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User Journal

Journal: Product Review: Seagate Personal Cloud 3

Journal by mcgrew

Around the first of the year all three working computers were just about stuffed full, so I thought of sticking a spare drive in the Linux box, when the Linux box died from a hardware problem. It's too old to spend time and money on, so its drive is going in the XP box (which is, of course, not on the network; except sneakernet). I decided to break down and buy an external hard drive. I found what I was looking for in the "Seagate Personal Cloud". And here I thought the definition of "the cloud" was someone else's server!

I ordered it the beginning of January, not noticing that it was a preorder; it wasn't released until late March. I got it right before April.

I was annoyed with its lack of documentation -- it had a tiny pamphlet full of pictures and icons and very few words. Whoever put that pamphlet together must beleive the old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words". Tell me, if a picture is worth a thousand words, convey that thought in pictures. I don't think it can be done.

I did find a good manual on the internet. For what I wanted, I really didn't need a manual, but since I'm a nerd I wanted to understand everything about the thing. Before looking for a manual I plugged it all up, and Windows 7 had no problem connecting with it. It takes a few minutes to boot; it isn't really simply a drive, it must have an operating system and network software, because it looks to the W7 notebook to be another file server. Its only connections are a jack for the power cord and a network jack.

The model I got has three terrabytes. I moved all the data from the two working computers (using a thumb drive to move data from XP) and the "cloud" was still empty. Streaming audio and video from it is flawless; I'm completely satisfied with it, it's a fine piece of hardware.

However, it WON'T do what is advertised to do, which is to be able to get to your data from anywhere. In order to do that, Seagate has a "software as a service" thing where you can connect to a computer from anywhere, but only the computer and its internal drives, NOT the "personal cloud". And they want ten bucks a month for it.

I downloaded the Android app, and I could see and copy files that were on my notebook to my phone, but I couldn't play music stored there on it. I uninstalled the crap. "Software as a service" is IMO evil in the first place, but to carge a monthly fee to use a piece of crap software like this is an insult. Barnum must have been right.

If you're just looking for an external hard drive, like I was, it's a good solution. If you want what they're advertising, you ain't gettin' it. The Seagate Personal Cloud's name is a lie, as is its advertising.

User Journal

Journal: We've been spelling it wrong for over a quarter century 8

Journal by mcgrew

I'm surprised that this hasn't been addressed by the academic communities. Someone with a degree in English or linguistics or something like that should have though of this decades ago.

This word (actually more than one word) has various spellings, and I've probably used all of them at one time or another. The word is email, or eMail, or e-mail, or some other variation. They're all wrong.

It's a contraction of "electronic mail" and as such should be spelled e'mail. The same with e'books and other e'words.

So why hasn't someone with a PhD in English pointed this out to me? I have no formal collegiate training in this field. It's a mystery to me.

User Journal

Journal: Are printed books' days numbered? 4

Journal by mcgrew

In his 1951 short story The Fun They Had, Isaac Asimov has a boy who finds something really weird in the attic -- a printed book. In this future, all reading was done on screens.

When e'books* like the Nook and Kindle came out, there were always women sitting outside the building on break on a nice spring day reading their Nooks and Kindles. It looked like the future to me, Asimov's story come true. I prefer printed books, but thought that it was because I'm old, and was thirty before I read anything but TV and movie credits on a screen.

And then I started writing books. My youngest daughter Patty is going to school at Cincinnati University (as a proud dad I have to add that she's Phi Beta Kappa and working full time! I'm not just proud, I'm in awe of her) and when she came home on break and I handed her a hardbound copy of Nobots she said "My dad wrote a book! And it's a REAL book!"

So somehow, even young people like Patty value printed books over e'books.

My audience is mostly nerds, since few non-nerds know of me or my writing, so I figured that the free e'book would far surpass sales of the printed books. Instead, few people are downloading the e'books. More download the PDFs, and more people buy the printed books than PDFs and ebooks combined.

Most people just read the HTML online, maybe that's a testament to my m4d sk1llz at HTML (yeah, right).

Five years ago I was convinced ink was on the way out, but there's a book that was printed long before the first computer was turned on that says "the news of my death has been greatly exaggerated".

