Posts tagged "technology":

18 May 2022

2022-05-18 Progress with the Server


Eventually I'm using an old EEEPC netbook for a new home server. It's many years old, but the battery life is still excellent, so it's less likely to suffer the kind of shocks that rendered my previous server disk unbootable.

I've been spending hours and days with this server project, but it's hard to remember what I've been doing. I tried for a long time to get Git to work, but eventually gave up. The explanation why would be too much trouble. I'll focus instead upon what's worked so far.

I was able to set up SSH. Uploading for now is via good old Filezilla, which is both easy and tiresome. Eventually I may try to set up an easier way through emacs or the command line.

Yesterday I searched for a simple web photo viewer. There are many, many of these on SourceForge, but the majority were developed years or decades ago, and development has stopped. The classic web platforms are, I think Coppermine, Lychee and Piwigo. I know Piwigo very well, but wanted something much simpler. I wanted to avoid databases and new programming frameworks where I would be dependent upon experts.

Eventually I settled on, a PHP program that renders directories as galleries without requiring a database. I've already set one up at

I think Novagallery will integrate nicely into my low tech site. It's lightweight and easily modifiable. Although it's free open source software I've purchased a license for it ($15) in order to support the developer.

Trip to the Galilee

That trip to the Lower Galilee shown in the photo album was nice. We went with Rosita from Italy and stayed the night in the Fawsy Inn in Nazareth. I should have taken some photos of that interesting building as well, but I felt rather lazy about photography on this trip.


The visit to the Tabor stream, at the bottom of a wadi that eventually empties into the Jordan river was amazing. We visited only a short stretch of it, descending from Kibbutz Gazit.

In the wadi grow various interesting flora. According to Wikipedia, one of these is asafoetida. But they mean the Ferula communis that grows everywhere in Israel/Palestine. It's a poisonous plant, that is sometimes mistakenly eaten by sheep - to their sorrow. True asafoetida (hing) is derived from other members of the Ferula family (again, according to Wikipedia). There was an interesting Guardian article this week about Sylphium, another long extinct Ferula (apparently), prized as herb in the Roman era, and growing only in one particular region of Eastern Libya.

Shireen Abu Akleh

I wrote a little about this earlier [1]. Eventually we have a statement [2] in English that is well-written and clear, and doesn't sound like propaganda. It represents my view well enough, but I needn't worry about that, since the village leadership take responsibility for it.

My own trivial conclusion from the killing of the journalist, and the violence against the pall bearers at the funeral, is that these are not just a reflection of the brutality and stupidity of Israel's security forces, but of deep-rooted attitudes in Israeli society.

The killing is not a one-off phenomenon but fits a pattern. It is the pattern, rather than the individual event, that demonstrates a complete disregard by Israelis demonstrate for Palestinian lives.

Israelis obsess about their own security but have been led to believe that this increases proportionally with the oppression of Palestinians. When a debacle like the Shireen Abu Akleh killing occurs, the government approaches it mainly as a public relations problem. First, spread doubt as to who fired the bullets, in the hope that the initial outcry will die down. Next, fake a willingness to call for an inquiry. In reality, almost all human rights violations and war crimes go unpunished. [update: now Israel says there is "no need" for an inquiry, and accepts the testimony of the army unit.]

Until basic attitudes change, Israel will continue to commit crimes that poison any hope for a reconciliation. That's not by chance. The Zionist project is not interested in reconciliation but only in dominance and the eventual elimination of Palestinians from their homeland. This is not a program that is ever going to succeed, but pursuing it serves short term political interests.

What most Israeli Jews want in their lives is peace and security, but they readily accept the lie that the best way to obtain these is the use of violence and force. In their world-view, the best defence is offence. Palestinians are primarily seen as a threat. They are grudgingly accepted by the state and into the family of humanity only when they serve in the army or stifle any signs of dissent. It's hard to be hopeful that this situation will ever change.

The Shireen Abu Akleh affair also highlighted the double-standards by which world media approaches such cases, as shown by Gawker's article [2]. But saying so risks drawing fire from right-wingers who will surely find opposing evidence that shows just the contrary. The Middle East conflict is just another arena for strengthening whatever political views you already hold.

As human beings we need to look at the way in which opinions become such an important facet of our identity.


