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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.

Tue, 25 Jun 2019

Stanley Jordan, two-handed-tapping jazz phenom, sounds even better today

Is Stanley Jordan's two-handed tapping of the electric guitar a gimmick, or a portal to another kind of musical expression? I'm going with the last answer, and looking at this video of him playing the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" in 2015, I think he sounds better now than he did in his '80s heyday.

Part of what I'm responding to here is that his tone is so good. I'm guessing it's a combination of technique, musicality and better gear, but his time is excellent, and the way he works his way in and out of the tune is really worth watching:

Here he is playing the same tune in the 1980s:

Stanley Jordan is on tour right now, and the easiest way to keep up with him is via Facebook. I say this because his website is "under maintenance."

Unison works between Ubuntu and NearlyFreeSpeech.net's FreeBSD, so blog migration is a go

As long as I've been using Unison, I've been running version 2.40 because that's the newest package I can get for CentOS 6, which is the Linux system that my current shared host runs.

The first thing you learn about using Unison to synchronize files on a server and a number of desktops, is that Unison likes to see the same version on both sides of the "transaction." If you have different versions of Unison, or even the same version compiled with a different version of Ocaml, it's probably not going to work.

I haven't even figured out how to sync from Windows to Linux with the same Unison version on both sides. It probably has something to do with Unix file permissions vs. Windows file permissions.

But from Linux to Linux, you need the same Unison, compiled with the same Ocaml, on both sides. Even in Fedora 30, the project doesn't package "newer" than Unison 2.40, so that's what I run locally.

See if you can wrap your head around this: Forward-thinking Fedora packages Unison 2.40, but Debian and Ubuntu have been packaging 2.48. And the current "stable" version of Unison is 2.51, which seemingly nobody packages anywhere.

But NearlyFreeSpeech.net offers Unison 2.51, which the admins likely built from ports for their FreeBSD infrastructure. Even OpenBSD offers Unison 2.51, and you can get it with a binary package.

Let me tl;dr this: I downloaded the source for Unison 2.51, untarred it in my Windows 10 WSL (which is running Ubuntu 16.04), used apt to install Ocaml, untarred the Unison sources and used make UISTYLE=text to compile it. Then I had to make a .prf configuration file for the new site (building off my old .prf) and play around until I got it right. It worked, and now that I can successfully use Unison to sync between the Ubuntu 16.04 WSL in Windows and NFSN's FreeBSD system, I am free to move my Ode sites over there.

Why do I use Unison? Ode's has an extension that allows the server to put its own timestamps on post files after they are uploaded, so if I only pushed one way, say using rsync, the local files wouldn't have the timestamps that are on the server versions. Unison checks in both directions for file changes and reconciles them. Git is another way to do this, and it's something I might explore in the future, though I'm more interested in syncing the two filesystems than I am in version control, and that's why I decided to use Unison in the first place.

I'm thinking of giving up on /blog: I originally set up this blog with a /blog subdirectory because I couldn't figure out how to make the /cgi-bin/ode.cgi part of the URL "disappear" via Apache's .htaccess any other way. Since then, I have figured out how to do that, and I might either dedicate http://stevenrosenberg.net to this blog, or more likely put it on a subdomain like blog.stevenrosenberg.net. That MIGHT mean breaking the Disqus comments, but I could probably save them. Even so, I've been thinking about giving up on outside-hosted comments and instead creating links to Reddit to allow for discussion of entries on this blog.

Changing the URL could break all the old links. I could set up redirects in the Apache configuration, or I could just let it go. Or I might keep the old URL along with /blog.

Tue, 18 Jun 2019

Romain Vuillermin and Serge Merlaud sounds so good playing 'Lullaby of Birdland' on vintage Gibson acoustic archtops

The playing is great, but the guitars sound so good. Often an archtop acoustic can sound a bit harsh, but I think the key here is that they are both using a light touch. I love the "woodiness" in these instruments. The sound of the '30s L-5 being played by Serge Merlaud on the right is exactly what I like:

My beautiful Linux development environment by Deepu K. Sasidharan

Deepu K. Sasidharan's Fedora desktop

Normally I would just microblog a link like this, but in this case I want to give myself a better chance of remembering it.

My beautiful Linux development environment by Deepu K Sasidharan on https://dev.to goes into detail about both hardware and software, and the tips on how to configure Fedora 30 with GNOME are very good, especially because many developers take unusual pride in their minimalist, non-mainstream window manager choices.

The tips on GNOME theming, Extensions and icon sets are particularly welcome. Deepu's other interesting choices include ZSH instead of Bash (I'm not sure if this has anything to do with macOS' shell switch, but I think it predates it), the Tilix terminal, which allows for easy window splits.

Deepu's tips include the Timeshift backup utility, which I'd never heard of. It's like Apple's Time Machine, but for Linux, and it's something I want to take a look at.

Thanks, Deepu.

Sun, 26 May 2019

A quick recap of the Fedora 30 upgrade

I just did the Fedora 29-to-30 upgrade on my old HP Pavilion g6 (AMD A6 APU, 8 GB RAM) laptop, and it went about as smoothly as expected.

I first did a regular sudo dnf upgrade, then I let GNOME Software do the rest.

