Mikes Thoughts

News, Views, Subterfuge

From Debian with Love

Here it is Sunday and the usual train of thoughts mixed with coffee ensue. I destroyed the Windows 7 install on this Lenovo Edge and put on Debian testing instead. I got tired of the senseless messages about malware, anti-virus subscriptions, strange slow-downs and random lockups on a pretty new laptop (for me). Lets be clear though. Moving to Linux is not painless. I had two issues which required some solving:

  1. Wireless with the realtek mini-pci card. I may just have to buy a better supported mini PCI card for this thing than the realtek. What a bogus bunch of crap. Have to download and install a second tarball to get it working. Come on realtek where is your game?
  2. Sound. Well sound coming from the laptop speakers would be nice. Took me a bit of futzing with audio this and that; installing pulse finally got it working. Seems to me this should be easier too. I guess Ubuntu is directly supported but I don’t like the brown distribution any longer.

Coffee Thoughts

There are always coffee thoughts on a Sunday morning when its dreary here in the cities by the bay. Thoughts like WTF am I doing here in the dreary cities by the bay. Why do I still persist in staying here? Why does work seem so much like work these days? Maybe work has always been that way and every so often I crack open the nut of it and see that its a fair counterpart of the dreary cloudy days of the cities by the bay.

Divorce is not a fair thing for men. When the judge says 50/50 custody, it does not mean that at all. What it means is that the guy gets 50% of the gritty remains of the 95% custody the other parent enjoys. Moving out really affirmed that for me. As long as I lived in a messed up house with messed up rules around people who believed themselves to be the victim, it was okay. Now I live elsewhere and the remaining 50% of the 5% sucks. I think how divorce works for men sucks. Never mind that I happened to be in Chennai when most of this went down and I stuck it out for 4 years in some cave where the sunlight in the dreary morning hardly ever broke through. I said I would never speak of this. I lied. This is my blog. You can go read some treatise on the positive results of life elsewhere.

Another thing which bugs me is the whole attention span of the media on anything that Apple happens to do. Why is it that when Google puts a thing in Android its not even worth a mention but when it shows up in Apple two years later its a major headline? Why do people think that a smartwatch not announced yet but that looks suckass is better than products out now which are undoubtedly evolving still. We don’t have years of smartwatches. In fact, where is Apple’s smartwatch? Not out yet. Same thing with features like widgets and custom keyboards. How the hell long has android had those things? Or even NFC payments for heaven’s sakes. Come on media. Get your head out of the nether regions. Stop shilling to apple. Be objective. The one TV channel that drives me crazy is KTVU. Their coverage is so biased its like I wonder how much apple subsidizes the network executives. We have events that launch a variety of android devices with nary a word. Let Apple utter a word about a larger screen size which is a thing we have had for awhile and its like they have invented said larger screen size and cannot wait to spread the idea around.

Seriously, this coffee thought is really irritating.

Closure of the Day

Its a shame there is no closure. Nothing ever has closure. There is no acceptance. No stages of things which finally end up with that grand and almost god-like acceptance. I’m just human dammit. I don’t know all the rules or guidelines or steps. I only know that things are things. Events transpire and we have choices how we deal with them. We cannot apply some grand sociological rules because even with the events we are all experiments of one. Don’t proselytize to me about how good this or that religion is either. Just because I was (and am) an anthropologist does not equate to being either agnostic or an atheist. It only means that I have a belief but I’m not willing to let you walk on it by smearing over the top of it some 2000 year old ethics that you think people should live by. The churches need to up their ante. What year is this again?

Sep 10th 2014 BlogPost

Here it is the almost anniversary of one of those days that marked your life. It dawns on me there a few days where you can remember with clarity the events. I remember when JFK was shot and died with almost total recall. The grainy black and white TV coverage, the hectic reporting, the time spent on running and re-running the TV coverage. Speculations of the why and wherefores. The conditions at my school with teachers crying and busdrivers taking us home. The sadness of my mom. JFK seemed larger than life, a figure cut out of larger cloth and made of the stuff of legend. Full of ideas and ideals. Granted, not perfect but who amongst can claim that crown.

Then it was that other day on September 11th when I saw the scenes on TV. The horror, the grief, the wonder, the madness of the moment. My son asking me,

dad, what did we ever do to them?

I never did have the answer. I don’t know why it was. I only know that my son never understood the reason why and I never really did. It prompted so many things. So many actions and reactions. No event in human history is isolated. From a hunter-gatherer learning how to make a stone tool that then revolutionizes the exchange of knowledge to how we build amazing super highways of knowledge and technology. Each and every thing is a spider’s web of connectedness and its cause and effect blossom out to encompass us, our today, our tomorrow. As much as you throw the atlatl which killed the Mammoth to the invention of that silica that makes computers sing to airplanes that crash into buildings.

