Showing posts with label Amazonads. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Amazonads. Show all posts

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Summer Reading List

It's started already. The summer reading list is coming together. Neither book is in my usual comfort zone, but each is especially compelling.

First up, Josef Ferri's Trying to Catch the Wind. December of last year, I started working at a West Side school and ran into Mr. Ferri teaching at our school. His autobiographical story launches right in the middle of Buffalo's Westside, in the height of the 60's. Mr. Ferri's work is an atypical love story with humble beginnings and is driven across the county during one of the most tumultuous eras in American history.

Mr. Ferri advises: "If people open their hearts, a new love is possible."

Having spend weeks in his graceful presence, I know that he lives these words, daily. It's more than a quote, they are words he lives by.

My second choice was selected in that open heart and mind advice. Esmeralda Santiago's Cuando Era Puertorriqueña is another autobiographical story of change and tension.

Again, we are taken back to the 1960's, this time lead by a young Puerto Rican woman and her family transplanted from the island to New York City.

I could have purchased this item in English, but I wanted to share the love of reading and literature with students at my school. The text and language is crisp and the learning experience is wonderful. I may struggle at times, but so far it has been well worth the difficulty.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Martian by Andy Weir

Yesterday, I started reading The Martian by Andy Weir.

This is a gripping novel about biologist and astronaut Mark Watney surviving Mars after an accident leaves him alone and stranded. Watney must overcome challenge after challenge, none of which seem contrived to hold on until... What?

No one back home knows Watney is alive, there is no rescue coming. He has supplies for a 50+ day mission for six, machinery that isn't designed to last more than 30 days and no hope. Watney has to make his own way, with only his know-how and the equipment left behind.

Watney comes to us via logs and down to Mars first person narratives, which are heart pounding, humorous and chilling by turns. No hands are waved on this techno-thriller, the story is pack full of details and observations that could right from NASA. No surprise here, Andy Weir is a life long programmer for a national laboratory and space enthusiast.

Pick up a copy today; soft bound, Kindle or Bluray.

Friday, January 1, 2016

First Book of 2016 - Blue Remembered Earth

I selected a science fiction title by Alastair Reynolds as my first read of 2016.


Blue Remembered Earth is Earth bound, a tiny vignette of science fiction by an author who paints on galactic scales. I picked up my copy as Christmas gift from my parents.

You can pick up a copy at your local book store, or Amazon.com.


Since I got the Fire, 7" this year, I was sort of surprised by how much I liked having a physical book to hold. But if you like reading online or from your tablet or phone, Amazon.com's - Read eBooks using the FREE Kindle Reading App on Most Devices offer is hard to resist.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Strange Chromebook XFCE Glitch

This morning, I had some trouble with my version of XFCE on my Chromebook. Tab-Alt stopped working, the menu bar had vanished, the programs opened would not keep focus and the cursor was either X or invisible.

How I hate messing with a perfectly good distro. The solution is rather easy. Delete your ~/.cache/sessions directory and the functions come back after logoff/reboot. How simple.


Of course, I forgot you can't rm directories and needed to try three times before I remembered the rm -r modifier. So the actual command is above.

Whew! Thank god for Ubuntu and XFCE's easy of use. If this was windows, I'd be screwed.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Almost Ugly, Unicorn Princess Story

