“Fixing” an old laptop

Dell Inspiron 1545

Dell Inspiron 1545


A few years ago when I was in the market for a new laptop I picked up one of the then wildly popular and cheap Dell Inspiron 1545. There are gobs of these running around now and you can find them cheap if you look (click the pic for links to Amazon). I used this for for, it seems, forever. I only ever had one problem with it – a small plastic chip in one of the corners that I repaired with superglue (you would never notice). Lately, though, it has been running noticeably slow. I don’t know if it’s because it’s actually getting slower, the software is just getting fatter, my work computer is blazing fast in comparison, or a combination of any/all of those. Either way, it’s really been bugging me so much lately that I had considered just getting a new lappy. Before I did, I decided to look over the specs to see what I actually had here. Mine is a core duo 2.2Ghz with 4Gb ram and a 320gb HDD. Running Linux this thing *should* run like it was on fire. So why so freaking slow? A quick look at “top” revealed what had to be the problem. I was at almost 0% CPU and only 1.5Gb ram. It HAD to be the slow as pencil and paper hard drive writes and reads. A quick search says that somewhere in between now and the last time I came up from air at work SSD drive prices dramatically reduced, so I stopped by a bigbox store and picked up a 240Gb SSD for <$100 and screwed it in and WHAMO! It’s like I have a brand new laptop! Seriously! Not only is the difference noticeable, it’s amazing, so much so that I needed to break my blogging silence to tell you about it. If any of you have an aging laptop like me that runs but is “meh”, it’s totally worth it to spend the 15 minutes it takes to do this upgrade. It certainly just saved me $500 and I am now, once again, perfectly happy with my trusty old (but well kept) Dell Inspiron 1545.

April 26th, 2015, posted by linc

A brilliant idea for your prayer life!

Protestant Prayer Beads

Protestant Prayer Beads


I am willing to bet there are more than a few of you who, like me, have difficulty in your prayer life. My issue is my mind seems to wander a mile a minute and I will start to pray for my family and end up thinking about string theory (physics) or stuff I need to do for work the next day, or what have you. Lack of focus is a real problem.

I was wandering around the internet and ran into something very curious, It was a set of Protestant Prayer Beads, otherwise known as an Anglican Rosary, and actually if you search it out it seems almost every Protestant denomination lays some kind of claim. What it is in essence is a Rosary like set of beads, smaller and configured differently than a Catholic Rosary. It seemed to me to be the perfdect tactile tool to help people like me, who need focus, in their prayer life. I set out to research it.

Although from a Christian perspective you may be most familiar with a Catholic Rosary, prayer beads have been used in almost every religion since the dawn of time it seems. The references are endless. None the less, apparently in the 1980s someone had the brilliant idea to Protestantize a set. I know what you are thinking here, in Matthew 6:7 the Bible warns against babbling prayers in meaningless repetition. There is also the concern about idol/saint/Mary worship, subjects that distance Protestants from Catholics and their Rosaries. Well, that is the real beauty of the Protestant prayer beads. There is no definitive format.

If you do some reading you are going to find a hundred different sites in the internet with a hundred different suggestions on how to use the Protestant Prayer Beads to aid in your prayer life. Most of them suggest a repetitive prayer format, albeit different prayers. Some of them, like myself, are going to suggest something different. First is the “Invitatory” bead. I use this for sort of gearing my self up. An invocation prayer. As you can see by the illustration the rest of the beads are broken up into segments with bigger beads. Those 4 bigger beads in the circle are called “Cruciform” beads and on each one of those I pray the “Our Father”, or rather some personal incantation of that remembering that prayer is meant for worshiping and thanking God. The smaller beads in the chain are the “Weeks” and on each week bead I pray for a person or people that I have been burdened to pray for. This may sound like quite a lot, but seems to roll through pretty quickly.

The end result here is this device has helped me hold my concentration and focus during prayer. It helped me spend a definitive amount of time talking to God and I felt more fulfilled and better about that than I have in a long time so much so that I wanted to make sure I shared it with you all. I hope it helps you like it did me. A slight side note here is that these are available for purchase from various places on the net but it literally took me less than $10 and 20 minutes to make my own. This would be a fantastic and fun project for not only you to help bring you closer to God, but also for your family, friends and children. Try it and let me know what you think!