We build all the highways and bad and good can travel them.

Tell someone you love that you love them.

Does the Technology Fit?

Way back when I studied archeology and anthropology. An instructor was fond of asking us why projectile points never weighed in at 10 pounds and constructed of sandstone. There’s an answer of course. Maybe two answers. There’s no way for some ultra mobile hunter to hurl a 10 pound sandstone projectile point at a fleeing critter and there’s no way a sandstone point would do much besides perhaps enrage the critter. So the answer was from him,

choose the technology that fits

Of course people would experiment with tools and techniques and delivery methods and procurement approaches and trading for needs or desires. But the main message with technology is we should tend to find those things which enable us, empower us, make us better, more lean, and faster or more worthy technology hunters. A laptop which weighs 100 pounds may look cool on a desk (or maybe not) but its ability to be a mobile tool may be lacking. This gets me to the point here.

Why buy some huge windows 8 or 9 laptop and your hurdle is periodic online banking, email checking, watching youtube videos? You may have the same questions as our hunter-gatherer.

Bigger must be better he could say. I could bring down larger game with that 10 pound projectile point.

Our stone tool technologist may have roughly the same reasons you feel that you need some BAL. That would be a big assed laptop :-). I am betting for a lot of things you don’t though. I am betting much like me; that once I figured out what I actually needed a laptop for the Chromebook became very useful.

You can go from that 10 pounds of sandstone to a quick and precise slim factored tool which will let you get things down securely and quickly, power itself on in seconds. Address your needs quickly and not make you a victim of incipient 10 pound laptop-itis. Instead, break free and become that technological hunter-gatherer which makes up his own mind to use that cryptocrystalline silicate or that Chromebook laptop.

My take on the advantages are not so much a 1 for 1 comparison of features but I would call it the 80% rule. Nothing will ever do 100%. A projectile point is lethal but it may break. A laptop may have an excellent screen but suffers with network access. There is always something which throws off the value and lessens it. You can find the difference in the 10 pounds of useless slab versus the light weight and lethal chert point. Just like you can with the monster Windows 7 laptop that lumbers its way through your technological challenges. You may need it every so often but pick the tool for the job and don’t let it be the other way.

I’m sure if you do that you will find as I have that picking the right tool for the job will lessen the chances of you using a 10 pound tool to satisfy a 1 pound need. Consider it.

Cable Cutting, Chromecast, Android Alternatives

I expect that many folks out there may have a desire to change how they get TV service. Since I moved from the house back in March, I determined to not give in to the comcast TV thing. I did get my own internet in the room since I am selfish when it comes to bandwidth and I wanted to be able to stream to as many devices as I could. Getting the existing comcast cable powered up for internet was quite easy and now I get the 50mbps down and 10 up. I actually get more than that after running speed tests. I am getting more like double that from a friendly wired connection. Very nice!

I decided to make the break and use Netflix and HuluPlus since combined, the two services are only about $18.00 a month compared to cable TV. I was missing the whole NFL football thing. Streaming NFL games live is challenging these days especially to a chromecast device. There is a NFL.com game package but you have to come from an IP address or country outside of the US and then its like $300.00 for  a reasonable package.

So now I have a nice Samsung TV, a chromecast, Netflix, Hulu, WatchESPN. All support chromecast. Nice! I decided for whatever reason to explore a cable package just to see if I could get it. It seems that a residence can only have one dedicated cable install for TV although the house can have multiple internet connections. Apartments, of course, can have as many as needed. Then I explored the option of DirecTV and Dish Networks. Both require a landline phone which I do not have either. I use VOIP services for phone.

Finally, in some desperation to get the upcoming NFL season, I started looking into indoor HD TV antennas. There are a number of sites you can find out there which detail how this works. Basically, you do some up front research online by searching for your area in a site like this one. It tells you the available channels in your area based on zip code, distance to the transmitter, signal quality, and other information.

After doing the basic research and finding out from the report, I could get about 90 different channels which are free and HD, I decided on a indoor HD Antenna that seemed like it would work.

mohuThe Mohu Leaf 50 is what I settled on. You can read about it on Amazon as well and see the overall comments and rating it received.

So lets cut to the chase and define all the myriad steps it requires to install. All the days lost to figuring out cabling, wiring, ports, interference quotients, adaptations.

Well, there were none of those actually. Its two steps:

Unpackage – Remove the packaging and check out the leaf. It comes in three parts. The leaf antenna itself, the coaxial cable, and the power supply that boosts things.

