Clear as glass

I don’t always have the most current electronics. It can be a bit of a bummer to see kids on the bus whose cell phone is about 20x nicer than mine. However, my old phone was in a bad way so I thought I would get a new one.

Not wanting my screen to look like a shattered mirror, I also bought some protection. Wow, you would think that my last phone was from the last century the differences are so large. But, working with computers I expect things to get a lot better every 2-3 years. What did surprise me was the new phone “protective screen”.

The old technology was essentially a very wide piece of clear tape. The likelihood of getting air bubbles under the tape is not 100% but that was my experience. I used up a few packages to protective films only to see one or two little air bubbles in the middle of the screen. Fast forward about 6 or so years and we are protecting our glass screens with glass covers. It seems a bit counter intuitive but that is supposed to protect my phone if I drop it.

I am not going to test that theory, well, not intentionally. But the installation of the security glass is amazing. If you did a good enough job cleaning the screen you essentially drop the glass on and it sticks like magic with no bubbles. With a bit of help from a friend, we essentially drop the glass and you could see the air slide out to the edges. The preparation took all the time and the glass was installed in about 30 seconds.

It is so cool that I almost can’t wait for my next phone.

Posted in Review, Soapbox | Leave a comment

Italygate an impossible proposition

Almost 50 years ago there was the infamous break in at the Watergate hotel. It was a tremendous scandal then and has not lost any seriousness despite having occurred so long ago. Yet this scandal has touched any and all issues since then which is intended to magnify the importance of the scandal at hand. Due to the frequency of its use as well as some of the unimportant scandals it has been associated with seems to actually diminish both the reported scandal as well as the Watergate scandal itself.

One of the most recent and quite laughable scandal is Italygate. In a nutshell, this conspiracy theory, is that votes in the US 2020 presidential election was stolen from President Trump. This general talking point is not so unusual considering all the similar talk since president Trump lost in 2020 but what is interesting is how this was supposedly achieved.

The claim goes that people working for the Italian defense contractor are working with senior CIA officials and using military satellites to switch votes from Trump to Joe Biden to bring about a swing away from President Trump for Presidential candidate Biden.

This does sound a bit far fetched especially considering that not all voting is done with computerized voting machines but more importantly because they are not connected to the internet specifically to prevent these types of security problems.

Now if you are a true believer then somehow this might sound a bit plausible but there are a few observable reasons why this is not true. I don’t ever remember hearing about space programs, as it relates to satellites, being described in connection with Italy. A quick look into Wikipedia, which despite being a volunteer effort is right quite often, actually shows that the Italians do not have a space footprint at all. The closest you can get is the European Space Agency and their space program.

If the fact that the Italians do not send up satellites is not enough, what about the fact that connecting computers together is difficult. Apple is getting much better but that is connecting its own hardware together. The task of different machines, which again are not actually reachable by internet or satellite, made in different years and perhaps running different operating systems would be huge.

If you don’t believe me, ask my wife. She still has problems with Windows 10 connecting to a HP printer – and the printer was purchased in the same year as the laptop. Networking is hard, connecting computers without generating noticeable errors (in certain situations) is hard and having a good international conspiracy is also hard.

Posted in Soapbox | Leave a comment

Prognostication – partisan deaths increase Dec 2021

I actually would like to be wrong. I might be – just ask my wife about my track record. Yet this time it is different. In the United States at the moment there is a pretty large political divide, shoot, if the news is to be believed they are set for another civil war.

One of the few things that has been a constant is over the last year quite a few American citizens have been taking it on faith that Covid is not all that deadly, and when it is the casualty numbers are about 1%. I don’t think that is true, perhaps I am a weak minded person who believes just anything that the medical community is willing to say. Quite a few of the southern states are full of Republicans and quite a few Republicans – approximate 50% – will not be getting vaccinated.

The most common reasons why people are refusing a Covid 19 vaccination

  • They don’t believe they are safe
  • They don’t believe they are necessary.

Not only that quite a few of these deniers can do math, well, know what a number is. One percent is smallish number. I don’t have any data that suggests Democrats are also not deniers but based on quite a few news stories they tend to be more likely to get vaccinated.

The nature of viruses is to spread and they can more easily spread where conditions are right and there is a an available host. If there are lots of unvaccinated people there will be more who will catch Covid and in the worse case die. If the set of unvaccinated people is mainly from one political group there will be a larger concentration of deaths in that group.

Lets hope I am wrong and the Covid variants that are spreading in 6 months are more benign.