February 17th, 2015, posted by linc

CentOS System Administration Essentials

CentOS System Administration Essentials

CentOS System Administration Essentials


The description of this book is “Become an efficient CentOS administrator by acquiring real-world knowledge of system setup and configuration” and the author, Andrew Mallett, has put together quite a collection of information in there to help you do just that.

Probably worth mentioning here is that this book is obviously designed for someone not only familiar with Linux in general, but also comfortable eough with CentOS to dispatch with the usual obligatory chapters dealing with installation, etc.. Yes, this information is surely aimed for someone who is. or has designs for being a Systems Administrator. As it happens, I am “one of those guys” so I’ll give you my thoughts on how well he did.

One of the interesting things about Linux is there are so many ways to do things and so many areas of focus. This means that this area of information that a system Administrator should know is pretty expansive and what *I* think a System Administrator should be an expert in is not necessarily what someone else may think. Well, up to a point. There are some real basics in there as well. One of those is using vi or vim and noodling around on the command line, and this is right where Mallett heads for in the beginning of the book and rightly so.

After running through some great tips you start to dive into some deep subject matter on Grub, filesystems, processes (all really important stuff). Yum (package management) and managing users are also important standards that are covered well, and then you start diverging a bit from what I would consider “must know” information into, really, the more interesting stuff of the book. You walk through LDAP auth, Nginx web servers and puppet configuration management. While those may not be essentials for your systems, it sure is nice to at least have a basic understanding, and the information here on them can get you up and running. And then lastly we go back into the last topic, security, which is also a “must know”.

I quite liked this book, especially the portion on Nginx, which I had not played with before. It was good information, easy to read and use and the examples worked. I also noted that much unlike some other similar books I have reviewed, this book is not so voluminous as to make it impractical to read through in an afternoon or so and you can do so and come away immediately with some practical and usable information. Again, the book “CentOS System Administration Essentials” by Andrew Mallett, is available from Packt Publishing for under $25 and is well worth it for all you budding (and maybe not so budding) System Administrators out there.

February 1st, 2015, posted by linc

Aw crap.

Sometimes crap happens and it just so happened that today when I was doing an unattended update to wordpress and feedwordpress for LinuxPlanet Oggs and Casts something twigged and deleted all the feeds. If you have a feed in one of those places getting syndicated, well, now you don’t. It looks to me like there was a category shift and I do see what I assume to be all the former syndicated participants listed in the blogroll. I am going to attempt to go through there and re-add everyone, however, if you do NOT see your feed show back up within a couple days, or something seems wrong with your content, etc., then please shoot me an email and we’ll get things straightened back out.

–Linc.

January 8th, 2015, posted by linc

E-cig Review: Derby City Flavor

Derby City Flavor

Derby City Flavor

At last! Another vape review!

Derby City Flavor was kind enough to send me a few samples for review. In the interest of full disclosure, they sent the samples free of charge for review purposes. I vaped the samples using cartomisers, iClear30S and Protanks, on a variety of different regulated mods. I am not really a “dripper”, but a dedicated day to day vaper and I appreciate e-juices that are tankable, like these, however, Derby City Flavor does state on their website that they will be happy to mix blends suitable for drippers as well. Just ask them ;)

Derby City Flavor sent me 5 7mil sample bottles of juice, a couple stickers (nice touch) and some literature. My initial impressions are always about the actual bottles, and in this case, they are glass, with glass drippers and beautifully printed labels. This, to me is impressive and I cannot stress how much this smacks of care, pride and quality. All the absolute top e-liquid vendors present their wares this way and for good reason. These types of bottles are more durable, better looking, more functional and easier to use, and will never impart any rubbery or plasticy taste to the juice. My ONLY caution about these particular bottles is they do not have child safety caps, so when you order from Derby City Flavor, as you will want to, make sure to lock your juices away securely from curious little fingers.