Plug in and Deploy on Wall – This step includes plugging in the end of the cable to the back of my cheapo Samsung 22 inch HDtv, placing on wall in room, starting TV and scanning for channels.

This is about it. Now one can enjoy more “cutting the cable” for a total cost of free for the TV and about $70 for the antenna.

The antenna sits on the wall in my room now and I get full HD channels for a number of local bay area channels that are broadcast open air in full 1080p. So sporting events that are telecast on local channels are covered now for free and college games on ESPN are covered now. If you are not using the WatchESPN app, one note. You need to have someone with a participating cable provider that will setup a login and password for you. Once done you can stream  the events to your chromecast.

Final Costs for the cable cutting experience of Mike:

Netflix – I get Netflix for about $8.00 a month no limits to use.

HuluPlus – I get HuluPlus for about $8.00 a month no limits.

Chromecast – $35.00 for the dongle

Leaf Antenna – About $65.00 one time fee

Now I consider myself fully outfitted for continuing my cable cutting experience. Also with the current setup, things are extremely mobile and if I move elsewhere, the leaf Antenna still works.

So what have I saved? The cable bill would add another $80.00 a month for basic service to my $75.00 a month for blast cable internet. The blast internet has been quite nice. What is advertised as 50mpbs down and 10mbps up is actually double in download speed and its not shared.

So with the total expenses above, I am only spending about $15.00 a month for streaming of Netflix and HuluPlus and I get the free digital HD channels I want to have.

My conclusion is that Mike’s cable cutting has been successful and I no longer need comcast TV and its price structure and issues. I get the content either streamed in HD to my chromecast or the digital channels I want from the HD antenna.

Very nice! Go out and cut your own cable now. The path is there.

 

 

Techno Toy Fun Days

Its always interesting to see how fast the technology universe expands. It wasn’t so many years ago our cell phones were these huge affairs with no real smarts to them. We could not use them for all the purposes as we do now. Some folks still use the feature phones perhaps out of desire or maybe they are just unwilling to evolve. Lets be honest though, the smartphone does so much more than just make calls and get or send text messages.

Its meant to provide a foundation for lives that have become ever busier and filled with all kinds of needs. Take a single example application from the application universe.

Google Maps. Most of the folks use this application, rely on it, ask it questions about distance and route. Maybe save locations or share them with others. We kinda take it for granted but consider what its done to revolutionize and evolutionize what we do with devices. Gone are the days like in my youth of my mom stopping to ask directions at a Gas Station. For that matter gone are the Gas Stations where there was someone to ask. Maybe how we navigate and find answers has also marked the changes for those old time gas stations where attendants would discuss the times of the day, answer questions for thousands of times, recall a place to visit on your way to a new place or slightly out of the way. The smartphone and Google Maps have done away with all that. Now we can find nearby attractions, food, hotels, bars, coffee shops with a second gesture on the phone. The interesting intersection on my Android devices comes next.

Google Now. Who would have ever thought we would have this digital companion when I first got a cell phone that would allow the applications to queue together into a card interface that would tell me about my movies, answer questions about historic things, request reminders to be set then remind me. The integration point between maps and now is so cool and almost creepy at times. We get a version of the application in the card on Google Now to help us along our paths.

To me, the inter-play of the two applications is nothing short of outstanding when compared to even where we were two years ago. Our phones now are meant to not just do calls. I have in mind an idealized commercial for some HTC or Samsung thing where the ad states in piquant terms,

oh, it does this and that and all of this other thing. It also makes and takes phone calls if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

Some would question the advances and want to go back to a simpler day when our devices perhaps did not become so “smart”. Sorry folks. Like my mom used to say, you’re a day late and a dollar short. There is a sense of technological anomie with this where if we were stuck on a desert island with no cell phone, no maps, no now; we would still not be lost or be unable to comprehend.

Anomie would disconnect us. Create a void or distance between where technology has gone and our ability to adapt. Perhaps we never truly get caught up and we live forever in scientific and technology anomie. We don’t know how to catch up and there is no catching up ever. Those events move too fast and some are not subject to the space/time convergence that we are. We simply do not know what innovation could happen in a minute from now in some other place. Even thousands of years ago, perhaps not all hunter-gatherers had the same fluted point projectile point tradition of the big game Clovis hunters in the southwestern US. Perhaps it was not needed. Maybe there was not the same wonderful silicates like chert and chalcedony and all their variations in those places. Who can speak of the reason why an idea and a technology and an approach does not carry forward. Ancient Aliens would want us to believe all the inventions are connected and that people simply are not capable of reaching the same point independently and some extra-terrestrial force must have spread the ideas.

