Archive for the ‘Home Life’ Category

New Laptop! Dell Inspiron 7000 13-7378

Amazing. Amazing on two fronts. First that I have actually gotten off my bum and decided to make another post, and secondly that I have finally decided to pull the trigger on getting a new laptop.

I am one of those guys who likes to talk himself out of making a purchase, even though I need it. I have been working with some pretty old equipment for a long while. Using two old Dell laptops, one of which has a bad (dimming) screen, and the other whos dvd drive and sound card have blown out. Of course the parts are not interchangeable between the two. Well, at Christmas time I finally decided (my Mom talked me into it) that maybe since I spend most of my life banging on my computers that I ought to just go out and get a decent one to use.

I actually decided on a 13 inch Macbook Air, which is really a pleasure to use, runs linux just fine (of course I would run linux on it) and is aesthetically pleasing, light and durable. Well, it just so happens that I had my wife shopping with me and she started looking at the Dell laptops and saw one that was similar in look and specs to the Apple and a couple hundred dollars cheaper (bingo!).

This Dell is a 13 inch 2 in 1 i7 laptop encased in aluminum with 12Gb ram, 256Gb ssd, backlit keyboard and a *gorgeous* high def display. It has all the usual ports and, like you would expect, everything works right out of the box with linux. I am running Mint 18.1 on it at the moment and couldn’t be happier. Now not only can I see what I am doing, but I can hear sound on the laptop too! Having good battery life is another bonus with a new laptop 😉

If you are looking for a really sweet deal on a darn good new linux laptop, definitely go give this one a look. I found it for $700 at BestBuy and it was the last one they had in stock. Plenty of the i5s and i3s still there though, of course 😉

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Boom in 30 seconds

Aiwa Exos 9

Aiwa Exos 9

That’s how long it took, and that may be overestimating things. I opened the box, pulled out the unit, plugged it in, switched it on and noticed on the top there was a touch sensitive display that said “Link” so I touched it and then poked the bluetooth icon on my phone, paired the device and just like that I was playing music! It really happened as quickly as you just read it.

It was many months ago I had heard that Aiwa had been resurrected. Purchased by a Chicago company headed by CEO Joe Born, a fellow I have come to know as an innovator and generally one smart cookie through my interraction with him through the Linux Link Tech Show. I was thrilled. I knew big things would be coming, and now, here it is sitting in my livingroom!

The first (that I know of) product release from the new Aiwa is, and this is how it should be, a “Boombox for the new millennium” called the Aiwa Exos 9. This is in essence, a BIG portable bluetooth speaker. It’s big in size, big in sound and big in features. It’s about 12×19.5×7.5 inches. It weighs about 12-15lbs (my scale is not great) and does 200 watts. In short, it rocks.

I just happen to have been born in 1970 and, as a child of the 80s, this whole thing brought memories flooding back to me of how EVERYONE back in the day used to run around with a boombox, playing their favorite toons. Remembering scenes from “Say Anything” where John Cusack is holding his boombox up playing “In your eyes” by Peter Gabriel. Those were good times with great music and this felt like a welcome homage to that (and Aiwa made some rockin’ boomboxes and sterios back in the day).

Now, it should be noted that I am NOT an audiophile, so if you are, and you are dying for more technical specs, you should look what these guys say. I have been heavily involved in music my entire life. I have studied it and was even a union card holding professional musician for a while. I have listened to a LOT of music, and *I* like the way this sounds. It’s clean. It has good base response that doesn’t distort the music and it sounds good at low and high volume levels. This reminded me of this great pair of Bose 901’s I used to listen on (and they are wickedly expensive). I really liked this and if you read the reviews on Amazon, etc., I am not at all in the minority on that sentiment.

Did I mention this is portable? That’s right. Like a boombox, this is ready to go on adventure with you to your patio or to a pool party or picnic or beach. It has a rechargeable battery that lasts 8+ hours and you can buy an extended battery with double the time. And don’t forget the built in handle on the back to make it easy to take it with you.

There were a couple of things I might change though. Firstly, with the speaker grill on the unit looks pretty plain. I took off the grill to expose the speakers and found that much more aesthetically pleasing. The unit also includes an equalizer with 8 programmable presets. It would be helpful for non audiophiles like me if *some* were pre-programmed for things like Jazz, Rock, Classical, etc.. I would LOVE to see them include a spectrum analyzer to give the unit some bling while it’s playing at those late night parties. Lastly I have heard several people mention perhaps side clasps for a carry strap, although I seem to be able to make due just fine with the back built in handle.