Now down to the juices. The reason I was so excited for these to arrive is that one of my all-time favorite drinks is chai-tea, and that was one of the flavors they were sending. Of course, this was the very first one I loaded up. Mandvi Chai Tea. I was initially pretty disappointed in it (hear me out). This did NOT taste like chai-tea to me. In fact, it took me almost an entire tank to figure out what it was. You’ll notice I just said I vaped a tank, well, just because I said it didn’t taste chai to me, doesn’t mean it wasn’t strangely addictive. It was a very earthy taste with a strong but familiar “something” spice. Turns out that spice was the clove, which didn’t occur to me until almost after a full tank. I used to smoke cloves when I was younger so the taste was just familiar enough to bug me until I figured it out. This is where the story gets odd though. By coincidence, I had to run off to tend to some family business for an extended period and didn’t restart my taste testing in earnest for almost a month. I loaded the chai back up for some of that yummy clove and behold! It’s MUCH more chai now. I guess this is just a lesson on steeping? Anyway, the website describes this juice as:

Mandvi Chai Tea – From the ancient port of Mandvi on the Arabian Sea, Derby City Flavor brings the sultry flavors of India. Our mystifying blend of spices evokes the meeting of the maritime spice trade and the camel caravans bearing spices more precious than gold. Experience an exotic treasure, heady with cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon.

I think it is a very earthy very clovey mixture, with a decent hint of chai, and it’s also quite good (let it steep).

Next up was the Raspberry Linzer Macaroon which the website describes as:

Raspberry Linzer Macaroon – Like the now-famous Linzer torte, our Austrian-inspired elixir marries the sweet fruity notes of raspberries with the soft warmth of almond for a delicate and sophisticated treat. Rumor has it Mozart himself favored such treats!

This one smells so good from the bottle you’ll want to just drink it. It’s a very warm and earthy, almost spiced flavor (perhaps it’s a bit of that almond taste) with just the slightest hint and after-vape lip taste of cooked raspberries. Sort of a naturally sweet taste and not like artificial raspberry candies.

On to Moroccan Mint Tea which says:

Moroccan Mint Tea – Mint tea is prized in the heat of Morocco for the refreshing cool the mint provides, and its preparation for honored guests is an ancient and noble tradition. Enjoy our version of this soothing treat in an elixir that evokes the cool of shade after the desert sun. You don’t even need to wait for guests!

And this one is right on and delicious. I can taste the fresh mint and a black tea behind it. This is good stuff!

Next was Phu-ket Mango Lychee described as:

Phu-ket Mango Lychee – The rich sweetness of mangoes from the steamy jungles of Thailand, balanced by an exotic twist of lychee, combine to bring you a flavor unlike any other. Let our elixir take you to a land of wonder.

I like this and I am not really a lychee fan, but I think this is really done right. That balance with the mango makes this an exotically fruity adventure for your palate. There is something snappy about this one that makes it really a pleasure to vape.

Last but certainly not least is the Cuba Libre which says:

Cuba Libre – A patriot’s drink, this classic celebrates the heroic spirit of the freedom-fighter. Our elixir captures this independent spirit along with the traditional blend of sweet cola, heady tropical rum, and a refreshing dash of cooling lime. Celebrate your own independence!

Now I guess I am not much of a drinker because I had never heard of such a drink before and, as a general rule of thumb I do NOT read the descriptions on the bottles or websites before sampling the juices because I believe that can cloud my impressions. This one not only had me stumped but it was ABSOLUTELY FREAKING DELICIOUS. I still cannot put it down. It took both me and my wife 2 days to figure out that it was a cola flavor base. I have never had a “good” cola flavored juice before. Just amazing. I am sure that most of you, as vapers, have heard or experienced “vapor tongue”, a phenomena which briefly causes your e-juice to taste somewhat like wet cardboard. Most people resort to candies and things to get that to subside but THIS juice is the cure. The lime in this just cuts right through your vapor tongue. It’s a treat!

Well, there you have it folks! Derby City Flavor has 3 different series of juices and all of these except the Cuba Libre were from their Ports Of Call series with the Cuba Libre being from their Caribbean Indulgence series. They offer juices in 0, 6 or 12mg nic in 7, 15 or 30ml sizes (buy the 30s you’ll like the juice). Prices at a very reasonable $7, $11 and $19 respectively. Their stuff is just delicious so go and order some and you’ll be glad you did!

October 25th, 2014, posted by linc

Mastering Proxmox by Wasim Ahmed / Packt Publishing

Mastering Proxmox

Mastering Proxmox

Where do I even begin here.. Well, at the beginning. This book is really aimed at people who are both somewhat familiar with Linux and, at least conceptually with virtualization. In a nutshell, this book will take you through a soup-to-nuts clustered Proxmox install.

For a 300 page book, there is a pretty good amount of information to cover here and you start right out with an overview of then menu system – what to find on what tab and that sort of thing. This is followed very closely by actually setting up a basic cluster, the part of the first chapter that I spent the most time in. Once you have worked your way through that far, you are really already successfully running your own cluster and the rest of the book is your reference materials and in depth learning. You go through a lot of information on configuration files and shared storage solutions (which you really need for a clustered installation), networking, advanced configs for your virtual machines, high availability, troubleshooting issues, etc..