[1] 2022-05-14 - Does my village have a right to express an opinion in my name?

[2]Statement regarding the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh - Wahat al-Salam - Neve Shalom

[3] The Media has a difficult time saying Israeli forces killed Shireen Abu Akleh

Tags: technology nature
10 May 2022

Tech problems | stress

Just before an enormously busy period at work, my home server crashed. I'd had problems with the internet connection, rebooted the router a few times, and turned off the power, without shutting down the server, as a result of which it seems to have damaged the disk. FSCK gets stuck. It's going to take me a while to get back to normal, so, for now, have moved the blog back to my fastmail storage. It's easy enough to do with a simple static blog like this one. I just haven't been able to bring back all the photos yet. For now, there's a way to blog again.

Actually, I feel lazy about re-establishing Hubzilla, and I wonder if I actually need the hassle of managing a complex php mysql system when I can blog so easily in simple html, and know exactly what I'm doing. People can do awe-inspiring, wonderful things with the web, but I'm a Luddite. Lud is actually just down the road from here.

It was amusing trying to manage with my primitive technological interface when attempting to pick up people from the airport this week. The only way to communicate with them was WhatsApp, but I refuse to use that, so had to rely on someone relaying the back and forth between us. This happened on two occasions. But somehow it eventually did work, and I was able to pick them up.

Now I have a problem with presentations. One guy did his in Canva, an online presentation platform. I told him I'm not gonna sign up for the service, so he'd better download it in some other format. He didn't know how to do that, so I've sent him a video clip on how it's done. Another woman did her presentation on yet another online presentation platform, Emaze. I'm not signing up for that one either, and asked her to download it for me. She's probably just as clueless.

The truth is, I can manage with all these services better than most people, but the time when I would agree to use them is past. I'm gradually receding into my little Luddite low-stress paradise, and if people want something from me they will eventually have to come down to my level.

Yesterday it dawned on me how I am at once the calmest person in the world, but also among the most irritable. Ninety-percent of the time I'm guilelessly peaceful, but occasionally do get irate. It's because I choose a life-style that is peaceful, and not that I'm inherently calm. Take me out of my artificially concocted environment, and I'm peaceful no longer. I don't cope very well with adverse or challenging situations, and my threshold is fairly low at times. Probably what stresses me out differs from what stresses most other people out, because I would say that I'm also unusually patient.

That I'm easily stressed does not mean that I'm living with stress, and suffering its harmful effects. Yesterday I met someone who, at the age of 63, was advised to retire. He had been living such a stressful life and working such long hours that his heart and respiratory system were failing. He quickly had three bypass surgeries and indeed retired. Now, he looks peaceful. I didn't need my health to go down hill before deciding to live peacefully, fortunately.

Tags: technology
02 Feb 2022

Diary and links

2022-02-02 22:22 - Wow that's quite a time and date! Not intentional, I swear. Today was also my brother's birthday, and the day my eldest son moved to his new house. Our own house suddenly got bigger since they were moving out from the part that we divided off to rent out. I think we're done with renting, so we'll have a couple of guest rooms.


I was messing around with the settings this morning. Bechtold added javascript and CSS especially for math and I don't need that. I also added a no index, no robots meta tag. But really this is a nice blogging program. For now I am hosting it on Fastmail's server. They are fine for static blogs like this. They also have a reasonable option for photo albums and D put her MBSR recordings there for her mindfulness students. Fastmail wrote this morning to say they will shortly be closing down FTP access, but I have started to use webdav from Thunar file manager. (Thunar is the file manager that comes with XFCE desktop environment. That's the default for MX Linux.)

Triangle speaker

I have set it up to stream from an old phone. Somehow it's hard to get the connection set up each time when I keep changing it. Old phones and tablets actually have various uses. Some people use them as alarm clocks or wall clocks. Tablets make nice photo screens. I bet there's a lot more that can be done with them. I was checking a while back if it isn't possible to use them to create web servers.


Keyboard engraving

There's one place I know near Tel Aviv that engraves keyboards. They can engrave them in practically any language. Tomorrow I need to add Arabic to a couple of laptops that already have Hebrew and US English. Not cheap, at 170 shekels each, but a lot better than putting cheap stickers over the keys of a new laptop.