After the upgrade, which took a long time, the system booted up as normal.

One thing I did forget: Every time I upgrade Fedora, I get a Dropbox popup about downloading the daemon. I said yes when I should have said no. Dropbox then proceeded to re-index 56K or so files, which took quite a while.

Also, there is no Dropbox repo for Fedora 30 from Dropbox the company, so I get an error when I dnf upgrade. I am not even sure I need that repo because I have RPM Fusion, but maybe I do. Dropbox tends to run behind, and it's not like they have to do anything beyond creating a /30 directory and flowing the files into it. They'll get to it eventually.

As far as GNOME 3 goes, I didn't notice it being faster or slower. This is OLD hardware (circa 2012), and it's not a wonderful experience anyway, and I usually use Xfce because it's way more responsive.

The new GNOME 3 icons don't look so great. They look like they were plucked from the early 2000s. The "old" icons from Fedora 29 are nicer.

The sensors/temperature GNOME Shell extension is working fine, but the Sensors Xfce panel add-on got the usual error about not being able to access /usr/bin/hddtemp and not giving me the hard-drive temperature in that desktop environment. I tried changing the permissions, like the popup suggests, and that didn't work. I added battery voltage so I would still have two things displaying in Sensors, so I can live with that.

I can't say for sure, but it seems like Xfce is starting up more quickly than in Fedora 29.

I already had Fedora Modular set up in F29, but this is my first "look" at the supposedly faster GNOME 3. I'll have to spend a little time running it to see what I think.

I have a feeling that the new GNOME icons and fonts are designed to look better on HD and UHD monitors. At least I hope that's the idea because on my 1366-by-768 screen, it all looks a little worse. I can probably go into the settings.

Speaking of settings, the GNOME Tweak Tool, now just called Tweak Tool, I think, has a really, really different icon; that one I like.

As I've written (or at least tweeted) in the recent past, the hard-core Fedora users and developers seem to be all about Silverblue, the immutable desktop with Flatpaks for most applications and containers for development. Right now I just need everything to work, so I'm not going to mess with that for a few more cycles at least.

Overall, I'm glad the upgrade went smoothly, and while I grumble about Fedora upgrades, they usually work, even though they take a long time. Even during the release cycle, Fedora is extremely dynamic, pushing new kernels all the time, so I don't know why it can't just be a rolling release, which I guess they already have with Rawhide. But I really don't see the difference, except that Rawhide is "newer" in some way. I'd rather get all this new stuff gradually (like we already do) and not have a fully up-to-date system that requires a 2-hour-plus update to replace pretty much the same packages that are already on the laptop in F29 versions with a mostly (and usually) identical bag of bits.

That is all. I still love Fedora and recommend it to developers, writers and both casual and serious users of all kinds. There are a few extra steps here and there to get things working (like multimedia in the Chromium browser), but it's all Googleable, and it's not like you won't run into issues with Ubuntu and Mint, because you do and you will.

As always, Fedora is one of the easiest ways to get new packages on a continuous basis, especially new kernels that will bring better hardware compatibility to your newish hardware much more quickly than Ubuntu, Debian and similar distros that don't bring you kernels one after the other.

Sat, 25 May 2019

Molly Miller Trio - 'Something Stupid'

I heard about Molly Miller on the Guitar Wank podcast (and that's proof enough that being on a podcast really helps get your name out there).

She talked about the Gibson ES-335 that she loves (I can't remember the year, but I'll fill it in if I listen again and remember it), and this video shows how good both she and this guitar sounds.

It's a nice, clean Gibson tone, and I really love her playing:

Wed, 22 May 2019

'Giant Steps,' vocal by Camille Bertault with Nelson Faria on guitar

Camille Bertault sings the John Coltrane classic "Giant Steps," also scatting the original solo:

Pat Metheny Trio: 'Giant Steps'

I love Pat Metheny's take on John Coltrane's "Giant Steps." He plays the head of the tune in a more subdued way than you usually hear it, and he plays with the time, really slowing things down. But the improvisation turns up the heat and really shows the beauty of Coltrane's complicated and tricky composition:

Pat Metheny - Secret Story Live 1992

Whether in the context of jazz, or outside of it, Pat Metheny is an original. He's also one of the greatest improvising guitarists and jazz musicians of all time.

I get the feeling that his fan base isn't primarily guitarists, but he's so deeply expressive on his instrument that every guitarist should be listening to him.

This video includes a full concert. Pat is playing his Gibson ES-175, and the sound of the instrument and player are perfect:

Wed, 15 May 2019

Julian Lage - 'I'll Be Seeing You' - I play this video at least once a week

Julian Lage is the rare child prodigy who has continued to grow as a musician to the point that he's a true leader both on his instrument and in the world of jazz overall.

I love his conception, the contrast between subtlety and bombast and the way he uses an old Fender Telecaster and a an equally old and super small Fender Champ amplifier to create this sound that goes from clean to dirty depending on how hard he hits the strings. It's a unique sound in jazz guitar, where clean tones from archtops are the standard.

I really do listen to this about once a week. Julian is so good, and the band of Scott Colley on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums is right there with him in this intimate live performance at the Blue Whale in LA's Little Tokyo neighborhood.