What I liked? Well, I think the book is layed out well, except for maybe placing the menu section before the install section of the first chapter. The book follows a sensical path throughout. The examples are great and clear as well as the diagrams. The book is not at all hard or too technical to follow for the subject matter. The troubleshooting section was a big help for me and I think a boon for the book. I really liked it and ended up with a working cluster at the end (actually somewhere in the middle).

Definitely another keeper. Mastering Proxmox is something you really should look into if you are at all interested in doing any computer virtualization. There is plenty in there to learn and for around $20 I don’t think you can beat the price!

September 9th, 2014, posted by linc

Review: Penetration Testing with the Bash shell by Keith Makan – Packt Pub.

Penetration Testing with the Bash shell

I’ll have to say that, for some reason, I thought this book was going to be some kind of guide to using only bash itself to do penetration testing. It’s not that at all. It’s really more like doing penetration testing FROM the bash shell, or command line of you like.

Your first 2 chapters take you through a solid amount of background bash shell information. You cover topics like directory manipulation, grep, find, understanding some regular expressions, all the sorts of things you will appreciate knowing if you are going to be spending some time at the command line, or at least a good topical smattering. There is also some time spent on customization of your environment, like prompts and colorization and that sort of thing. I am not sure it’s really terribly relevant to the book topic, but still, as I mentioned before if you are going to be spending time at the command line, this is stuff that’s nice to know. I’ll admit that I got a little charge out of it because my foray into the command line was long ago on an amber phosphorous serial terminal. We’ve come a long way, Baby :)

The remainder of the book deals with some command line utilities and how to use them in penetration testing. At this point I really need to mention that you should be using Kali Linux or BackTrack Linux because some of the utilities they reference are not immediately available as packages in other distributions. If you are into this topic, then you probably already know that, but I just happened to be reviewing this book while using a Mint system while away from my test machine and could not immediately find a package for dnsmap.

The book gets topically heavier as you go through, which is a good thing IMHO, and by the time you are nearing the end you have covered standard bash arsenal commands like dig and nmap. You have spent some significant time with metasploit and you end up with the really technical subjects of disassembly (reverse engineering code) and debugging. Once you are through that you dive right into network monitoring, attacks and spoofs. I think the networking info should have come before the code hacking but I can also see their logic in this roadmap as well. Either way, the information is solid and sensical, it’s well written and the examples work. You are also given plenty of topical reference information should you care to continue your research, and this is something I think people will really appreciate.

To sum it up, I like the book. Again, it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, but it surely will prove to be a valuable reference, especially combined with some of Packt’s other fine books like those on BackTrack. Buy your copy today!

July 16th, 2014, posted by linc

Peter Project?

Without going into a giant back story (that I would be happy to share if there were interest), years ago one of the ministries I was involved heavily in was a homeless ministry. It’s been a while but I have been burdened for this once more….

In the Bible, there is this great passage in John where Jesus is talking to Peter and asks “Do you love me?” and Peter says yes and Jesus says “then feed my sheep”.. This happens 3 times (no doubt for emphasis). Anyway, there is a lot of meaning in there if you care to examine it but you get the gist. Never have I felt so fulfilled in my spiritual life than when I was feeding the homeless, and in Philly I run into them constantly. It pains me not to have something to give them and I refuse to hand out money (for obvious reasons). Therefor I am starting what I’ll refer to as the Peter Project.

I, along with my wife’s generous help, am going to make sure that I have at least one lunch bag with me every day containing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a water and a hand written note that says:

Hello,
Several years ago I met a guy that saved my life. All he asked for in return was for me to bring you this food. He said to tell you he loves you and he wishes you would call on him sometime so you two could talk. His name is Jesus.

Now here’s where you all come in. While it would be great if you have the inclination to donate ($5 buys a lot of peanut butter), what I REALLY would love to see is YOU doing the same thing. It’s gotta cost less than a buck a day for you to follow suit. Think about it. for less than $400 over an _entire year_ you can PERSONALLY provide a meal for someone who needs it EVERY DAY. Please contact me and share your success stories! Who’s in?

