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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.

Sun, 24 Sep 2017

I'm thinking about OpenBSD again

I received an email recently from Ewa Dudzic of BSD Magazine asking to interview me. I demurred because I'm barely using Linux right now, let alone a BSD. My "intense" BSD period was around 2008-09 when I had a laptop that wouldn't boot from CD, and OpenBSD's floppy image (you heard right) allowed me to get it up and running.

I blogged a lot about it. I had a lot of fun with OpenBSD, and I tried a couple of others with endings both catastrophic (FreeBSD, where updates puzzled me and broke the system) and anticlimactic (DragonFlyBSD, where too many applications didn't work).

I've done a few sporadic OpenBSD tests since then, but circumstances at both my work (needing Citrix) and personally (not so interested in operating systems or free software as a movement, seeing overall interest in free software wane considerably since Windows 7 came out, and my growing interest in programming) led me to the point where I was running Fedora on my "old" laptop and Windows 10 with the Windows Subsystem for Linux on my "new" laptop.

I'm still very much involved in programming, using Ruby, Java, the Bash shell and a little bit of Perl.

And in my day job, I can mostly leave my Citrix-delivered system behind in favor of a whole lot of WordPress.

And -- yes there is another and -- these days I mostly use an old Roku (with USB input) for video, so my laptops don't double as entertainment machines.

Could I set up my old laptop as a development machine using OpenBSD?

The one difference in favor of this is the JDK being available as a package. Installing the Java Development Kit back in 2009 was far from easy. I can't remember if I was even able to do it.

Adding Ruby and Node seem easy. Will Ruby gems and npm packages work? That's something I'll have to investigate as I go.

Whenever I look at the OpenBSD website, documentation and, more importantly, extensive list of available packages, I get hopeful about the system working for me.

I'm not afraid of a little maintenance, and the new syspatch utility promises to make updating the base system quicker and easier than ever before. Being OK with the same non-base packages for six months is potentially unsettling, but for a sane system that just works (just works is very, very important to me these days), I could be OK with it. What I don't want is problem after problem after problem with basic functionality (display, WiFi, sound, CPU heat, suspend/resume). I'm cautiously ... cautious.

I have learned that there are OpenBSD communities on Reddit and Facebook and probably in other places (obviously including openbsd.misc).

I've already started collecting links (mined from Reddit) to help me get an OpenBSD system installed and configured:

Since my old laptop (HP Pavilion g6 from 2010) has easily swappable drives, I can put test OSes on their own drive and not worry about partitioning or blowing out a production system.

I just got an OpenBSD 6.1 image on a USB drive using Win32 Disk Imager in Windows 10, and I'm ready to do the installation.

So am I a good candidate for a BSD-focused interview? I'm not an OS developer, or a serious sysadmin. (I do play at being a sysadmin, don't get me wrong. I run a CentOS system on the live Web, though I do have help when the going gets tough.)

I'm just a user, but I have blogged plenty about what I do with the software I use, and that's not as common as you'd think (and seeming to be out there alone did push me away from my steadfast commitment to open-source operating systems). So the answer is "maybe," and maybe in the days ahead I'll have something to say about OpenBSD in the late 2010s.

Updates (newest first):

  • I have done two OpenBSD 6.1 installations on my HP Pavilion g6. The internal Atheros WiFi doesn't work, so I'm using the wired network and an old Realtek-based USB WiFi stick. I blew up the first installation, and now I'm working on the second. I still can't believe that it's so easy to get the JDK installed and running (add the package, add the path to the JDK binaries -- /usr/local/jre-1.8.0/bin -- to your path in .profile ... and that's it).
Sun, 17 Sep 2017

Building a Twitter clone with Meteor

From The Meteor Chef:

Tue, 12 Sep 2017

How do I make this program?

I want to create a program that helps me quickly write up a blog post -- especially a "social" blog post based on a link -- and upload that post as a file to a flat-file-driven blogging system.

In case it isn't obvious, I'm not a professional developer. The whole "hey, let's learn to code just because" thing doesn't work so well for me. Tutorials aren't my thing. I need a project. Then I'm compelled to learn what I need to make that project happen, at least in some fashion. The first thing to do is come up with something doable and not so difficult that I can't even get close.

Hence my idea: a flat-file blog posting machine. It's not too complicated. It would be geared mostly for "social" posts, which I stash in a dedicated category directory-driven category on my blog and let IFTTT (and formerly dlvr.it scrape and then send to Twitter. Why do I do this? Because I feel better about "giving" Twitter my free content to promote their business when I have that same content on my website that is wholly owned and operated by me and not them.

Back to the program: I want to be able to enter a URL from a post/story/page that interests me into a box and then have that box generate a title, post body, file name and actual file with the ability to make changes in any of these fields -- all with as little required input from me as a "regular" Twitter post. The program would then upload the file it creates to my web server, also taking care of whatever back-end housekeeping is needed to make that post appear on the blog. And if I could figure out the Twitter API, I could also trigger the social post itself and eliminate the need for IFTTT or dlvr.it.

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Mon, 11 Sep 2017

There IS a place to recycle household batteries in the San Fernando Valley, even on weekdays

My workplace used to have a box for recycled household batteries, and that was a very useful perk. It's not up there with free air-conditioning and coffee but useful nonetheless.

Now that box is gone forever, and my dead-battery stash, consisting of a bunch of plastic bags in my car, was starting to build.

And it's surprisingly hard to find a place that will take them. EVERYBODY uses batteries. And you're not supposed to throw them out in the regular trash, so this seems like a huge problem.

One place that definitely takes used batteries -- and not just the rechargeable kind that are suprisingly easy to unload -- is the city of Los Angeles at its LA City SAFE Centers, which are only open on weekends.

According to some web sites, IKEA Burbank accepts batteries for recycling, but I see no mention of it on their web site.

I did figure it out. I stopped at Best Buy. They take used batteries, rechargeable and the other kind. I was at the Woodland Hills location on Victory Boulevard near Owensmouth Avenue, and I unloaded all the battery-filled plastic bags in my car.

Thanks, Best Buy.