Nothing is ever perfect, until it is.
Within the first 24 hours of dating my wife, I did something unusual that has been a part of our lives ever since: I read a book to my wife. It was a passage from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. It doesn’t matter what page or passage, it was the one I meant, and it wasn’t a thing I intended to do. Nothing is so perfect, but it left a mark on us that still exists today.
Fast forward many years. My wife brought three wonderful children into this world and I made damn sure that I read to them as I did her. Reading is incredibly powerful. It requires no money, no power, no station or status but it can enrich a mind in ways that exceed all of those things.
I read to my kids and I still read to them even though they can do it for themselves. I read to my wife and I read for myself.
And sometimes, a tiny bit of magic can come from such a simply pleasure.
My daughter was born with a hemangioma. It was a strange, tumor-like structure on the bridge of her nose, about the size of a golf ball. Most of the time, they are very benign. Most often, hemangiomas do not require any treatment at all.
However my daughter, Cat’s hemangioma was different. Located on the bridge of her nose, there was the danger that it could affect the development of her eyes. Cruelly, this would not be direct damage to her eyes but a subtle impingement on her visual perception. Her brain would learn that something prevented sight in that space between her eyes and compensate by ignoring input from that area. If it wasn’t removed fast, she could have a large blind spot that her brain learned not to see. If that happened, there was a chance her sight would be destroyed.
(All that and it was unsightly. Having a child with a tumor on the face has the side effect of pulling every a-hole out of the woodwork to point, stare and lecture.)
As I mentioned before, hemangioma are structures that typically require no treatment. It turned out that our insurance didn’t want to treat it at all. My wife fought an epic campaign to make them understand why it was so critical to have this one, special case treated. She found the best doctor. She worked with him to get the best treatment while battling the insurance company into submission. Our daughter had the best care, from the best people at every step of the way. No BS. My wife, Jennifer really did it all.
At the time, I was doing the best I could to provide. I would work like a dog, come home and did the things that needed to be done. I did my part, the best I could. My place was to support. And I made damn sure that if the kids wanted a bedtime story, they would get it no matter how tired or frustrated I was.
I read The Hobbit in a sing-song voice. I read Watership Down because of the bunnies on the cover. I read The Last Unicorn over and over again as it was my wife’s favorite. Stupid, nerdy stories that were age inappropriate; but they put my family in magical, far-away places.
At the end of the day, Cat’s hemangioma was excised but she was not left unmarked by it. On the bridge of her nose was a scar. And it was more than a red splotch. To this day, she calls her scar “her marker”.
A couple of months after the her treatment, I found Catherine playing with two neighborhood girls. There seemed to be a small row happening on our front lawn. The girls were dressed as princesses, complete with copious amounts of make-up. It was comical, except my daughter standing between the other girls armed with a red permanent marker. The other girls looked very concerned.
“What are you doing,” I asked.
“Playing Princesses…. Unicorn Princesses,” Cat answered.
“Unicorn Princesses?”
“Yes, we all need markers”
“For what?”
“To be Unicorns.”
I took the marker away and Cat blew her stack. It was obviously nap time, but I had this niggling feeling that this was somehow my fault.
After a nap, I asked her what a “Unicorn Princess” was. Surprisingly, shockingly she explained that Unicorn Princesses were princesses that had a red marker on their foreheads where their horn used to be. If the other girls wanted to be Unicorn Princesses, they needed the same marker she had. Otherwise, they would simply be plain-old princesses.
Oh boy, it was my fault. And then some. I was so lucky I happened on the scene when I did. Otherwise I would be explaining a livid, semi-permanent, red mark to two sets of parents. That would be a very ugly conversation, indeed.
That night, situation defused, I read to my wife The Last Unicorn. I started where the trouble and the magic began:
“Molly smoothed the strange hair, and Schmendrick noticed on the forehead, above and between the closed eyes, a small, raised mark, darker than the rest of the skin. It was neither a scar nor a bruise. It looked like a flower.”
I can’t think of any other words that would be so perfect.



Sunday, May 31, 2015

Incantato, il mio vecchio amico Alsamixer!

If you use Duolingo on a chromebook, you may have microphone problems. I tinkered around with the settings and chromebooks do not allow websites to access your microphone and camera by default. Change that by going into settings and Privacy.
Now for the surprise. This didn’t completely fix my problem. I did a little more searching and found that Alsamixer is the key. Press crtl+alt+t to pop open a new crosh tab. Type shell and enter.

Bamb! Alsamixer almost like linux. That shouldn’t be a surprise. One issue I did encounter was the function keys wouldn’t work even when I used the function key. Not all is lost. For some reason the search key needs to be pressed to invoke the function keys.
No problem. Press it with your desired function key. Escape to exit. 
I like Duoling to keep up on my Spanish, but it occurs to me that it is also useful for my horrible Italian. Duolingo lets you select multiple languages at the same time. I have no idea if there is a limit to the number, but I thought that I would stick to the two I know pretty well. 