So, where does that leave us? Why, the price of course! This sells for $299 on Aiwas site or on Amazon. I think it’s a steal. You are SURE to spend a similar amount of money on a decent sounding stereo for your home and this will give you robust sounding music in your home and abroad for the same price point. Slam dunk! And for the seriously adventurous, these units will allow 2 to link together for bigger sound! I have yet to be able to test this myself but I can only imagine being able to rock the entire block with a similar setup.

It’s time to let your music run free of your earbuds again, and hear it the way it was intended, and Aiwa has just the thing to help. The Aiwa Exos 9. I would grab one now while they still have stock. You’ll be glad you did!

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Saturday, June 11th, 2016

Replace HD in Dell Inspiron N5110

I am no stranger to replacing bad equipment in servers, desktops and laptops, but some laptops don’t make it easy. This was one.

A couple years ago I swapped out an aging hdd in an older Dell Inspiron with a new ssd and, boy, the performance improved drastically. Lately, I have been using a new(er) Inspiron, an N5110 and have noticed that it sure took a while for things like bootup and Chrome to initially load. It was really starting to annoy me, so I looked up the specs on the original hdd and found that there was a squirrel in there pounding out the bits with a chisel, so I decided it was high time for a modern drive and splurged on a 240Gb ssd. I assumed that this was a simple pull the panel off the bottom and swap kind of procedure like the old Dell, so I pulled off the hdd sized panel and boom. The only thing under there was more plastic and a small memory slot???!!

Not to be outdone I turned to youtube, just like an self respecting techie would and was pleased to find some instruction there. You can find the video i used here if you are interested:

That is where is starts to get fun. Apparently you have to disassemble THE ENTIRE LAPTOP to get the hdd out. You have to pull out the battery, memory, all the screws on the bottom, the dvd drive, then flip the machine over and pull off the keyboard, unscrew and pull off the top plate and all the ribbon cables, then unscrew and remove the entire motherboard and one of the monitor mounts. The hdd is underneath the motherboard. Unreal.

Believe it or not, after all that I only had one extra screw(?) and the laptop booted up on the first try. Now came the good part. How to get my existing Linux Mint install onto the new ssd. Normally I would have just used a disk cloning program or dd to do it but the old hdd was 500Gb and this new ssd is only 240Gb. There are also some complicated tutorials on the web on how accomplish this task but let me share with you the easy way.

Do a clean install of your OS. Really. With Linux it takes 15 minutes tops. Don’t bother with any of your configs or personalization. It’s a dummy install to not only get the partitioning correct on your ssd but generate the correct /etc/fstab file (or get the new uuids and make the correct partitions bootable.

Once you are done, boot into your install media again (I used USB because it was faster) and mount your new installation AND your old hdd (I used an external usb drive case for this). I made the directories I needed by doing (as root) “mkdir -p /mnt/newdisk ; mkdir -p /mnt/olddisk” and then putting things in place with “mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/newdisk ; mount /dev/sdc1 /mnt/olddisk”. I should mention here that my partitions were the default Mint layout with a big Linux partition first, then an extended partition, then swap, on both drives.

Once mounted I made a backup copy of the /etc/fstab on my olddisk (the hdd) and then I copied the /etc/fstab from the newdisk to the /etc/fstab on the olddisk. Now the fun part. Go to (cd) the /mnt/newdisk directory. MAKE SURE IT’S THE NEWDISK DIRECTORY, and “rm -rf *”. That is going to delete all the files you just installed. It’ll only take a second.

Next is the long part. I used rsync to copy all my old files over. If you aren’t a hoarder like me with six linux dvd isos in your download directory and 50Gb of music files, it’ll go a lot faster, but all the same, it’s pretty cool to watch. I did a “rsync -rvlpogdstHEAX /mnt/olddisk/ /mnt/newdisk”. Make note of those /’ in there or you’ll end up having to move stuff around afterwards. In retrospect, I think you could use just rsync -av, but ymmv. What you will see is every file on your old drive being copied to the new one. Like I mentioned, this takes a few minutes, just sit back or grab a coffee. Once it’s done you are *almost* ready.

The very last thing you’ll need to fix is your grub.cfg file. These days everyone wants to use uuid to assign devices and your boot file is still looking for your old hdd. Open up a couple terminals. In one, vi /mnt/newdisk/boot/grub/grub.cfg and in the other vi /mnt/newdisk/etc/fstab. In the fstab file you will see the uuid for your new ssd drive. It’s the first uuid mentioned and mounted at /. Io You need to replace the old one in there with the new one from your fstab. It’s easier than you think in vi. Just do a “:g/olduuidstring/s//newuuidstring/g” and hit enter where olduuidstring is your old uuid and newuuidstring is your new uuid from the fstab file. Once it is finished replacing you probably need to save it with a “:wq!” because your system will undoubtedly say it’s a read only file. The reboot! You should be greeted shortly with a much faster but very familiar linux install, complete with all your goodies.