Simply because we cannot understand a thing now means that people before us must not have been able to either. That’s BS by the way.

But now we have Google Maps and I’ve learned to appreciate the “having of it”. I rely on it but I understand we all live in fragile, encased worlds where sun and sky and atmosphere build our lives. Erosion and deposition maybe even of ideas still create our worlds and then destroy them.

Enjoy the techno toy fun days. Remember those other days though. We cannot relive the past but we can remember it.

Saturday Techno Toys

Here it is Saturday. A welcome day away from the usual non-stop phone calls and conference bridges. I determined to make some changes around here and first off decided to replace my aging wireless router with a new version. I will only do routers that can take Tomato USB firmware.

asus

The ASus RT-N66U gets high marks from users that reflash it with Tomato and it appears to be good after getting rid of the crap Asus firmware.

I’ll put Shibby Tomato USB on this critter after a few stops on my hardly ever booted Windows 7 laptop and get it setup with my comcastic cable internet. I’ve had the Asus RT-N16U router for a long time and it started having issues maintaining wireless connections so decided to take a hike to a new router.

My next techno toy is a new desktop. I wanted something small since I really don’t have a lot of room nor a desire to boot some monstrosity of a thing running any OS. I’m past the point of wanting a Linux desktop. I gave all of them away when I moved out.

hpchromeboxWhat I settled for is a little Chrome OS based desktop or Chromebox. I went with the HP Chromebox with added in wireless keyboard and mousie.

All you really have to do with these techno toys is plug them in to a friendly HDMI port, get a wired or wireless ethernet connection, and then login with my google account. All of my stuff replicates to the new device.

So what will I do with this toy? Well, I’m gonna play around with it, gonna stream from netflix, hulu plus, amazon prime, google play movies.

Mostly I just want to play with it and for a total of $200.00 I get a workable little desktop computer that will sync all my chrome extensions to it when I log in.

Blue News

I had decided to start looking around for work because things seem in flux and there were dangerous murmurs of change at my current account.  I talked with my team lead on Friday and I’m going to be staying at the current account through end of October and then Baker Hughes wants me back. In fact, and it made me feel good, the customer also requested I return and my IBM team had been requesting I return for some bit of time.

So I think work things are good through next year now at Blue. I’m kinda happy. I like where I am now but I could see the writing on the wall that things would change when they hired in a new CIO who seemed to have a mission. We also hired more PMs in expectation of increasing projects and instead everything contracted and I think a number of the new hires will soon depart. No real word on that but I cannot see how IBM would maintain them with no active projects to bill against.

Anyways, between the new techno toys, the weekend, some work security and it being hangover Saturday; I am feeling good.

Cutting the Cable

For years I lived in the relative comfort of a Comcastic house. I had channels upon channels for info-edu-tainment. I could sit comfortably with one of the favorite channels like History, BBC, AE and watch the hour by hour play of some show. Perhaps I took it for granted until Comcast would lose the signal in the house and then things would get rather boring because I had gotten used to my Comcast. I never did figure out how to break myself until February of this year. I determined in February to cut that cable.

There are some steps to doing this. You don’t have to get a divorce and move out of the house first like I did but having kids around will make it more difficult to implement the remaining steps. Kids want all the channels even if nothing is on. I’m gathering its not the reality but the choice. So, after moving out, I made a conscious effort to break the vicious cycle of cable and its cost for a service which I felt I did not really need.

What I did need were a few things to get going. I needed a decent Television that would take HDMI input easily. I needed a Chromecast to plug in to the TV. I needed some applications that would cast from my Android tablet to the TV. I settled for a Samsung TV which may have cost under $200.00 when I got it. I bought the Chromecast for $35.00 from Amazon. The application of the Chromecast to this particular TV is dead simple. Samsung pretty much designed this cheap little TV for Chromecast. The device requires a HDMI port and a USB power port for it. For whatever reason, Samsung places the two ports right next to each other so plugging in the dongle to its USB power supply took no additional cables, adapters, or frustration.

I then installed the Chromecast app on my Nexus 7 2013 wifi tablet and did the setup thing. I may have gotten an update to the Chromecast immediately. But after associating the device with my wifi in my room, it all worked. About 10 minutes of setup.

Now the applications part. Lots of choices depending on what you want but I settled on two subscription services given what I wanted:

Netflix – I think Netflix is king for many of us cable cutters. It offers a wide variety of TV and movie shows but not everything so this led me to the next subscription service.