Posted in Soapbox | Leave a comment

Fixing GRUB

Just a few days ago I had installed the new version of Mint on a second partition. The installation succeeded, so everything’s good, right? Well, no. Because unfortunately, this installation somehow screwed up the GRUB configuration, leading to GRUB both not being able to boot into the new installation, as well as removing all other entries. This lead to quite a bit of headache and work trying to fix it. So if this has happened to you, how do you fix it?

Booting into a system

The first step in recovering your system, is booting into your operating system. For this you have two options. Option one, is to just take a live-bootable CD or USB-Drive, and boot into that instead. Alternatively, you can try to boot into your already existing OS and go from there. I chose that route and can therefore vouch for it and will demonstrate how to use it. However, I’m guessing that the other way will work too, especially if you’re uncomfortable with the command-line interface of GRUB.

So to start with, you will need to know on which partition your operating system is, which I will assume you already know. If you do not, I recommend using a live-bootable CD for this step, or if you really need your system, use it to just figure out which partition it is on. However, GRUB does not use the Linux style /dev/sda1 naming scheme. It uses a scheme, that looks like this: (hd0,msdos1). This may seem weird and opaque, but converting to it is really rather simple. For the drive identifier, instead of sd you have hd, instead of letters you have the numbers starting from 0. So /dev/sde would be hd4. Now to the slightly odd part: the partition number. You can just reuse the number part, but you also need to specify the partitioning system, meaning gpt or msdos or something else. If you’re uncertain about which one your drive is using, helpfully, typing ls will list all of the partitions in the way that GRUB expects them to be named.

Now that we know the drive and partition number, it’s time to get started on the actual booting. We’ll just set the root in GRUB to be the partition that we’re trying to boot into, to make everything easier on us, with the command set root=(hd0,msdos1), obviously using your partition identifier. Note: this doesn’t set root for Linux, that will be done next. Now we select the Linux kernel which is chosen. This is usually found under /boot/vmlinuz, sometimes followed with a dash and the version number. We select the correct Kernel and root file system as follows: linux /boot/vmlinuz root=/dev/sda1. Following that, we select the correct initrd, with the same version number – or lack thereof – with initrd /boot/initrd.img. Now that everything is selected correctly, we just use boot to boot into our system, and are done.

set root=(hd0,msdos1)
linux /boot/vmlinuz root=/dev/sda1
initrd /boot/initrd.img
boot

For this part, I found this article: https://www.linux.com/training-tutorials/how-rescue-non-booting-grub-2-linux/ to be very helpful. If you run into issues or are in GRUB rescue, refer to this.

Fixing the issue – permanently

To actually solve the problem, we need to fix the GRUB configuration file. This process is unclear to me, so I will just tell you what worked on my UEFI machine, and if that doesn’t work for you or your machine isn’t UEFI, I recommend this guide: https://access.redhat.com/documentation/en-us/red_hat_enterprise_linux/7/html/system_administrators_guide/ch-Working_with_the_GRUB_2_Boot_Loader from redhat. The first step is to run the update-grub tool, which according to most guides should already do the trick. So reboot your system and see if it worked. If it didn’t, get back into your system and do the following. Make sure the system EFI partition is mounted, probably on /boot/efi/. If it isn’t, mount it there. Now you should find to directories in /boot/efi/EFI/, one BOOT and one other one, for example ubuntu. Go into the second one, and here you will find the GRUB configuration file, grub.cfg. Run the output from update-grub into that file, by running update-grub -o grub.cfg. Now reboot, and it should work.

update-grub -o /boot/efi/EFI/ubuntu/grub.cfg
Posted in Command line | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Fixing GRUB

Roccat Vulcan 121 AIMO review

The Roccat Vulcan 121 AIMO is a full 105 mechanical key keyboard created by a German computer accessories company based in Hamburg. Roccat sells keyboards, mice and headsets but in my opinion it is the keyboards that are the star of the show.

Roccat Vulcan 121 AIMO

The keyboard that I evaluated had linear mechanical switches although Roccat also sells this same keyboard with a relatively quiet tactile option as well. This keyboard actually stands out from most others due to its flat keycaps which allows the per key RGB colors to really shine. It is a combination of the keycap being about half its normal height and the switches are not hidden by the case. The entire profile of the keyboard is quite flat. If your working environment is ergonomic you might not need the wristrest that is shipped with the keyboard.

The keyboard is really fun to look at but it is also a quality build. The USB cord is 1.8 meter long braided cord. The base plate of the keyboard is brushed aluminum. This gives the keyboard a super premium look but also a lot of structural rigidity so it the keyboard doesn’t hardly flex if you grab the ends and twist.