New chromebooks are much better than the one I have. Check one out today.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Terminal Refresh - Chromebook Users and Terminal

Years ago, I wrote a terminal cheat sheet over on pretendertothepower.com I think it is time for an update.
One command that I misunderstood from the beginning was sudo. This concept troubled me as there is a root account, which is sort of analogous to being an admin on Windows. Windows is bad news, because the admin account is so handy, or worse, required to do many standard things. This is not the case in all the various forms of Linux. xPud is a notable exception as you are always logged in as root.
By way of example, in Windows, the Admin account will not allow you to delete critical files from your system. At least, not without a lot of effort. Linux will happily allow the root user to delete ANYTHING!
Linux Rule One: If you don't know what outcome you need, root is NOT the tool for you.
On the other hand, you can gain temporary access to elevated privileges with the sudo command. This is actually the correct method for gaining privileges. Let's say you want to install some software, and you intend for all users to access it. The sudo command allows a user to gain privileges using their own password, not the root account password. The process creates a log of what is done in /var/log/auth.log; if mistakes are made, you can easily figure out what and when it was done.
In this example of sudo, we are going to install gedit. But we need to get ready for it.
sudo apt-get update
This command will tell your system to go and check what versions you have against what versions are available on the servers. It installs nothing. This is very important, because your linux computer has a local list of software available and it could be out of date. Update, update, Update!
The command for installing is:
sudo apt-get install gedit
Linux is made up of packages of software, in discrete chunks to make it more useable. The command apt-get install will put these packages on your system and make them useable.
You can go ahead and try to run both commands without the sudo. It will throw a nasty looking error.
Ok. Now we have gedit installed. We can open gedit without the sudo command. Type
gedit
As you can see, gedit is a very basic editor. We are going to use our elevated privileges and use gedit to do something a normal user cannot do. I am using a Chromebook with Crouton and I would like my Linux system to default to the $HOME/Downloads directory.
Let's fix this. Type sudo gedit .config/user-dirs.dirs to open the protected .config file.
What is not shown is all the activity in the terminal. At this point, since terminal opened gedit with elevated privileges, you should not close the terminal window.
Go ahead and change the text $Home/Desktop to $Home/Downloads.
I changed them all, but obviously you don't need to do that. Click save. You should see some activities in the terminal window.
Tomorrow we will look at using sudo for other purposes.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Chromebook's Task Manager

I have recently been suffering from some lockups and crashes. The need for a task manager was incredible and I lamented the lack of one.
How wrong I was. The hot key is Esc+Shift. Well. I feel stupid.
What I discovered using the task manager was that Adblock Plus was eating my RAM. Google Drive Sync, the ability to use and edit drive documents offline is also chewing on my memory.
As valuable as I find Adblock, I decided it to turn it off.
We shall see what happens.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Chromebook and Ubuntu - How do I right click?

If you are using Crouton on a Chromebook, there will come a day where you ask "How do I right click?" With Chrome, you tap with two fingers. In Ubuntu, this does work.
Nothing special is needed. Just hold the ctrl button and click. This also works with any Ubuntu variant and a Mac single button mouse.
Good to know, eh?