One last note. You may want to increase the life of your ssd ehink in vi. Just do a “:g/olduuidstring/s//newuuidstring/g” and hit enter where olduuidstring is your old uuid and newuuidstring is your new uuid from the fstab file. Once it is finished replacing you probably need to save it with a “:wq!” because your system will undoubtedly say it’s a read only file. The reboot! You should be greeted shortly with a much faster but very familiar linux install, complete with all your goodies.cat by adding a couple options to your /etc/fstab file. Those options are discard and noatime. These options deal with extra disk writes that you really don’t need on ssd. Your / line options in the fstab should look something like “ext4 discard,noatime,errors=remount-ro 0 1”.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Retro Tablet?

asustf101
I was on a trip to visit my uncle recently and while there and talking shop (he’s a techie kinda fellow) he started telling me about this old tablet he had that I could have if I could get it fixed. It seems he purchased a tablet years ago, didn’t like it, then the os became corrupt and he just sort of shelved it, probably some 5 or 6 years ago and got himself an iPad instead.

He dug this thing out and it happened to be an Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101, a tablet that I actually had long ago myself. This one was dirty and no charge and badly in need of a fresh reimage of the OS but after that, it’s a perfectly functioning, practically brand new (hardly been used) TF101, now updated to the latest OTA update available for it, 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich).

So now I have this new old stock tablet and I have decided to get some use out of it (came from my uncle so it holds some sentimental value) and I actually kind of dig it. Of course it is no rocket ship compared to modern android devices but it does chug along and the 4.0.3 OS is still viable in the android store so some apps are still current. I can get my mail and social media and watch videos, listen to music and the like just fine (even netflix). What I like most about it right now is using it as a portable terminal (juice ssh). The included keyboard dock makes that particularly nice.

I have been wondering, though, what else I can do with such a device and am seeking opinions and experiences. I know there are several server suites available for android. I could use it hooked to an external USB drive for a file server or web server, etc.. Perhaps I could somehow shoehorn an actual Linux as a native OS on this thing. Then, there is the possibility of putting custom Android ROMs on it – I think there is one called KATKIT that people are having great success with. Never having installed a custom ROM before on android I am a little hesitant and don’t want to brick the machine. So, what do you think? What should I try first?

Friday, March 11th, 2016

It’s NOT Telecommuting!


OK, so it is telecommuting – but hear me out for just a second..

I have been involved in a job search as a Linux admin for a few months now and one of the barriers I keep running in to is (get this) physical location, or company location. WHY? Business owners, let me reason with you for a moment here.

Your servers are “in the cloud”:
There are a LOT of companies these days who are using cloud servers and services. Buzz words like Paas, Saas and Iaas are all the rage now, along with their providers AWS, Rackspace, Azure, Google and the like. These services that you use locally for your business are not actually located at your business. Likely, they are not even in the same time zone, and, in some cases, country. Every time one of your server administrators or users access those services and systems, they are doing so remotely, even if they are sitting at a desk next to you in your corporate headquarters.

You have “datacenters”:
For those of you who have your own datacenters for your machines, you have the same issue. Most companies have at least two such facilities for redundancy and either one or both of them are typically located away from your corporate campus. This, again, means that when you are working on them in any capacity, you are doing so remotely, or “telecommuting”, whether it be from your corporate campus, from, home or across the world.

So you see, in almost every scenario in these modern times, you are already telecommuting to use your own resources. I am here to implore you to consider expanding your employment pool by letting computer workers do their jobs remotely. Save yourself some real estate space. Use conference calls, instant messaging, emails and video chats (free) for your office communications. Dramatically lower your corporate utility bills and *paper costs*. And give someone like myself a shot. You’ll be happy you did!

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

“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.

Sunday, April 26th, 2015

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!

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

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!

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

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?

Monday, June 30th, 2014

A long, long time ago…

That’s when I last put anything on here. A long time ago. I need to fix that.

Other than just being crazy busy these past few months, my family has gone through a cancer scare which has had me driving back and forth to New York quite a bit. I just found it hard to actually sit down and write anything or do anything creative, really. I do have some upcoming reviews and informational tidbits planned though, so if you are still checking here occasionally, you are apt to catch some honest to goodness real content soon!

Monday, June 9th, 2014