Title photo
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, 13 Dec 2018

Cygwin and Unison, trying again (and failing)

After I made a permission change on the server and broke the ability of Unison in Cygwin to sync with same, I decided to blow away the files on the Cygwin-controlled filesystem in Windows and try again.

I created a file in Cygwin, and that synced fine. But once I created a file on the server and tried to sync from Cygwin, I got a bad bigarray kind error, and that was that.

David Rawlings: 'Midnight Train,' live on WFUV

Another great video featuring David Rawlings and Gillian Welch and their band.

Wed, 21 Nov 2018

David Rawlings and Gillian Welch: 'Airplane' and 'The Trip'

David Rawlings in general, and this video in particular came to my attention because he plays acoustic archtop guitars and at some point in the past couple of years switched from an 1930s Epiphone to this very significant 1959 D'Angelico Excel. It's rare to see these played without pickups, and I wish guitarists did it more.

This video has Rawlings on the Epiphone Olympic. Still sounds great:

If you want to hear someone talk extensively about how acoustic archtop guitars sound, especially in a swing jazz context, Jonathan Stout's videos can provide a lot of insight.

Sun, 18 Nov 2018

A local web-based program might not be such a bad idea

I just wanted to make a simple GUI program. You know, one that lives on your computer hard drive and creates, modifies and saves files, then uses that data to do things. Oh, and I wanted it to be cross-platform, meaning it would work on Windows, MacOS and Linux with little or no modification.

Sounds easy, right?

Previously: Everything doesn't have to be a web program

Well, despite the fact that local GUI programs aren't exactly dead — web browsers are GUI programs, for Christ's sake, the average coder is less and less interested in writing programs that run on desktop and laptop computers and almost exclusively interested in creating web apps that run in a browser and that maybe, possibly get magically turned into mobile phone apps through some voodoo with React Native or a similar and massive hunk of code.

"But I don't want to worry about security and establishing a account system for my app, which really should just run as a local program on a local PC," I said.

Read the rest of this post

Wed, 31 Oct 2018

Cygwin troubles with Unison

I got the input_value: bad bigarray kind error in Unison. What I did before I got the error was to change some permissions on files on the server. Unison is not picking those up from the laptop, and the process ends with the error and no file transfers.

This makes my last entry somewhat problematic.

I tried the Windows version of Unison once, and it was permissions trouble that kept me from using it. The Unison files in Cygwin are living in a Windows filesystem, and maybe it's still a problem.

Tue, 30 Oct 2018

Cygwin and the Windows Subsystem for Linux, when to use one and not the other

tl;dr: The Windows Subsystem for Linux is shiny and new, and its great when your environment has to be exactly like Ubuntu (or whatever distro your WSL is based on), but if your aim is to use Linux tools on Windows files, Cygwin is a better choice.

Cygwin, the Linux environment for Windows, has been around for a very long time, but I've never used it. Until now.

During the year or so that I've been running Windows 10, I tapped into the Windows Subsystem for Linux (aka Bash on Windows, aka Ubuntu on Windows) as my Linux-in-Windows environment so I could have the best of both worlds, or at least all of one world and a great deal of the other.

When I first started with Windows 10 and the WSL, what I thought I would do with Linux on Windows was manage files and do little sysadmin-style tasks like update this blog via Unison (very doable in the WSL) and back up Windows files (NOT doable in the WSL). I thought I could have a Windows computer but do everything in a Linux shell.

It was not meant to be.

Once I realized that my WSL and Windows filesystems were on two different islands and that using one system to edit the other's files was difficult at best and file-destroying at worse, I abandoned my idea of using WSL Linux tools to manage my Windows environment.

As I say above, I used the WSL as my Windows 10 blog-writing and syncing environment, and it has worked very well for that task, except that my files are all in the WSL filesystem, and I have to do all of my writing in the WSL's Bash shell. That's not a hardship per se. I used the opportunity to improve my Vim skills, and I got even better with Vim when I began using it on the Windows side to do my text processing and editing.

Still, having to transfer text files and images from Windows to Bash/WSL was an extra step. I do have a Bash script that does it for me, but it would be easier if the WSL could work with files anywhere on the Windows drive..

Recently something — and I can't remember what that something was — got me thinking about Cygwin. It has LOTS of Linux packages, including the old version of Unison that I had to pin in Ubuntu WSL so my syncing setup would continue working. And it was made to work in the Windows filesystem.

I downloaded and installed Cygwin, and I began building up my environment. I even added X and the Geany text editor just to see how the GUI works. (It's awkward but usable. Unlike X on the WSL, it is supported.

Unfortunately, while I initially got Cygwin's Unison to work with my Linux shared-hosting account, once I changed some file permissions on the server, the file-synching program stopped working. So I'm back to the WSL for my Unison synching needs. I also installed rsync, and I still hope to be able to use it to back up the Windows side of the laptop.

I've already been using Cygwin instead of the Git Bash shell (which I've been using since I discovered it in my Windows right-click menu) to create files and directories in Windows, though Cygwin's failure to run Unison seamlessly with a Linux server on the other end has somewhat tempered my excitement over having yet another Linux alternative in Windows. Today I just right-clicked into Git Bash to create a few files and directories for my morning news production.

You may be thinking, "If he's so comfortable with Linux tools, why use Windows at all?" That's a fair point. I'm not happy about Cygwin's inability to sync with a Linux server, but I still have the WSL, and I recognize its value.

Mon, 22 Oct 2018

Ana Vidovic plays 'Asturias' by Isaac Albéniz

'Classical Gas' by Mason Williams

Sun, 07 Oct 2018

That was a spectacular SpaceX launch in the skies to the northwest of Los Angeles

That was a spectacular SpaceX launch in the skies to the northwest of Los Angeles

Wed, 19 Sep 2018

Soundslice makes this the best Ted Greene video ever

A link on Reddit led me to this Soundslice version of a 1993 Ted Greene guitar clinic at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood.

While a lot of human effort from a guy named Jon, who does have a Patreon account, went into transcribing every note in the video, the technology that makes this happen is revolutionary.

Basically you watch the video, and below it, the music unfolds with a line sweeping by every note and chord as Ted plays it. It opens up the harmony right there for you.

Click the image above to see what I'm talking about. Or just watch the video.

I am getting so much more out of the video now that I know every note being played. I'm not saying this is the only way to present an interactive transcription of a music lesson on a video, but it's a pretty great way of doing it. Soundslice should be commended for what they've built here.

It looks expensive as hell to embed on your own website, but it's cheaper to use on their domain, and it's an amazing technology for teaching music.

Watch the video to see what I mean.