Amnesty's report

I wrote about that yesterday. Today we were talking about it at the office as Samah went for the launch ceremony in Ramallah. From Israel there were just a couple of organizations represented. Samah took her son along and he later told her about the rumpus that had erupted over the report on social media. Israel probably recruited its battalion of social media warriors and palestinian organizations probably recruited theirs.

agnes-callamard-and-samah.jpg Samah with Agnès Callamard


New York Times buys viral game Wordle for seven-figure sum | Games | The Guardian

I guess I won't be playing this anymore. I played a dozen games altogether, winning one game after 2 guesses, 5 after 3 guesses, 5 after 4 guesses, and one after 5 guesses. I never got as far as the 6th line or got knocked out.


Google Fonts lands website privacy fine by German court • The Register

Navidrome FOSS Personal music streamer software Looks interesting.

Belgian civil servants given legal right to disconnect from work

Tags: technology current-affairs
26 Nov 2021


Thinking about my home server

On my home server I have, till now, Hubzilla and WordPress. Hubzilla is a good all-round piece of software that does various things, though not perfectly: it is an activity-hub connected social network, a place to store photo albums and files; a content management system for blogs, and a place where you can make static websites.

There are idealistic, practical and economic considerations regarding home hosting. On a practical level, the experience has been much smoother than I anticipated. The system has stayed up most of the time, despite occasional power cuts. There haven’t been so many issues at all. I’m using an old laptop for the purpose, connected to my modem-router. There are still one or two things I have to figure out, but that’s only because I’ve been lazy.

On an idealistic level, I love the idea of being in control of my own server.

Economically, it’s probably cheaper, after the small fee I pay for a permanent IP, and the electricity used, than hosting the site on a server. There were no hardware costs since I’m using an old laptop, which would otherwise just lie in the cupboard.

There is still a question whether the effort has been worth it. Regarding blogging and social networking, it depends a lot on the usage case. Although it is occasionally nice for me to see all the product of 20 years of writing together in one place, actually I could achieve the same by writing off line, on my computer, and then uploading it somewhere – anywhere – perhaps various places – not necessarily a personal website. That’s true because there are no commercial or reputational considerations involved. That would not be true for everyone.

Regarding social media, also there, there are few advantages to be found in hosting your own network. It is easier to become known and discover others by using a commercial network or a popular federated instance. If what you are posting is mainly short posts and links to your own writing, and the service is free, then there is no real need to host it at home.

What would make sense, perhaps, would be to host your own email system. That would be great, if it were not so technically challenging to host email, and if were not so difficult to self-host email without being blacklisted by the big companies who today host email.

It does not make sense to use a home server for a file server, because the main advantage of backing up your files in the cloud is that they are not being stored at home. If the house is burgled or burns down, it’s better that the files are stored elsewhere. It still makes sense to rent a cloud server for that; it is simply better that it isn’t at home. I pay a little money to Disroot in order to store my files on their server.

It would be a good idea to use a home server for storing a photo and video collection. Photos and video take up a lot of space, which is sometimes costly, so a good case can be made for creating a photo gallery on your own server. But that too could be hosted somewhere in the cloud.

Tags: technology
16 May 2020

Gradually importing my Wordpress blog

I've made a bit of progress in importing my Wordpress blog, though I must admit it is quite a struggle. Although I'm using Emacs for the blog, I'm very new to Emacs. As someone has said, it isn't so much an editor as an engine for the LISP programming language, with many arcane functionalities. You basically program Emacs to work in whatever way you want and do the things that you want. But I'm not a programmer and don't know LISP, so that means trying to figure out what other people have programmed for it and incorporating the useful parts.

Someone had suggested using a piece of Pelican - another static-blog generator - as a middleman for importing the blog from Wordpress. I tried that, unsuccessfully. One problem was that in installing the necessary files I filled my Linux root partition to 100% and basically had to abandon that whole Linux installation. This meant taking some of the generous space I had assigned to a Swap partition, creating a new Linux root partition, downloading and installing a new version of my Linux distribution (MX Linux) to there and reusing the home partition. It wasn't so bad - the actual re-installation took about an hour. Having learned the hard way that 12 Gigabytes isn't enough for a modern Linux system (though it used to be), I assigned 20 Gigabytes this time.