This full keyboard can be used in any setting but probably lends itself more toward the home or gaming segment. There is nothing preventing you from using this keyboard in the office but with its colors it is quite a bit flashier than would be accepted in a work environment. This keyboard could theoretically be used for mobile computing but because it is a full sized USB cabled keyboard it is perhaps not as desirable as something smaller and more compact.

Mechanical keyboards are often advertised with a longevity of tens of millions of keystrokes. I have no doubt that this keyboard will live up to its promises. It was only after working with the keyboard for a while that I realized there were a few downsides. The standard ANSI US keyboard has virtually an unlimited amount of flexibility for changing the key caps. Most, but not all, mechanical keyboards have either Cherry MX key switches or have a Cherry MX compatible stem. When you are in that situation it is possible to purchase new keys with a small investment of 30 or 40 dollars you can give the keyboard a complete new look.

Yet, because the key switches are custom you might not be able to use any of these common keycaps. I tried a few but there was problems with clearance. The form of the key switch is actually slightly different than that of a normal Cherry MX key switch. The switch form is more square. This customization of the keyboard could quite easily make it difficult if one of the keycaps were to break.

Roccat key switch

Kailh switch – Cherry compatible

pros

  • Per key RGB lighting
  • Braided USB cable

cons

  • Oddly shaped key switches
  • Somewhat expensive

Conclusion

It is a beautiful keyboard with an excellent build quality. The only negatives, other than the relatively high cost, is what would be the near impossibility to replace any key-caps if desired or required.

Posted in Review | Comments Off on Roccat Vulcan 121 AIMO review

HP Pavilion getting over old grudges

Quite a few years back I purchased a HP laptop. It was one of their top of the line 17 inch glossy screen and also had four cores. Not much of an achievement now but back then it was the bee’s knee’s.

My biggest problem for the first two years was a few issues with the DVD drive. I think there was some problems with the ethernet port but as I always used wireless that didn’t bother me so much. It was a beautifully crafted case, great speakers lots of I/O … it was nice.

I was hoping to hold on to this one for a long time but about two days before the warrenty expired I had some problems with the batteries and then about a month later my laptop would start and within a minute it would power off. I did not know of any repair shops so I ended up dumping it on ebay for a few bucks. I had always expected the screen/keyboard/ports to stop working. The plan was when that happened this computer would have migrated to the desktop for light webbrowsing.

Deep in my heart I know HP did not plan for the computer to die 30 days after the warrenty but it is pretty hard to convince yourself of that when you get the unexpected bill of a new laptop … but i digress.

My aunt needed a computer on a budget and so I spent hours on Amazon to find one. I don’t purchase from Amazon because they are the best nor the kindest to their employees but i do use their site to read the comments from actual purchasers. In that sense it is possible to find a lot of people who were willing to comment to find out the true weaknesses of any one product.

The only problem is you need to take the reviews with a grain of salt. I have seen some where people are unhappy by the silliest things.

I didn’t like the color so i sent it back

I guess if they didn’t like a black 10/100 switch they shouldn’t have purchased a black switch. I also guess it is human nature that if you purchase something and are happy you might be less inclined to write a review as compared to really upset if a phone charger blows up your phone.

Eventually you could see that there was no laptop that had only satisfied purchasers so I went with a name brand for my aunt.

HP Pavillion Gaming laptop

The specs themselves would be nice enough for light gaming and pretty much anything else.

  • 16 gb ram
  • i5 2.5 ghz 4 core 8 threads
  • 500gb ssd
  • 15″ screen
  • card reader
  • ethernet
  • NVidea Geforce 1650 Ti
  • less than 1000 Eur

Pretty much as you would expect it boots up within seconds with no hard disk noise. My aunt does not generate enough of a load that we should expect any loud fans and I did not encounter any difficulties during install.

I guess I have to get along with the times and come to grips that CD’s and DVD’s are no longer in fashion. I did use the old DVD drive on the old laptop during the “data move” of 2021. It was helpful hopefully this lack of DVD won’t be a problem in the future.

The new laptop does not have VGA nor does that really bother me, yet what might have been nice would be a third USB port. This might be an unique situation where I don’t have a docking station and I prefer mice and keyboards. Two USB ports work great for one mouse one keyboard but it does leave you scratching your head where to put the USB stick when copying data.

Windows Install

Windows 10 install, especially compared previous windows versions, installs without much fuss and was pretty quick. I was surprised how painless the process is. That isn’t to suggest that Microsoft does not try to setup monitors for your every move. One of my favorite settings was about “improving the product”. If I understood the question and the answer, you had the choice of sending some information if difficulties occurred but you could opt in to sending a lot more info. No option of opting out and just living with a PC that occasionally had problems. I guess if I trusted major international corporations would guard my information and not ask for more than is necessary I might feel differently.

