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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, 16 Dec 2015

O, Change Case add-on for Google Docs, you complete me, or at least supply a must-have feature

One of the biggest holes in web-based collaborative editing software like Google Docs (and Microsoft's Office Live Word Online - I checked) is the inability of the programs to allow the conversion of a block of lower case letters to upper case and vice versa.

You'd think this would be core functionality. Knowing what I do of programming, most languages provide utilities/methods that do this very thing. And pretty much every "local" text and/or document editing program offers this as core functionality.

So why don't Google Docs and Microsoft's Word Online offer it?

Beats the hell out of me.

I got annoyed enough that I set out in search of Google Docs add-ons to bring case-changing capability to the editor I'm using every damn day for work.

The add-ons were not hard to find or install. I decide on Change Case by Alec Tutin.

It does exactly what it's supposed to do, and that's good enough for me. If you use Google Docs with any degree of seriousness, you NEED this add-on.

Tue, 15 Dec 2015

I re-rebuilt the Dishmaster faucet again, plus re-did shower valve job

I rebuilt our Dismaster faucet about a week ago, a couple of weeks after a washer-assembly replacement failed to stop it from leaking.

That's because the valve seats were shot. I have never replaced the valve seats before, mostly because I had no idea how to get the old ones out.

The Dishmaster is designed like no other plumbing fixture I've ever worked on. Not that my experience is so vast.

The washers are mounted on plastic assemblies that snap on to the valve stems and turn freely on them. That enables the washers to make a tight-enough seal against the valve seats without grinding when you continue to turn them (unless you turn them a whole lot).

It kind of, sort of mimics the feel of a ceramic-disc faucet while still using a rubber washer against a metal valve seat.

A couple of weeks ago, I pulled the valve stems and replaced those washer assemblies. Not as cheap as regular washers by a long shot, but not a total deal-breaker, pricewise, either.

When that didn't work, I knew I had to figure out how to replace the valve seats.

First of all, I couldn't find the Dismaster M76 model's valve seats at any of my local plumbing or hardware stores. I had to order them. I got them from Casler Hardware, where the prices were good, though the shipping costs were high. Prices were higher [direct from Dishmaster], but I was more confident that Casler would ship quickly, so I chose them for this particular order.

Once you get the valve seats and the all-important Union O-rings that seal the faucet at a critical point, you can read the instructions, or just [see them on the Web].

You remove all of the outside parts of the faucet, then unscrew it from the back at what are called the unions, I believe.

Then you use a hex-key wrench to remove the valve seats from behind instead of the usual way (from in front with a valve-seat wrench). Curiously, the valves seats hold in the bolts that join the front of the faucet to the "unions."

Read the rest of this post

Fri, 04 Dec 2015

'Learn Linux in a Month of Lunches' by Steven Ovadia

Librarian and Linux user and advocate Steven Ovadia of the excellent My Linux Setup blog is writing a book, "Learn Linux in a Month of Lunches," available now in "early-access" form from Manning and as a full book sometime in summer 2016.

Steven's blog is an excellent resource, and he's a pragmatic advocate for free software who does a lot of good.

And in contrast with the early 2000s, when there seemed to be new Linux/Unix books every month, we are in a persistent drought when it comes to how-to books about Linux and related technologies.

So I think "Learn Linux in a Month of Lunches" is just the thing new and prospective Linux uses need to help them make the move from Windows and OS X to the freedom and flexibility offered by Linux and its many distributions.

You can get the first six chapters of the book today in electronic form, with additional chapters delivered as they are ready. It sounds positively Dickensian (in the novels-delivered-as-monthly-parts way, not in the children-working-in-a-bootblacking-factory way, to be clear about it).