not so well in others).

I'll continue testing this over-the-web app with Epiphany. I hope it does more things well. If not, I'll go back to Firefox and Chrome. But if it does, I'll have some nice time ahead of me running Epiphany until GNOME 2.x bites the dust (which could be a very long time in my Debian installation).

One thing I'll be looking at is how Epiphany performs over time. Most browsers bog down in terms of memory usage and processes as the session continues. Both Chrome and Firefox can try one's patience in this regard.

I can't imagine that the Epiphany browser, known by some as the generic app name Web, will be anywhere near the same in GNOME 3. I could be wrong. It could be a whole lot better.

Sat, 14 Apr 2012

This Debian Squeeze installation has lasted since late 2010

People are always talking about how long they've had a particular Debian installation, some upgrading the same box through many subsequent releases.

On the desktop anyway, restless, tinkerish people such as myself have a habit of blowing out their OSes for one reason or another -- usually extensive modification/experimentation that breaks things. Others can't go more than a month without either distro-hopping to the next new release.

Since Linux distributions and BSD project releases and the thousands of software packages that are available in affiliated repositories don't cost anything, there's no incentive to hold onto an installation for years and years like with Microsoft Windows or Mac OS.

I think those with proprietary OSes hold onto their installations more to preserve their stash of pirated applications than the system software itself, which usually can be reinstalled easily from the discs that came with the computer. But that's another matter for another day.

In my case, the reasons for keeping this particular Debian laptop running uninterrupted include maintaining productivity (which I want) and not messing with stability (which Debian Stable has) coupled with my current lack of taste for distro-hopping and repeating the work involved in setting up things the way I like them.

I've been careful with this particular Debian Squeeze installation on my Lenovo G555 laptop, and it's been running pretty much every day since late November 2010. And it's now April 2012.

That's a long, long time for me. I thought I "broke" the system today during some OwnCloud client testing, but it turns out I just clicked something I don't normally click in Gthumb, making it impossible to shrink images while preserving their aspect ratio.

But I figured out what went wrong, Gthumb is working again, and this Debian Squeeze install continues to run.

Thu, 12 Apr 2012

Things I recently -- and successfully -- fixed: shower valve, laptop screen, overheating car

Not that I'd swear off fixing what I could if I had unlimited funds, but I don't. So I fix things.

A few weeks ago I did the latest rebuild of the hot-water valve in the shower. It goes more than any other as it is a Price-Pfister valve with a rubber washer, gets a lot of use and is very close to the water source and hence gets more pressure despite the new pressure-reducing valve we had installed (by Philip the plumber; I know my limits, or at least I think I do).

The valve seat was OK, and the valve stem was replaced (by me) the last time I rebuilt the faucet. Despite the pressure-reducing valve, a whole lot of pressure builds up in the system when the water is off for any length of time. I might need one of those little tanks above the hot-water heater that helps even out the pressure. Or something else. I'm open to suggestion.

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Firefox 11 has been crashy enough to get me using Google Chrome

Life is easier when I use Firefox. But lately it's been very crashy in Debian Squeeze. It often just freezes, and I have to wait, let it freeze some more and then finally kill it.

Thus I've been using Google Chrome more and more. It supposedly eats more memory over time, but it's much, much faster, doesn't bog down so early in my session, and pretty much just works.

That's what I need: A browser that doesn't slow down to nothing. I'd like that browser to be Firefox (aka Iceweasel in the Debian world). But now that browser is Google Chrome (and could very well be Chromium when I move to Debian Wheezy).

Crunchbang Linux -- So far it's 'like' at first sight

I've been distro-hopping/shopping lately, and last night it was time for Crunchbang Linux, a Debian-based distribution that uses a very nice implementation of the Openbox window manager.

Crunchbang is appropriately minimal but with its Debian underpinnings can be just about anything you want.

I used the 64-bit Backports (aka "bpo") image of Crunchbang Statler because the Lenovo G555 likes a newer-than-2.6.32 kernel.

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Mon, 09 Apr 2012

GNOME 2, you get me: Multiple monitors easily done in Debian Squeeze

I'm not saying GNOME 3 won't allow me to do what I just did, only that it would be a crime for it not to.

By that I mean using System - Preferences - Monitors to spread my session across two monitors of different resolutions. It's easy (and sweet)!

Why am I using two monitors in the first place? The LCD power inverter (the thing that gets hot at the bottom of the laptop screen) in my Lenovo G555 is not-so-slowly dying, and until the part warms up, I have no backlight on the laptop, so a second screen is nice to have (though I probably should be mirroring them so I'll always have the menu available).

Of course if the backlight never turns on due to the LCD power inverter dying and then said inverter never warms up because the screen is dark, you quickly get into a situation where the screen just plain doesn't work.

I've ordered a new LCD inverter and will attempt to install it when the part arrives.

But for now I'm happy to say that using multiple monitors in GNOME 2 is pretty cool.

In an unrelated matter, I'm testing Crunchbang, using Gigolo to edit this file via SFTP. Very sweet!