I only have used this laptop for a few minutes and I will probably not touch it again after it is delivered but I did encounter a bit of big brother knows better than you. I managed to set the default PDF viewer to Adobe Acrobat but I was surprised, and irritated, when downloading a PDF. Edge would display the file, but because they “knew better” they would offer the option at the top of the browser to set Edge as my PDF viewer.

It is beyond me why Microsoft even cares how I look at PDF’s. I would have thought that after attempting to move the world to XPS files they might be a bit more humble on this point.

Summary

I have held my grudge with HP for long enough. I cannot say how long this laptop will last but it is nice to look at, fast, and reasonably light. The only think I would really want would be one more USB port.

Posted in Review, Soapbox | Comments Off on HP Pavilion getting over old grudges

Junk for gold or perhaps gold for junk

If you live in glass houses you shouldn’t throw stones. I have to admit that if you looked in the corner of my room you might find an electronic gadget that no longer works that I am planning on fixing or incorporating into a project.

Long story on the fire truck, but perhaps someday …

But one of the things that I have not yet parted with is an old laptop. Is it as fully functioning laptop? Well, not quite. The reason I had to purchase a new one is that the keyboard stopped working. Well, that is an exaggeration – some of the keys stopped working.

This is indeed a problem if any of your sentences contain either a letter “o” or the letter “t” as well as half of the function keys. I got a new laptop and I am really quite happy but I haven’t recycled the old one yet.

Today I took it out as I wanted to test out an old keyboard that also has some history which can best be summed up as glass of water meets mechanical keyboard. The water won the first battle. But now that the keyboard has been dried out and cleaned I wanted to test it and my old laptop seemed like a good idea after all what if the keyboard fries the USB port ?

While looking for a few mechanical keyboard parts I thought what about a new laptop keyboard. I am fairly handy with a screwdriver. The new keyboard can be purchased for between 20 and 70 dollars depending on where is comes from and what layout it has. I would have done it but the repair video looked a bit more than daunting. What about a used Asus N76V laptop? Perhaps I could get one with a broken screen and that repair looked easier.

The good news is that you can find one of these antiques and in working order if you are willing to spend more than 398 dollars. One appeared to be an exact duplicate of my old laptop. Well, i was not prepared to spend so much considering that my laptop is perhaps 7 or more years old. Why would I when I can purchase a brand new Asus for 599 which has better specs, is brand new and will have a warranty.

Within a few minutes I found a used mechanical keyboard that has a problem with a loose connection. If you place the keyboard in a certain way it will work. The keyboard was a brand name but it was also a few years old and had no led lighting. I can actually buy a brand new mechanical keyboard but with led lighting for just a few dollars more than the ebay listing.

I guess there is a lot of people’s old or broken stuff that is as pricey as brand new items – who knew that broken keyboard would be worth so much.

Posted in Soapbox | Comments Off on Junk for gold or perhaps gold for junk

Youtube changed my life

It is really not an overstatement when I say that Youtube did change my life. I wish I could say it was the videos on how to fold your potato chip bag so it could stand up by itself when opened. It could have been some of the tips that could be used when moving out of an apartment where you want to get your deposit back but actually this didn’t change my life.

The video that I saw as actually about a device similar to the nut cutter that my wife already owns. All you need to do is take this device and you can turn big food into small food.

Until now we have used this device for chopping up a few nuts for the occasional cake or cookie receipe but now we can use this for chopping up onions, from time to time I also chop up a few radishes or celery chunks.

Somewhat less fortunate is we never did purchase the “Slapchop” as we could use ours. Yet, I keep pointing this out to my wife.

I am not wasting time watching youtube … I am finding more time saving ideas.

Posted in Soapbox | Comments Off on Youtube changed my life

Fall of the empires

The golden age of Arab science

Medicine just like any field had to start form somewhere. Despite all of the medical miracles we see in everyday life there was a golden time of medicine. It occurred between the 8th and 13th centuries in the middle east. During this time of discovery the works of Hippocrates and many others where expanded upon and ended up spreading through to Europe. Why was this the case. Well actually this was due to religion.

From the Quran

“The scholar’s ink is more sacred than the blood of martyrs”

“For every disease, Allah has given a cure.”

Yet, the atmosphere of learning did not continue forever because of differences between the different religions … and the crusades did not help either.

https://faseb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1096/fj.06-0803ufm

Roman Empire

There were quite a few different factors leading to the fall of the Roman empire.