But the Pelican importer wouldn't work for me. It depended on various elements for Python that seemed to be incompatible one with the other. I gave up with that and started looking for different options. One was to try to edit the XML download file containing all my blog posts from Wordpress. I imported it in Libreoffice as a 1,000 page file and started searching and replacing all the extraneous parts. But that was ridiculous, and eventually the program crashed. I gave up on that.

I looked into various feed readers that I might use instead. If I could download the posts as an RSS news feed, that would halfway serve my purpose. So I discovered that Emacs itself has the potentiality to work as a feedreader. It relies upon a component called Elfeed. That works very well in fact. Again, it was a bit of struggle, during which I learned various new things about Emacs. For example, I learned that the configuration for the whole Emacs system is properly donxe through going into a command known as Customize (Alt-x: “customize” and then searching for the correct component to change). I also learned how to install new functionalities to Emacs without relying only on what the Debian package manager offers.

Eventually I ended up with a nice RSS newsfeed that looked very similar to the flat plain text files that I would need to generate in the Emacs static blog program in order to produce the blog. It would be easy to transfer them over into the blog. The only problem was that the feedreader was importing only a few blog posts, rather than the approximately 700 that I desired. Was this a result of some limitation in the feedreader, or in the RSS file produced by It turned out to be the latter more than the former. By default, Wordpress adds only about 10 posts to the feed. But you can change that easily in its Settings, under Reading. It is true that the maximum is still only 150. But that's a starter. I can, I think, import 150, then turn those posts into WP Private posts or drafts, and then continue - if I ever get that far.

The latter is a real question, because the process is still rather time consuming. Smarter people than me would easily write a program to complete the whole process quickly. But I'm still somehow doubtful that it would go well. In my experience, importers are rarely perfect. The import process involves changing various things and a program wouldn't be able to do that so well. So, in my own way, I'm proceeding slowly, and, in the meantime, learning various things about Emacs and the static blog engine under Org-mode.

Writing a static blog, even with the semi-automation, is never going to be quite as comfortable as writing in a Content Management system such as Wordpress offers. You make a simple mistake in a date or in incorporating a link or an image, and something goes wrong. But I have worked with static blogs before, and this system is actually easier than the ones that I've used, It's a huge plus to end up with perfectly readable plain text files that are not held in some database. I understood a while back that plain text files that sit in folders, without any dependency on some program to make them accessible, is the best way to work. Linux has various diary systems like Redbook but I don't like these. Contradicting myself again, I'm actually writing this in Cherrytree notes. I do like Cherrytree. I mostly use it for keeping a knowledge base for all the things I need to do on the computer. There's no way I could remember them, and Cherrytree is an easy way of rediscovering something I learned 5 years ago about Libreoffice or Wordpress. I write everything down. For example, with regard to my work on Emacs. Instead of having to remember the definitions for importing an image, I can copy that line of code into Cherrytree and go back to it.

Emacs Org-mode offers the possibility to entirely replace Cherrytree - in fact notekeeping and ToDo lists are the most common use for it. But normally, in that process, one ends up with huge files. It would be possible to separate those into separate files later, but Cherrytree has much easier ways of importing and exporting to and from just about everything, in addition to rich text formatting and various other niceties. In my experience, I'm liking to go with the simplest option, rather than the smartest, as long as autonomy isn't compromised. Autonomy is crucial. Digitalization constantly offers us so many shortcuts. Using Wordpress is a such a shortcut. Using something like Facebook would be another, much much worse, option. But the shortcuts end up making you work harder to recuperate what you want, and you end up, years later, doing what you should have done from the beginning, and taking charge of your own material. And this is also a matter of proficiency. A programmer has a higher level of ability with regard to software use than a person without programming skills. As someone with only middling capabilities, I'm obviously going to seek options that I can wrap my head around. If the solution appears to be too complicated, I'm going to opt for something simpler.

Because I'm not a computer genius, and lack many skills, I look for simple ways of doing stuff. Simplicity and autonomy are always my aim, even if the ways there are often convoluted. But it's a worthwhile effort. In a century, I imagine, it will still be possible to work with plain text files that don't rely on any proprietary system or complex databases. This Emacs Org Static Blog outputs plain text files that are kept in sync with nice looking web pages. Using such a system is worth the little extra effort. There are probably various other ways to achieve something similar with less energy. There were Posterous and Scriptogram, for example, which allowed one to post from email or from Dropbox. Services like these eventually run out of money and are discontinued. The same may happen to Medium, Tumblr (currently owned by Wordpress), Facebook and all the rest. Plain text files are the way to go. Cheap and best; future-proof, as much as something can be.