HuluPlus – I bought this to watch shows that are not on Netflix. The Hulu implementation for casting leaves a bit to be desired at times and there seems some buffering or waiting at different times. But for the price and the value I get, its okay.

Watch ESPN – I can watch pre-season football games after logging in to a friendly comcast account and cast it. Very nice!

Casting the screen – I just tried this with the NFL preseason app which does not have chromecast support now. On my Nexus 7 you can start the Chromecast app and hit the cast the screen button and then start some application and it casts it to your TV. I tried this last night again and for applications like TV Go from Comcast and the NFL Presason app it all works well.

So how much have I saved and how much do I spend? I spend about $15.00 per month for both Netflix and HuluPlus. I spend nothing for Watch ESPN but use a comcast account because the application will not stream without some cable participation. Perhaps its cheating a bit since I don’t pay for the service but it does work and its free (for me).

Casting the screen is free and I can cast whatever I want that’s on the Nexus 7. So this represents a final way to get content that is not Chromecast supported onto my cheap Samsung TV.

If I get to the point of wanting to watch an Amazon prime video and there is no Amazon Prime Video app (not a good play, Amazon), I start the movie on my chromebook, attach a HDMI cable from it to the second HDMI output on the TV and off I go. Not exactly casting but I get to watch the shows on Prime Video like Downton Abbey or others which are on Prime. Amazon may release the Prime Video app but will probably never give it casting support since it would then compete with their set-top box called Fire TV.

As a note, I did try Fire TV and its not my cup of tea. I prefer the disruptive nature of the Chromecast. Ability to cast applications like Google+ or Youtube or my photos. I still have the Fire TV but it sits quietly in a drawer and has only been used about three times.

Well, there you got it; my recipe for going without cable and thriving. You can find the way to cut the cable and pay less. Be sure you have decent internet though. I do use comcast broadband internet because the room I have is coax equipped so getting cable internet at 50 down and 10 up was a piece of cake. I just ignore all the email on special deals for TV or phone service.

Cutting the cable can go further as well to phone service. Perhaps I will write up some time how I have a phone in my room which also did away with the Comcast Voice service at the house where I once lived.

Give it a try and see if you can get by.

Seize the Day you know how to whistle

I am missing the magic…

“seize the day”

and the beauty

“you know how to whistle”

These are difficult days. The genie is gone and the woman who enthralled us, made us veer toward her sexuality and beauty and held us like so many dolls  has bid adieu.

This world suddenly means so much less.

A song

This is an old Jackson Browne song which for some reason resonates too much for me. I listen to and wonder at the genius of Mr. Browne and how he does it. This was written years ago. The world was younger. But this is so good. Not the original. But better. Give a listen.

Its a powerful thing. Like a life cut short. Like Robin. I miss Robin already and its only been a day. Jackson’s songs go on.

Robin’s songs were cut short. Like another noted…

Genie you’re free.

Bye Robin. I’m sad. The world is missing something which was so unique.

Saturday Morning

Today is the good day. Saturday. The day to let the phone calls, the email, the emergencies die a slow death and just relax with Netflix and the Chromecast. Perhaps make a coffee run to Starbucks this afternoon. Then I’ll take my daughter out for some Indian food. Perhaps we will do the Chicken Tikka Marsala and the Lamb curry. Some rice and some Naan. I’ll stare over the plate at her and she’ll catch me and say,

what? what is it?

There is no explaining because having kids means there is no way to deglue the thing and produce a thing of meaning. Its far beyond and more basic. I’ll know that since she and my son came into my life that divorces, lies, cheating really have no meaning any longer. What I’ve come to realize on this Saturday is perhaps what th Buddhists have known. That life has its karma and it swings to and fro. Like the ball bouncing back up a thing happens and there is a reverse thing. Often times the reverse bounce is lower. I’ve known for awhile that karma strikes us and leaves us understanding that we do pay for the sins and the good things we do. One day I think redemption comes in the form of the bounce.

My ex-wife used to say the very same thing that those that create evil in the world or cause it will get it back in greater measure.

But my daughter is far beyond those things. Her carefully placed brown eyes and sometimes uneven smile make me realize that we all pass on the good and often the bad to our kids. We tell them early on what’s right and wrong. But I think they form the real knowledge far beyond our gates. They venture into the world and we cannot force their opinions or options.

I’ll enjoy the dinner in Milpitas tonight with my daughter and I’ll sneak looks over the chicken curry at her. See her carefully grabbing pieces of chicken and lamb with the Naan.

Now I know the answer to the “what” and “what is it”. Its us. Maybe not us together all the time but often the best rewarding times do not require the 100% togetherness and perhaps its not even needed.

Happy Saturday. Watch out for karma.

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