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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.

Mon, 16 Jan 2017

There is an rsync for Windows, and it works

I've been meaning to look into backup solutions for Windows, and while there should eventually be a full Ubuntu Linux shell coming to Windows 10, it's not there yet unless you tweak things that I can't ask other users to do.

So I figured that when the Linux shell comes to Windows, I'll use rsync, the Unix/Linux backup utility I've been using for years.

I just found out that there's already an rsync port to Windows called cwRsync that you can pay for, with a free command-line-only edition available for download.

Since I use rsync on the command line in Linux, why do I need the GUI in Windows? I don't.

So I downloaded it, unzipped it all, put my rsync command into the cwrsync Windows Command Script file, and it worked right out of the box.

So far my tests have been small ones that haven't involved ssh into remote servers (I do backups to USB hard drives anyway), but I am very confident that cwRsync will work well for full Windows user-file backups. Plus it's free and nobody's going to bug you about buying anything ever.

Sat, 14 Jan 2017

Check out the Categories feature in the right column

I originally coded the categories listing as part of the overall Counter addin to Ode early last year, and Ode project leader Rob Reed lent his expertise to the addin, optimizing the code and squashing a few bugs in the process.

I had the categories listing in my right-hand column for a while, but since this Ode site has a LOT of directories/folders in it, that display made the right side of the page super long.

So I wanted the ability for readers to show/hide that listing. I didn't want to use jQuery, but I was very open to using vanilla JavaScript to make it happen.

And so I did. I looked at a lot of tutorials on how to hide the content of HTML divs (i.e. the stuff between a <div> and a </div>), and this one struck me as both simple and effective (meaning it's short and it works).

So now you can click Show / hide categories on the right to see the entire structure of the documents directory and drill down into topics that may be of interest.

Rob did a lot of work on my code, and I looked back at our e-mail thread from March 2016 and realized that I'm not even running the most recent version of the Counter addin on this site. Once I get that up and running, I will work on expanding the documentation on how to use the addin and then make it available to all.

Thanks go to Will Master for the JavaScript and Rob Reed for the Perl.

Once I figured out the concept of an addin (or, at any rate, my addin), I was off to the races. It was basically, "figure out what you want to display, figure out how to pull the information using Perl and the Ode addin structure, then drop tags into my Ode template to display the information."

Of course you can also say, "Here are things I can do in Perl, maybe it will be cool to put that on the web site." I guess I did a little of that, too.

However you slice it up, writing code and seeing results on a live web site is fun. In the Ode world, you can do that with HTML and CSS just like with any web site, and you can also write Perl addins. With this most recent hack (the show/hide), it was a matter of "appropriating" some vanilla JavaScript to add a feature I've been wanting for some time.

Wed, 11 Jan 2017

Preloaded Linux laptops are probably not encrypted

Even though preloaded Linux laptops like Dell's new Precision 3520 are a great thing -- and can save you $100 in this case, I'd probably have to reinstall because a factory image of the operating system most likely doesn't take into account one thing I want in any desktop Linux system: full disk encryption.

From the days when I ran Debian, through today's Fedora 24, I opt for full disk encryption in the installer. It's the right thing to do. If your laptop falls into the "wrong" hands, your data is encrypted and away from the prying eyes of whoever gets your gear.

Windows users can take advantage of disk encryption ... in some cases. While the Home edition of Windows 10 doesn't offer it, the Pro/Enterprise edition does have an option to encrypt your data.

It's nice that the installers of many major Linux distributions, including Debian, Fedora, CentOS/RHEL and Ubuntu (and its many flavors) offer full disk encryption (not just user files, though Ubuntu does offer a user-files encryption option) -- and any user can take advantage of that protection for the low price of $0.

Mon, 02 Jan 2017

Adding memory to a laptop when they don't want you to add memory

When we bought my daughter a cheap Asus laptop a couple of years ago, I knew it had only 2 GB of RAM. But I also knew, or thought anyway, that I would add memory at some point in the near future. After all, upgrading memory is easy, right?

The answer is yes, I suppose, if you have the kind of Windows laptop where you can get the battery out by switching a lever. The hard drive and memory are a plastic door and a couple of screws away.

That's how it is on my 2013-purchased HP Pavilion.

But on my daughter's 2014-made Asus Aspire E15 laptop? Nope (battery access), nope (hard drive access) and nope (memory access).

To do anything -- change the hard drive, memory or even the battery, you have to remove 18 screws from the bottom of the case, crack it open with a case-cracking tool (I use a little plastic spatula from a long-dead and -gone mini food processor), and then start taking off parts.

To get to the RAM module on this Acer, you have to remove the hard drive, pull about a dozen cables of various types and then remove the entire motherboard from the case BECAUSE THE RAM IS ON THE BOTTOM.

If I hadn't pretty much torn down and rebuilt more than a couple of laptops, I wouldn't have even attempted it.

It's frustrating. Laptops traditionally allow the user to swap in new RAM and hard drives. You might want to do an upgrade, or a drive can go bad. And batteries? Mine last about a year and a half, and then I need to replace them.

So now that tablets are ubiquitous and are basically glued together, laptops, especially cheap ones, are not serviceable or upgradable?

If the hard drive dies or I need more memory, it's just tough tacos?

No. I do not accept that.

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