Tags: technology
07 May 2020

Home Server?

I’ve been thinking more seriously about setting up a home server. Yesterday I looked at the Freedombone, Yunohost and Freedombox projects – these are some of the noteworthy attempts to make a Linux distro specially geared towards home servers. All three are based on Debian Linux and can be run on a variety of hardware. Cheap Raspberry Pis, old computers and other cheap machines are what people normally use. In my case I will be trying from an Eeeepc netbook, since I have one lying around and its electricity needs are a bit smaller than those of a normal laptop. I do have an unused Raspberry Pi, but it’s one of the early models and has only half a gigabyte RAM.

My initial experiments were failures. It took many hours to download Freedombone from Bob Mottram’s site, and even then it seems that the data was corrupted. Yunohost’s download took just a couple of minutes but the thumb drive wouldn’t boot for me. I will try again with these later. Or I’ll just work from another distro – my eeepc already has a Debian distro on it. These kind of experiments always seem to take me longer than for most people.

Tags: technology
07 May 2020

Immobile Phone

I’ve almost given up using my mobile phone during the pandemic. I’m at home most of the time anyhow. When, at first, it was announced that the security services would be following our every movement (that seems to have been defeated in court for now) I decided to call it quits. I would leave it turned off except when I absolutely need it. The rest of the time I switched on the follow-me service so that when people call my mobile number the call gets transferred to the house phone. People are often surprised how quickly I answer, because the action of picking up a desk phone’s receiver from its base is usually quicker than locating and then answering a smartphone.

As for the other things a smartphone does, I don’t need them most of the time – I can do most of them on the computer.

Tags: technology
11 Feb 2020

Linux on My Thinkpad

I am pleased with the transition I made from Windows to MX Linux on my Lenovo Thinkpad T470p. It’s a beautiful machine, but much better now that I no longer have to use Windows 10 in it. I am back in the operating environment that I know and love and don’t need to make any compromises. I have used MX Linux previously, on lower-powered and older machines, but although I know that I could easily run a fancier distro under my 32 GB RAM, I wanted something that I already knew would be stable and that I would probably stay with. Initially I tried installing MX with the Gnome 3 and KDE Plasma desktops, then reinstalled and tried Budgie. I liked Budgie best, but it’s a bit buggy, so I’ve gone back to XFCE. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with any of the others, but XFCE is the desktop that MX Linux comes with, and MX seems to play best with it.

Regarding software, as usual, I have added the tools that I use: Cherrytree Notes, Bluefish, Filezilla, KeepassXC, Osmo, Scribus, Calibre, for now. All of these are multi-platform and available also for Windows, so even for the few months I was working under Windows, I was able to use almost exclusively free open source software.

I installed XnView as a photo manager, but then I had a pleasant surprise when I found that GThumb has grown into a program that can handle most of my everyday needs, such as cropping, resizing, color correcting. Last time I checked, this was not so, and I’ve reluctantly used XnView for years since. Though it is free, and very nice, it is still proprietary software. On Windows there is FastStone, which is under a GPL3 license.

For my cloud needs, I have NextCloud for personal files. This works fine (though it doesn’t start up automatically, for some reason). For the office, I unfortunately have to use Google Drive. Here there is a problem, because Google provide no native system for synchronization on Linux. (They initially promised, and people have been screaming at them for years in the Google forums, but it hasn’t helped – it just ain’t gonna happen.) I tried to use the Gnome 3 and KDE Google Drive solutions (which was the reason for my mentioned experimentation with these desktop environments). The verdict: Gnome’s Online Accounts is still too slow to be of much use. KDE’s Google Drive synchronization is currently disallowed from authenticating by Google. I tried next to use a proprietary solution, Expandrive, because it is supposed to work like Google Drive File Stream. But, for Linux at least, this is completely Beta software (and expensive). I had an email from the developer, but he didn’t reply to my feedback. So I’m using InSync, but just for a single folder where I keep some active files. My hard drive is not large enough to contain all of the files we have on our Google Drive, and previously Insync somehow made a horrible mess, mixing some of our personal home documents in public folders – it took hours and hours to correct the mess and I don’t want to go there again.