Monday, July 21, 2014

C710-2487 Acer Chromebook Hardware Specs

I had to mess with it, I put myself in developer mode and switched to the dev channel in an effort to get my Wacom Bamboo working with my Chromebook. I just don't have time to test to night, so I will simply make a brief post about this Chromebook.
Hopefully, if I keep notes all will go well. This post is for my sanity.
C710-2487 Specs:
Screen Size11.6 inches
Screen Resolution1366 x 768
Max Screen Resolution1366 x 768 pixels
Processor1.1 GHz Celeron 847
RAM4 GB DDR3
Hard Drive320 GB SATA
Graphics CoprocessorIntel HD Graphics
Graphics Card Ram Size128 MB
Wireless Type802.11bgn
Number of USB 2.0 Ports3
Average Battery Life (in hours)4 hours
Brand NameAcer
SeriesC710
Item model numberC710-2487
Hardware PlatformLinux
Operating SystemChrome
Item Weight3 pounds
Item Dimensions L x W x H11.22 x 1.09 x 7.95 inches
ColorIron Gray
Processor BrandIntel
Processor Count2
Computer Memory TypeDDR3 SDRAM
Hard Drive InterfaceSerial ATA
Hard Drive Rotational Speed5400 RPM
Optical Drive TypeNo
Audio-out Ports (#)1
Battery TypeLithium-Ion (Li-Ion)
Batteries:1 Lithium ion batteries required. (included)

This Chromebook
A newer Chromebook

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Multi Day Chromebook Offline Test Part 3

My questioning mind. Google Drive stores files locally. I wonder where? Could I find those files and drop them on a jump drive to edit elsewhere? I can’t see them anywhere on the hard drive and since this is an offline test of the Chrome OS, I don’t want to connect or fire up Ubuntu to poke around.
My other question is why doesn't the spell check work? I noticed that the spell checker for the Chrome Web Browser is working, but that function is apparently different than the spell checker for Drive files. I find it baffling; you would think they are the same tool.
The other funny thing is, I can’t delete drive files. I am sure that is a safety feature, but in messing around, I have created several “Untitled Documents” that I can't ditch. That is maddening to a file freak. Why can't I delete?!?
Well, I guess some mysteries in life are good.
Aw, who am I kidding. I am so gonna Google the answers later.

This Chromebook
A newer Chromebook

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Multi Day Chromebook Offline Test Part 2

As my multi day test of my Chromebook’s offline I noticed that I have some curious behaviors. Dropbox happily stores and updates information on my Chromebook hard drive by virtue of either manually downloading via the Chromebook’s App or automatically via Ubuntu’s capabilities.
Strangely, when I click Chrome’s Dropbox App, I am told I am offline.
I know that. The App doesn't do any caching locally even though the files are all present and accounted for. I have to manually navigate to the folder and open the files.
Some files open natively such as .jpegs or .pdfs. MS Word files open in Quickoffice, not Drive. From the Drive’s Open menu, I can't even access those files.
I could copy and paste information from Quickoffice to Drive, but that is just weird.
Or is it? I have to ask myself “why are you using both Dropbox and Drive?”. Well, the answer is Dropbox offered features that Drive didn’t have when I first starting using them, and now that each has more features, I am using them wrong.
I have 5 gb of space on Dropbox and over 100 gb on Drive. I should be using Drive all the time. I just can’t do it, because there are items I want to be available offline that drive does not handle. A copy of the Ubuntu installer for Minecraft. I suspect Drive wouldn't like that file at all.
Drive is a different sort of animal. It isn’t the beast of burden that Dropbox is. Drivebox stores data while Drive creates data. Someday I will adapt and figure it all out.

This Chromebook
A newer Chromebook

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Multi Day Chromebook Offline Test Part 1

I am currently offline today, but still wanted to do a little writing. Google Drive is an excellent writing tool and the offline capabilities are great. Drive offers a snap shot of my current files and the last time they updated.
In theory, I guess I could lose some work by not syncing or syncing in the wrong way but I won’t be doing this today.
According to my indicators, I have two hours of battery life from a fresh charge. Normally, this is four or more hours, but I am using 3pm-Player for music and charging my phone at the same time. This is a pretty big drain on the battery. Unpluging the phone and turning off the music cause the indicators to creep back to about 3 hours.
This particular model of Chromebook has a 300 gb hard drive and I feel that this may be killing the battery life. I hear it spin up from time to time while playing music and when the automatic save kicks in.
In offline mode, Drive does have some limitations. I can create a Doc, a Presentation, Spreadsheet or Drawing. Forms, Geogrebra, Python, Source Code and StackEdit are all unavailable. That is ok, I don’t really need those now, but my hyperactive mind wonders if there is a setting or option that I could select to make them active offline. I should Google that… later.
When writing offline, I am hesitant to edit a currently existing file. The reason is I do have my iPhone that is connected to drive and obviously could use another computer to connect. I don’t want to wonder what edit will appear first. Until I get comfortable with this offline cloud stuff, anyway.
All and all, this is pretty good. The tunes are rocking and the internet is safely held at bay.