* I'll write a short story about the weird spelling shortly.

User Journal

Journal: Where's my damned tablet? 11

Journal by mcgrew

I'd like to know why in the hell nobody is selling a tablet, or maybe an app for existing tablets, that will let me watch over the air TV on it?

All the necessary hardware is there. Wi-fi and bluetooth are radios. Some cell pones can pick up FM music stations, and have been able to do so and have done so for years.

The FM radio band sits between channels six and seven on the VHF television channels. If it can hear radio, it can see TV.

The technology is there, why isn't the commercial device to be found? Offer a tablet I can watch TV without the internet and I'll buy one. Maybe two.

User Journal

Journal: Web Dev on the Mac 1

Journal by stoolpigeon

I've been working on a little side project. I would like to have an app where people can read updates that I send out. It seemed like a fun way to learn more about programming mobile apps and it's something I could actually use if I can get it to a decent state.
 
I'm keeping it simple. I decided the app would just be an rss feed reader. And that meant I need a feed. I want it to be very specific to my app so I decided the way to go would be to just create my own back end for creating the feed. I decided to use php and I wrote a simple set up using the codeigniter framework. That gave me a quick way to set up authorization and it was easy to tie in styling from bootstrap so that things can look decent without any effort.
 
I've been doing all the work at my office, on my desktop running Fedora. I have two nice big lcd monitors and developing on Linux is just so easy. I had the environment up and running in no time.
 
Then this week my son got sick. Nothing serious - but enough for him to stay home from school for a few days. I worked from home to keep an eye on him. I've been putting off getting my Macbook set up to do this kind of stuff but now I really needed to tackle it. Ugh - what a pain. The machine itself has grown on me. The hardware is decent and works pretty well. The software isn't horrible. But oh my word - when I want to do anything 'out of the ordinary' and by that I mean any kind of meaningful work with the system, it is pretty bad. I know lots of professional developers use Macs but I'm stunned at what a pain it is to do things that are trivially easy in Linux.
 
Getting Mysql installed and running with Apache was a lot more work. Getting PHP working the way I want took more time than it ever has before. Things are far from ideal even now, but I've got it to a point where it works.
 
And now I have my code in 3 places. So I'll be using github to keep code in sync between them. It's a little more of a challenge because I have the production environment set up a little differently than the dev environment. But not so differently that it is a huge deal. I have ssh access to my hosting environment (Bluehost) so that makes it pretty easy. - Oh and that is the one thing that saves the mac - having bash. If it didn't I'd have given up on it long ago.

User Journal

Journal: Triplanetary 1

Journal by mcgrew

I've uploaded a new book to mcgrewbooks.com. Edgar E. Smith was a well known science fiction writer known as "the father of space opera", and Doctor Smith was a food engineer in his other life. The novel I've uploaded is Triplanetary, first published in serial form in Amazing Stories in 1934.

Some of the dialogue is a bit juvenile, but it would make a great movie.

User Journal

Journal: An Accidental Book 1

Journal by mcgrew

I've read books accidentally, meaning to read a single chapter and winding up reading it in one setting, but I've never started writing one accidentally.

Until now.

Tired of editing Random Scribblings and Voyage to Earth and Other Stories (Formerly titled "Mars Bars"), I thought I'd look for another science fiction novel in the public domain a little less ancient than The Time Machine to add to my web site.

I didn't find one, so decided to just make a book of public domain short stories by the 20th century greats. I found a LOT, and started assembling a book. Somehow, I wound up adding commentary and thought "Hey! New book!"

Then I discovered that one of the short stories wasn't so short -- in fact, it was a full blown novel. So for the last several days I've been formatting it to put on my web site. E.E. "Doc" Smith's Triplanetary will be posted in a few days.

I'll let you know when it's there. I guess I'm working on three books again. The collection I'm working on is tentatively titled "Yesterday's Tomorrow".

User Journal

Journal: Is Microsoft Sirius? 1

Journal by mcgrew

I had to laugh when I ran across this article.

"Cortana's UI now expresses 18 different emotions. Siri remains detached and aloof."

Yes, Microsoft is apparently the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation with its " Genuine People Personalities". So when are they going to make that "Marvin" interface?