Regarding support under Linux for the Thinkpad T470p, as far as I can see, everything is supported, almost out of the box. For battery management, there is a specific external module for the TPL battery management system that I needed to add (acpi-call-dkms). This keeps the battery charged up to a certain threshold in order to help preserve the life of the battery. The machine still seems to drain the battery more quickly than under Windows, however. The only thing that I have not yet installed is the drivers for the finger print reader.

The trackpoint

I once before owned a very cheap Thinkpad, on which I also replaced the Windows system with Linux, but I never really got the hang of using the trackpoint. Now I’ve decided to try to get used to it. I have always hated touchpads, and usually the first thing I do is disable them and use an external trackball (which I much prefer to mice). I suspect that I’m less dexterous than most people and always look with admiration when I see people effortlessly using their touchpads. It could be age, but I remember how even in primary school the teachers would tell me I was holding the pencil too heavily.

But the trackpoint is something special. There’s no way to accidentally create havoc with it, as I always do with with touchpads. Still, getting accustomed to the trackpoint is no easy task, though I do recognize the advantages. The experience reminds me of when I first began using a mouse, after working for years with WordPerfect under DOS. It felt really strange. But there’s something about the trackpoint that brings me closer to the machine, and encourages me to use keyboard functions more. For example, in LibreOffice, to select a large block of text that spans more than a page, I would normally use the mouse (or trackball), but trying to accomplish that with the trackpoint is simply horrible. So I looked up how to do use the keyboard instead and gasped how easy it is (you simply hold down the shift key while moving the arrow buttons – doh – I bet everyone else already knew that). Giving up external pointing devices is quite liberating. No doubt those who work completely in Vim or Emacs, and don’t need to use any pointing device whatsoever, feel this even more strongly. Having used a pointing device consistently for about 25 years, I’ve simply forgotten how it felt beforehand.

Tags: technology
22 Nov 2019

Fighting systems from the inside

There’s always a disagreement between those who think it’s better to fight the system from the inside and those who say it’s better to oppose it totally. Some are total conscientious objectors and others, in the Israeli context for example, say that it’s better for humane soldiers to control the checkpoints than racist bastards with no respect for Palestinian lives. The usual contra-argument is that the system corrupts; that it isn’t really possible to maintain humane values within a framework that is toxic.

I was thinking of this with my recent compromises around computers and phones. I didn’t manage, till now, to buy a phone that runs on free software. So, instead, when I purchased a new Samsung A10, I refrained from logging into Google (which means I can’t use the Google Play app store directly), or registering the phone and logging into Samsung’s systems for that matter. Instead, all my apps are from F-Droid, and that’s fine with me.

Then, on my Kobo e-reader, I found some free open-source software that allows me to read without Kobo’s annoying home screen, interface and all the ads butting in. The machine works a lot better like this. All my books are pirated (the older ones de-DRMed), but, in the case of living authors, I buy printed versions of their books so that they get paid. That way, I can also share their books with friends.

Now, on my desktop, I have MS Windows installed – that’s because of an arrangement that I made with my son – I may end up giving him the computer back at some point. But I don’t use any non-free programs other than XN-View sometimes, which is free but not Libre, and Google Drive, which I need for the office. Everything else is free open-source. I don’t like MS Windows, but I’ve managed to neutralize most of its annoyances. I might get rid of it soon and install MX or Debian with Gnome. I just need to see if Gnome manages Google Drive successfully – on my previous computer that was painfully slow.

Anyway, with all these options, I feel like I’m fighting the system from the inside. Despite everything, I should probably be using a Fairphone with the Google-free option, an Onyx reader (perhaps) and a System76 computer running under Debian. But even if I could afford all these options, I would probably fall down in other ways, because it is the toxic framework of our money-based capitalism that is the real operating system.

It may be hackable, but only to a certain degree.

Tags: technology
22 Nov 2019

Be careful with the WP plugin “Advanced Excerpt”

I wish I’d avoided this. It removed “read more” links on some posts with more to read, and created other problems. Disabling & deleting did not remove some of the mischief it had produced.