This Chromebook
A newer Chromebook

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Chromebook Post I Always Meant to Write

For Christmas, my wife and I exchanged Chromebooks. I received the Acer C720 and she the HP Pavilion. We were replacing my Asus EEE and her Toshiba A210 and Macbook. We had some doubts about each machine as we were used either Ubuntu, Vista or OS X. However at the $200 price point, we thought we'd take a chance.
It's 145 days later and the report back from my wife is excellent: her Chromebook is used daily. Her favorite features are the quick boot time and the easy to use interface. It does nearly everything she needs.
She has two basic problems with her Chromebook. First, she can't connect her iPhone. This is the walled garden problem with iPhones. You just can't do it. The second issue is the lack of good MP3 player software. However, she found Spotify which is excellent on the Chromebook to address the lack of music.
My experience has been completely different. I am a power user and I was very concerned with the lack of offline capabilities, drawing software and photo editing tools. I have taken every step to avoid any problems by installing Ubuntu with Crouton. I cannot convey how easy this was, the Crouton is brilliant.
In my case, installing Crouton was premature. I do enjoy Ubuntu and all the powerful software that comes with it, but I discovered that I needed very few add-ons to make my Chromebook perfect for daily use. The Acer comes with a 300 GB hard drive plus 100 GB of cloud storage via Google Drive. I never have a lack of music. In fact, I can use Google Drive to store my basic music collection and download it to either my Chromebook or iPhone from my desktop. My player of choice is 3PM-Player, it reminds me of the old CD Player found with Windows 2K or Mac OS 9.
In the first few weeks of using my Chromebook, I was pining away for GIMP or Photoshop. Then I noticed that I was firing up Ubuntu and GIMP to do really basic editing. I guess I am more addicted to power tools than I thought. Talk about killing a fly with an axe. Recently, I added Pixlr to my machine and it meets most of my day-to-day needs. The Photo in this post was edited using Pixlr. The touchpad is not the tool for photo editing, but even a cheap mouse fixes this issue.
The only other downside is the "lack" of offline software for the Chromebook. The Chrome Store has tons of offline software, but for the longest time, it was hard to find. Recently, the Store added a checkbox filter for locating offline software which corrects the problem, sometimes. There are software vendors that try to sneak online stuff into the offline category, but those offerings stand out like a sore thumb.
I am really very pleased with our Chromebooks, I am starting to think of Ubuntu as a security blanket. I just can't let it go. Not now. But everyday, I'm learning to love my Chromebook more and more.


This Chromebook
A newer Chromebook

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Notes on installing Crouton on a Chromebook

I opted for the Unity interface for Ubuntu. HowToGeek has a great set of instructions.
At the end of the install, you have a very basic Unity interface. Everything useful is missing. The absolute easiest way to fix this is to get the Software Center.
Open Xterm by pressing ctrl-alt-t. Now type in sudo apt-get update. Wait. The next command is sudo apt-get install software-center. Wait again. There is no icon again, so go to lens and search for it.
That is all there is to it. Get installing.
My short list of software is:
Firefox
Chromium (to match Chrome)
Stellarium (to match Chrome's Planetarium software)
Dropbox
VLC Player
Restricted Extras
Inkscape
Libre Office (Search for LibreOffice and scroll down a bit for the suite)
Document Viewer
At the end of the day, you will need to "reboot" Ubuntu to all changes to go into effect. Click the gear and click the restart option. This will eventually return you to Chrome. Go ahead and open the shell and type sudo startunity again.

This Chromebook
A newer Chromebook