  • Economic troubles and over reliance on slave labor
  • Over expansion and military overspending
  • Government corruption and political instability
  • The loss of traditional values

This is quite a long list but all of these factors are fairly inter-related. The loss of traditional values could be seen as a major factor of government corruption. With that corruption should lead to instability as people have less faith in their institutions due to the abuse by their leaders.

The Roman empire was impressive as it included everything from Britain down thru Egypt and Spain over to Caspian sea. The larger the territory you have to defend, the greater the chances of incursion at the edges. This expansion worked while the empire was expanding as the some of the treasure that came back to Rome was in the form of slaves as craftsmen and to work the fields. When the empire could no longer expand and was spending to support the military this was an economic problem. One of the other economic problems was rich people fleeing to the countryside to escape taxes.

https://www.history.com/news/8-reasons-why-rome-fell

There can be many different empires whether or not they are times of science, fashion or actual populations. It is the history of the world that empires rise and and eventually fall. This is not always to the direct invasion of conquering legions but can be due to other factors.

The United States Empire (1945 – )

All of the examples fallen empires through history tell the tale of why the United States might have a rough road ahead of it. Despite some of the material losses during the two world wars it was blessed by not having problems of trying to build up a shattered industrial base like most of Europe or even its Allies such as the UK. The United States industrial base along with its military might rocketed the USA to superpower status in both military might, economic powerhouse and market to the world after World War II.

In the light of the current pandemic, certain weaknesses are coming to light that foreshadows problems. One of these is waning belief in science. I think this is most visible with the “anti-vaccine” movement. Just as recently as a few decades ago, getting a vaccine was seen as must have almost rock star type of event. Today people are refusing to wear masks in enclosed environments, tell tales of how vaccines will sterilize you and disbelieve the science behind global warming. You do not need to believe mankind is warming the planet to believe the planet is getting warmer ever since the industrial revolution.

Fiscal prowess. Most, if not all normal people have a certain amount of fiscal prowess. This might be iron clad self levels of self control or it might be no savings and no credit card company will give you a credit card. The same cannot be said for most governments and the United States seems to have a problem with fiscal restraint. The United States is still in a privileged position as all of its debts are issue in its own currency but this alone cannot save them. It is difficult to judge whether or not the wide margin of spending on the military versus other countries is justified or not but the spending is occurring through the use of deficits not through taxes. This is worrisome itself but at the same time this money is not being used to maintain the ever expanding infrastructure required by its populace (roads, bridges, police, public works, etc). It is just not realistic to build a bridge and then not continue maintenance on it over the decades. Otherwise it can fall apart or fall down.

What might be the largest but perhaps more subtle factor of the fall of empires is corruption and loss of traditional values. It surely does not affect someone in South Africa if a car dealership in Iowa is evading taxes through various shady practices. But one of the critical positions that the United States has had is the moral superiority when talking about dictatorships and human rights violations. These bragging privileges are becoming harder and harder to justify.

How would the USA of 1950 spoke about the country with these types of abuses? How can the USA convince the citizens of Russia about the rule of law and Democracy? How can the USA tell countries to clean up their act with this type of behavior. It is rather like the parent telling the child to do as I say not as I do.

Posted in Soapbox | Comments Off on Fall of the empires

The filibuster – American democracy with a small twist

I had intended to do a lot of research into a lesser known device of American democracy – the fillibuster. The fillibuster an action to delay some action by talking. Perhaps the most well known example of this comes not from the houses of congress but from the film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” where Jimmy Stuart spoke for 24 hours in an attempt to prevent the vote on an appropriations bill.

However, the current rules for a filibuster in the US senate are a bit difficult to understand. Under the current rules if a Senator does a filibuster he or she cannot be stopped unless 60 Senators vote to end the “debate”. The last time there such a super majority of in the US Senate was in 1965 which was actually in both the Senate and the House.

Having a half century of voting history to look at makes it somewhat obvious that it is seldom that a single party has this type of majority. Thus you will need to have members of the opposing party vote with to stop a filibuster. This is difficult if the filibuster is being done by one of the parties (e.g Democrats) in order to stop nah essentially kill a piece of legislation.

What this really means is that if one party can the minimum of 41 seats then they can be quite obstructive in the day to day workings in the Senate. This also means that it is possible that a party representing a minority of Americans can prevent the will of the majority.

This would be a odd type of democracy as it stands but even worse considering that each US state is assigned two senators which makes it possible for small states such as Rhode Island to have the same voting rights as a large state such as Texas. This makes is possible that a small group of small states might be having an over-sized importance on the issues voted on by the Senate.

Posted in Soapbox | Comments Off on The filibuster – American democracy with a small twist