June 30th, 2014, posted by linc

A Practical Guide to Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Seventh Edition

A Practical Guide to Fedora and  Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Seventh Edition
  Sometimes timing ius everything. At least it was fortuitous this time for me. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I had been sitting on this review for a little while. There has been a lot of bad news going around lately so It was really a great pick me up to see they had used one of my quotes in the book. That’s always a nice thing ;)

The rest of the book came with surprisingly good timing as well. You see, it just so happens that I have been working lately at readying my work infrastructure for the additional release of RHEL 7. This book helps to take a lot of pain out of that new release by going over what I believe are the important changes / additions a person really should know.

Like Sobells other books, he takes great pains to guide you through a variety of topics that generally amount to a good basic understanding of the operating system. You learn about the desktop and the shell and how to set up and run some common services. Much of it is updated information from his previous versions of this book as you would expect. Where it strays are the things I just happened to be particularly interested in on this go around. The biggest changes to quickly get a hold of with the new RHEL 7 stuff, as far as I am concerned, is the replacement of MySQL with MariaDB, the new firewalld daemon and the service to systemctl transition. Mark not only mentions all these but does a good job at general instruction for their use. He also adds a new chapter dealing with virtualization, covering not only KVM but also VMware and Cloud Computing, which, of course are going to be good ways for you to set up those practice VMs you are going to want to play with.

Sobell is one of those authors that, as a techie guy, I am always excited to read and review, and this time is no exception. This book, A Practical Guide to Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Seventh Edition, is going to be another on my “recommend to read” list and a constant traveler with me for quite a while. For $60 US cover price ($33 right now on Amazon) you get not only this weighty volume of information, but a nice Fedora 19 DVD and 45 days free access to the online edition of the book as well (to help keep your work bag more manageable ;) Another keeper from Mark Sobell and Prentice Hall. Get your copy today!

June 21st, 2014, posted by linc

Linux System Administration LiveLessons By Ben Whaley (Pearson)

http://www.informit.com/store/linux-system-administration-livelessons-video-training-9780133551310

Wow, where do I even start. This is a LOT of material and really, my first review of a lengthy video (series). The series consists of 9 downloadable .mov files which total up to approximately 1.3Gb of space and around 350 minutes of video, or about 5.5 hours according to my video players calculations.

The first noticeable bonus from a video series as opposed to a book, is, well, video. You get to watch commands and examples in real time along with the information. Of course, the inverse is also true and if you are looking for quick reference or brevity then a book is really the way to go. Somehow, however, it almost seems as though I tend to get less distracted from the content with video than with a book. That can indeed be a bonus!

There are 9 video sections or selections in this series and the are as follows: Where to start, The Shell, Booting and Shutting Down, Access Controls and Root Powers, Controlling Processes, The File System, Log Files, TCP/IP Networking and finally, Security. This really is an exceptionally wide range of information to cover, I think, and that brings me to my review.

This videos series says it is aimed at Linux beginners, Administrators familiar with other OSes and Anyone interested in learning about Linux. All in all, I think that covers exactly everybody, everywhere. If you combine that with the enormous amount of information that wants to be covered in the subject material it just makes the objective impossible. I found the information good in some areas, too advanced for general and new users in others and completely missing in places as well. Even topically it seems a bit disjointed to me, for instance talking about how to “start out” without ever stepping through an actual Linux install, just use some pre built virtual machine copy. You hear a lot about running Linux via Vagrant and Virtualbox but as an actual System Administrator, I can assure you, that is not how most people run it. I realize we are talking nuts and bolts OS stuff here but I also found the content a bit dry. Some user or admin stories would have helped a great deal in that area. I would think finding a way to keep the interest of your audience would be even more paramount when dealing with dry technical content.

Now, does this mean it was all bad? Not at all and don’t walk away from this review with that impression. There is some genuinely good information buried in there for most Administrator levels, just realize that if something sounds too advanced or technical for you, skip to the next video chapter, much like you would in a book. Ben seems to not only know what he’s talking about but I don’t think I noticed him saying “er” or “ah” or “um” in nearly 6 hours of video :) Usable as it is, the perfect fix for this would be to split the info up into 2 *much* shorter general videos. Aim one of them at the total beginner and aim the other at advandced. You may even want to break off some of the heavier topics for their own videos where they can get more specialized attention. Networking would be a great candidate for that.

I love Pearson to death as they have some of the best techie content out there, but this one needs some work I think.

June 9th, 2014, posted by linc