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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.

Sat, 18 Nov 2017

I have too many tabs open to use Firefox

Even though the new Firefox promises to be twice as fast as the old one and a legitimate competitor once again to Google Chrome, I have to stick with Google's browser. I'm working today, and I have 25 or so tabs open. I can see all 25 at once in Chrome, but Firefox only shows so many -- you have to hit arrows on either side to see them all. That doesn't work for me.

Fri, 17 Nov 2017

Fix Windows Hello (facial recognition) on HP laptop (or probably any laptop) after Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

After I installed the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update on my HP Envy laptop, the Windows Hello facial recognition login feature stopped working.

I Googled and found a simple solution that works.


  • Open Device Manager
  • Expand Imaging Devices
  • Right-click on IR camera (or any camera, probably) and choose to update the driver

The driver updated, then I went to Set Up Face Sign-In and re-configured Windows Hello.

And now it works.

Windows 10 is really not that bad

If you have an old computer, you should definitely consider Linux (and not just Chrome OS, as this ZDNet article suggests), but when it comes to new hardware you're buying right now, Windows 10 is more of a contender than the Microsoft operating system has ever been, even for people -- like me -- who have been using Linux as their OS of choice for years.

First of all, Windows 10 works well, is pretty slick, and handles HD (and presumably UHD) displays very well.

And since much of our (or at least my) computing is application-based and not so much OS-based, it doesn't really matter if you run the Google Chrome browser in Windows, Linux or Mac OS. It's still basically the same browser.

I still have the Geany text editor (though there is no terminal window in the Windows version). I code in Java and Ruby and haven't run into any problems yet.

But I wouldn't be here, still running Windows 10 on my 8-month-old laptop, if if werent for the Windows Subsystem for Linux, aka Bash on Windows, aka Ubuntu on Windows.

My "critical" Linux stuff -- mainly the scripts that run this blog -- still live in a Unix environment (believe me, I've tried it in Windows, and it's not happening). I use the WSL every day.

I also use Vim every day -- both in the WSL and in Windows, which has its own version of Vim (and GVim).

So far I've had one regression with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update -- the facial recognition on this HP laptop stopped working. Maybe it'll get fixed. It's not at all critical.

I just didn't want to go through the fight to get Linux just right on this laptop when my interests these days are more in writing code in Ruby and Java and less in how my OS is handling graphics, sound, networking and the like.

If these things were a problem in Windows 10, I'd be running back toward Fedora. Or Ubuntu. That might happen. And I still have my Fedora-running laptop. But once you go to an HD screen, it's hard to go back. I'll probably say the same thing about UHD when I get a laptop that offers it.

But for now, the OS is not important. I am running a browser and a few programming languages, various and assorted text editors, and until Windows 10 crosses me, I'm not motivated to buy myself any trouble (and don't tell me how you installed your favorite Linux system and had absolutely no problems ever; fixing those problems veered into hobby territory for me, but I'm just not feeling it these days). I recognize that Microsoft is spying on me. So is Google. I'm probably more comfortable with the former than the latter. And I'm way more comfortable with either one of those than I am of Facebook. That's a topic for another day.

Tue, 14 Nov 2017

John Stowell live in The Sound Room at WEEU-AM 830 in Reading, PA

One of the best, deepest and most innovative solo jazz guitarists working today, John Stowell, plays "Ligia," "Nobody Else But Me," and "Remembering the Rain" during a live session at WEEU-AM 830's The Sound Room in Reading, Pennsylvania.

His harmony is so innovative, and his chords so unconventional, that he's pretty much re-inventing how jazz is played on the guitar. I think Ed Bickert played chords kind of like this, but Stowell is definitely in his own arena when it comes to playing tunes his way.

They are not lying. The new Firefox is really fast

I just upgraded to the new Firefox (version 57, in case you're playing along at home), and it is a lot faster than the previous version.

Speed is the one thing that drove me away from Firefox and toward Chrome, and truth be told I would rather run Firefox and have Google spying on me just a little bit less.

The other thing that I need in a browser is the ability to have maybe 20 tabs open with the abilty to switch between them without pain. That's a big reason why Chrome became my go-to browser.

If Firefox can handle multiple tabs, it will be a whole new game. I commend Mozilla in advance, and I'll tell you how it goes.

Sun, 12 Nov 2017

A dedicated social blog?

I'm thinking that it's time for me to break out these social-style posts into their own blog.

I haven't done a hard analysis, but if I had to guess, I'd say I'm putting out 50 social posts for every traditional blog post. And since the social posts are in a subdirectory (aka a category), it's easy to go to that category and see all of the social posts, or see all the posts, traditional and social.

But there's no way to exclude the /updates directory and see everything but what's in that part of the filesystem. I'm sure I could code this into Ode, which is nothing if not flexible, but the more "natural" way to handle this is to have a separate blog for social posts, keeping this one for traditional, long-form writing.

It's an idea. The good thing about Ode and its flat-file structure is that I could move all of the "old" social posts into the new blog by simply copying the directory and its contents into the new site's /documents directory.

I'm not ready to do it just yet, but I am thinking about it. If I'm only putting out 10 social posts a day, I think a single blog is manageable for the reader. I am probably doing 25 some days, five on others.

So I may stick with the current arrangement (the preferred choice of the lazy), but another thing having two sites does is simplify the sending of posts to social-media sites. With two separate blogs, there would be no contortions to get traditional updates (post title and post link) automatically sent to Twitter with social updates (post body only) either excluded (I'm using my Blog Poster app to send them to Twitter) or sent automatically.

'Big Little Lies': Best thing on TV in months

I've been watching the seven-episode "Big Little Lies," starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley and Laura Dern, which is written by 1990s TV powerhouse David E. Kelley, and it's probably the best thing I've seen on TV in the past six months or year.

Not that the competition is all that stiff. "This Is Us" is not my thing. "Victoria" is good but not great. I did like "I Love Dick," but HBO's "Big Little Lies" is better. It's also better than the most recent season of "Orange Is the New Black" (which improved with its ground-breaking pacing). "Transparent" is flagging. I really like "Casual," but "Big Little Lies" is better.

"You're the Worst"? Also running on fumes. "Love" from Netflix? Not as good.

"Poldark" is great, but "Big Little Lies" is still better.

So now that I've done super-mini reviews of every show I've watched in the past year, I can tell you that we're just starting the final episode of the seven-installment "Big Little Lies," and in terms of writing, acting and directing, this is the best that television has to offer.

Sat, 11 Nov 2017

I have a "now" category

When my Blog Poster script isn't posting a "social" entry, it drops the files in the "now" directory/category. I figured that "now" was a good a way as any to describe these quick posts that aren't meant as direct social media posts. They go to Twitter as a "normal" blog post, with title and link (instead of post body with no title or link).

Why can Ruby call Vim in read/write mode in Linux but read-only in Windows?

Why does Ruby's system call to vim allow me to write a file sometimes but not other? I can write all files in Windows with Notepad, and all files with vim in Linux.

Update: Now I seem to be having no problem using Vim for read/write. Maybe my last change (removing routine that read from a text file) fixed this bug, too.

Mon, 30 Oct 2017

IFTTT should send this post

This is not part of the /updates directory, and IFTTT should send it to Twitter.