Tags: technology
31 Oct 2019

Computer fixed

The Lenovo Thinkpad was fixed and it is working wonderfully. The repairman came and replaced the motherboard, sitting at our kitchen table; a guy about my age, who didn’t want to drink coffee because then he would have to pee en route between destinations. It was a pleasure to watch him work at the computer, with his practiced hands. He had been working for IBM for 20 years. Asked whether IBM is a good company to work for, he said it used to be better, before the 2008 crash.

Tags: technology
20 Oct 2019

Cross-platform FOSS apps (again)

Now I’m on MS Windows (see earlier post), because that’s what I acquired with the Thinkpad given or loaned to me by my son. But we seem to be reaching a stage where the actual operating system is not of prime importance.* I mean I had to fiddle quite a bit in order to set up the machine as I wanted it, minimizing the connections with Microsoft and setting up the same software I always use on Linux. I’m beginning to think it’s a useful constraint to go for software that’s available everywhere, on all Linux desktops as well as MS Windows and Mac. Not everything works as well as the non-FOSS options. For example, Foxit Reader (which isn’t FOSS) is much more feature-rich than Evince, which I also have set up. But for everyday tasks, Evince is enough.

For those willing to work with the terminal, the limitations become much more insignificant, but it’s a struggle to identify the right scripts. For example today I was looking at Imagemagick, and I didn’t find yet an easy explanation of how to do stuff. There’s a routine operation I always do when importing photos from my phone or elsewhere, in order that I can put them online. This involves reducing the size of the photos according to their longest side (but only those that actually need to be shrunk), and then saving them with a new name. This is very easy in Xnview (which isn’t FOSS), but it seems like a struggle to obtain through Imagemagick.

I’m still trying to obtain a FOSS alternative to XNView, and yesterday looked at Digikam. Naturally it can do a lot more for digital assets management than XNView, however its batch routine is still primitive compared with the latter. There are no options for shrinking only large photos (rather than blowing up the smaller ones), and no option for shrinking them by their longest side (in order that it will work the same for portrait and landscape shapes). That’s when I started to look at Imagemagick, because why be upset with GUI options, when in the CLI you can do everything, right? But it isn’t quite so simple in the case of Imagemagick. And I know myself. Things that take a long time to learn are just as easily forgotten – especially the ones that I don’t need to do several times a day, so that they become a routine.

For text editing, I’ve finally ended up with Bluefish. It can do everything I need, and it was possible to simplify the interface how I liked it, and use tabs. One need that many people don’t have is simple and painless LTR / RTL shifting, as soon as one changes the input language. Bluefish handles this painlessly – when I shift to Hebrew or Arabic, it begins the line from the opposite side. Some programs, for example Geanie, can’t handle RTL languages at all, and others don’t do it very well.

I would like to get into the habit of using a single editor (Bluefish) wherever I need an editor. For example this WordPress post, and maybe also for writing emails. Using a single editor means that everything is taken care of in one familiar interface, and there are no surprises like losing all of my work if the computer suddenly turns off. Bluefish saves every minute by default.

The upcoming versions the Windows Linux Subsystem offer an even more real Linux

experience than what currently exists, and it has better interaction with filing systems.

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20 Oct 2019

Added MC to my Windows toolkit

There seems to be just one cross-platform file-manager: Midnight Commander. I’ve always added it to my Linux installations, but have been lazy about using it. However, learning it well will be knowledge carried over between platforms. So I’ve pinned it to my taskbar.

I found it at :

There’s a cheat sheet here:

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04 Oct 2019

New computer

My son has given me a new computer; one which he purchased himself for coding a couple of years ago. It’s Thinkpad T470P, which comes with a good 7th generation i7-7000HQ processor, 32GB of RAM and an SSD. So it’s the most powerful computer I’ve had. It has one flaw, which prevents him from just selling it on eBay, which is that if the computer is jolted, it turns off. This isn’t a problem if work is being done on a stable surface, but I could imagine that it might be a problem if working on one’s lap or on an airplane. It’s possible to move it around the house in an ‘on’ state, usually, but there’s always the chance that it could turn off. Anyway, that’s not a serious impediment for the way I use a computer. What is more questionable is that the computer comes with Windows 10 Pro, and I don’t want to remove it in case he needs the computer back at some time.