User Journal

Journal: Catch 22 6

Journal by stoolpigeon

I got a thing from the IRS and they want me to fill out an on-line form.

To successfully complete the form I have to enter my filing address and it has to match my return. The form fields don't allow me to correctly enter the address.

So the address has to match for the form to validate, but the form wont allow me to enter the address correctly. It's beautiful. There's an email address to send information about the process and it says below the address that you can send an email but they wont respond. Super.

So I go to the page with a phone number to call. It says "You can call between 7 am and 7 pm your local time." I'd wager not.

I've never had a problem with the IRS or filing until this year. Something has put me onto some list with them, which they wont tell me about other than in a general way and now everything is exponentially more difficult. Fantastic.

User Journal

Journal: Amnesia 4

Journal by mcgrew

If slashdot still hasn't fixed the "fine in preview, fucked in submit" bug, there's a readable version here.

Amnesia
        He awoke wondering where he was... on a medic. Why was... oh, hell, why was he being held down? And then the big question hit him â" Who am I?
        And who, besides the medic itself, which was only a robot, had imprisoned him? And why?
        There was a tube leading into his arm... was he in a hospital? It smelled like a hospital.
        The medic beeped, and said âoecondition improved, now stable.â
        He must have had some kind of accident, but he couldnâ(TM)t remember his own name, let alone how he wound up in a hospital.
        âoeComputer!â he said, hoping the hospital computer could shed some light. It was apparently not paying attention, because it ignored him. He lay there strapped to the robotic table for what seemed like forever when the medic again beeped and spoke. âoeCondition improved, now fair.â
        âoeComputer!â
        No answer.
        Damn. âoeMedic!â
        No answer.
        Another eternity passed, and the medic reported âoeCondition good, patient released.â The straps came loose and he sat up on the medic, waiting for a nurse or doctor that never showed up. Didnâ(TM)t someone have paperwork when a patient was released?
        He decided to look around the hospital to find someone and tell them that he shouldnâ(TM)t have been released, that he had no memory. He used the rest room and went searching for help.
        This, he thought, was the strangest thing... this hospital seemed to have no doctors, no nurses, no administrative staff, nobody. Not even any patients. He walked down hall after hall, and found nothing but locked doors and more hallways.
        He started to panic, and muscle memory reached his hand into his pocket for a phone. There was none there.
        That panicked him. Why didnâ(TM)t he think of it before? It could have told him at least who he was, if not where he was and why.
        He started running, down first one hallway then another, until he collapsed in exhaustion and anguish. He sat there in the hallway, head in his hands, sobbing softly.
        Quite a while later he finally came to his senses, sort of. He got up and decided to just walk around, looking for... anything, really, but especially people. Where was everyone? It would be nice if he could find a sandwich, too; he was starting to get a little hungry. That added to his already numerous worries.
        He found no exits, no unlocked doors, no people, no sandwiches. It was hard enough to keep his fear below panic levels, but then what was obviously some sort of alarm went off. Was the building on fire? He stopped, with no idea what to do.
        He looked up â" werenâ(TM)t there skylights showing stars earlier? But his memory was impaired, after all, not able to remember his name or anything before waking up on the medic.
        He heard the first sounds that didnâ(TM)t come from robots that heâ(TM)d heard since awakening, and it scared him even more â" the sound of hail. Perhaps there were skylights, but were now shuttered.
        At this point he was aware that the alarm was almost certainly a tornado warning, and he couldnâ(TM)t find the stairway! Maybe this building didnâ(TM)t even have a basement, but who in their right mind would build a structure in a tornado zone without one? But without a stairwell, it might as well not have a basement. He huddled in a doorway waiting for the tornado to destroy him and the building.
        The sounds of hail stopped, the siren stopped, and yes, there were skylights; the shutters opened then, showing stars once again. Odd that the storm had started and ended so fast. The shutters must have closed before the clouds rolled in.
        He started to continue his fruitless search.
        A robot wheeled past, and he had an idea. The robot would certainly lead him to something.