It’s been years since I worked under Windows. I don’t mind getting back up to speed with it, since I occasionally need to help people with their computers. So I will continue using it for a while. Afterwards, I might just go back to working with AntiX, MX or even Puppy Linux from a pen drive, as I’ve done quite often previously. In terms of software, there is one advantage for my work, in that Windows works natively with Google Drive file stream. My experience with the 3rd party equivalents (of the earlier form of Google Drive sync) have not been good, and on one occasion, disastrous. With regard to the other software that I use, I have really no difficulties. Almost all the programs that I use in Linux exist under Windows: Waterfox, Libreoffice, Gimp, Cherrytree, Xnview, Clementine, Bluefish, Atom, Filezilla, Keepass, Scribus, Inkscape, VLC, Telegram desktop, Tor, Calibr, Transmission. I’ve also now installed Ubuntu under Windows, so that I can use command line utilities. I haven’t checked yet regarding Audacity sound editor or the possibilities regarding movie editing, but I remember that Windows’ own possibilities for the latter were adequate for my needs.

Anyway, it’s a joy to be working on a more powerful machine again finally, as my 7 year old computers, with their slow processors and limited RAM were becoming annoying for some things. I also love the Thinkpad keyboard, which on this model is also back-lit, so I hope to get some nice work done on this thing. The battery lasts for several hours, which is also very nice.

One interesting thing that I have discovered is that Linux is more flexible regarding keyboard language input. On a Windows US keyboard it’s a bit difficult to obtain a € sign or a £ sign without a numerical keyboard. What I’ve decided to do is to work under the UK keyboard. Five keys are switched, but these are mostly obscure, and I can remember the equivalents. The main switch is regarding the @ and ” symbols. It’s a weird position for the double inverted comma/quotation mark. Brits tend to use this less than Americans, but I see that nowadays, they are tending to use double quotes in the same situations as Americans. The Guardian style guide , like the BBC, Telegraph and Reuters style guides, calls for the use of double quotes for main quotes, with the use of single inverted commas preserved only for internal quotes (or apostrophes). Both British and US journals use single quotes in headlines and titles, but double quotes in the articles themselves. If this is true it would probably make sense to move the ” sign back into the QWERTY line. Anyway, I think I can work with it.

Tags: technology
16 Sep 2019

The stuff I use

I’ve been using MX Linux the last couple of years; before that AntiX; before that Puppy Linux and a variety of other distributions.

I find MX to be quite stable and nice. I’m 63 years old, not a computer whizz, not a programmer and don’t spend a lot of money on computers. MX Linux isn’t too heavy for my aging computers: I currently use a 2012 Dell Vostro laptop and a slightly newer no-brand Pentium desktop.

Right now, I’m using the following on a regular basis: Desktop environment: Xfce Internet: Waterfox, Tor, Telegram Desktop, Torrent, NextCloud, Transmission, Filezilla Office programs: Libre Office Writer and Calc, Scribus, gscan2pdf Editors and note-takers: Featherpad, ReText, Bluefish, Cherrytree Notes Email: webmail and Claws Graphics: GIMP, XNView Sound and Multimedia: Audacity, Clementine, Kodi, VLC, Accessories: Galculator, Thunar, Catfish file search, Dictionary, Keepass XC password manager Software management: Synaptic, MX updater Book manager: Calibr Stuff that runs in the background like CUPS, Alsa, seahorse, Clipit clipboard manager, and whatever performs the USB connection to my Samsung Android phone. Games: only Mahjongg Video editing: I don’t do this often – I think I’ve had most success with KDENLIVE

I also run a number of online programs: the office uses the Google Apps suite. I don’t have a Google Drive synchronizer that I like, so I mainly use Nextcloud to sync between my computers, and occasionally upload files and directories manually to Google Drive. Previously I used Insync.

I still read allegations that GNU Linux is hard, that Apple is easier and “just works”, etc. I’ve never used an Apple computer – besides the ideological considerations, the hardware and the software would be too expensive for me. GNU-Linux is entirely adequate for my needs. When I tinker with my system and experiment with new things, it’s mainly because I sometimes like to do that – not because there is anything unstable or unreliable about what I’m using.

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