        It did. Down a hallway heâ(TM)d not yet explored and probably had run past more than once in his earlier panic was a large door that stood wide open, the automatic pocket doors recessed. Inside was a huge room filled with tables and chairs, but still no sign of humanity at all. The robot heâ(TM)d followed dragged another robot away. Puzzling.
        At least he had somewhere to sit besides the floor. He sat down at one of the many tables to rest, thinking heâ(TM)d have to figure out how to find his way back before continuing his search.
        He just couldnâ(TM)t stop wondering what the hell was going on. Was he being studied in some sort of weird experiment? Was he a prisoner by design, or by accident? Was he a criminal? Did he have a family?
        Without even thinking he started praying out loud, âoeOh, Lord, please help me...â
        A mechanical voice chimed in. âoeCan I help you, sir?â
        He looked up at the robot. âoeYes,â he said, âoehow can I get out of this building?â
        âoeIâ(TM)m sorry, sir, but that is not in my database. Can I get you something to drink?â
        âoeYes, cold water, but first, where am I?â
        âoeThis is the commons area, sir. Would you like a menu?â Without waiting for an answer, the video screen displayed a menu.
        âoeYes, Iâ(TM)ll have a cheeseburger, brogs, and a caffeine shike.â
        âoeYes, sir,â it said, and started to roll away.
        âoeWait!â the man said. âoeWhat is this the commons of?â
        âoeThat information is not in my database.â
        âoeCan you tell me what this building is?â
        âoeIâ(TM)m sorry, sir, but that information is not in my database. Is there anything else, sir, or should I fetch your order?â
        âoeNo, go on.â It rolled off. He put his elbow on the table and rested his head in his hand.
        The robot came back shortly with his water and shike and rolled away again.
        âoeWhat the hell is going on?â he wondered aloud, again.
        The robot came back in with his food and wheeled away. He ate, still not able to figure out how to examine his prison and still find his way back to this âoecommonsâ. At least he had food and drink now, which relieved him greatly and made exploration of this building far less, yet still, important.
        Then he thought: A commons. A common area. People should show up here, perhaps he should just wait for someone to show up?
        Several hours later and the skylight still showed stars. Was he in Antarctica? Or was he... Yes, that explained everything. He was on a space ship, but why? Where was it going? Where was the captain?
        Was he the captain? Or... a horrifying thought came to him. Was he a pirate who had killed the captain and thrown the body out the airlock?
        His thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of humanity â" boots walking down the hallway, and cautious whispering voices.
        He looked around the doorway and saw ten heavily armed, armored, and helmeted men.
        âoeOh shit,â he thought. He was captain, but didnâ(TM)t even recognize his own boat, let alone how to run it, and now there were pirates who would surely murder him and steal the ship and whatever cargo it was carrying. He cowered in a corner, wishing for something to defend himself with.
        They came in, weapons drawn, with the men in the back facing the other way and backing in. The man in front lowered his weapon and raised his face shield. âoeJerry? Christ, man, what the hell is going on?â
        âoeMy name is Jerry? Are you sure? I donâ(TM)t know who I am!â
        âoeJesus, Jerry, Iâ(TM)ve known you for years, youâ(TM)re Jerry Smith. I was scared shitless for you, what the hell happened? Did you get attacked by pirates?â
        âoeI... I donâ(TM)t think so. Iâ(TM)d be dead if they had. The first thing I remember is waking up on a medic wondering who I was and where I was and why I was on a medic. I wandered around for hours, I donâ(TM)t think anybody else is here.â
        âoeOkay, Joe, check the pilot room. Rob, would you do an engine inspection?â
        âoeSure thing, boss.â
        âoeJerry, where are your phone and tablet?â
        He shook his head. âoeNo idea, but I was sure wishing I had them.â
        They took Jerry to Earth with them while another man piloted Jerryâ(TM)s ship there.
        He did eventually get his memory back after a lot of therapy. His phone had been in his captainâ(TM)s quarters, and he had been doing inspection in machine storage when a can of something that had been improperly stacked by a malfunctioning robot had fallen, hitting him in the head and knocking him cold. A medic had taken him to sick bay, leaving the tablet laying on the floor, effectively locking him out of everything. Clearly, some policies, at least, would have to be changed.
        Jerry never captained another ship. In fact, he spent the rest of his life on Earth and never entered space again.

User Journal

Journal: Youtube Video Editor 2

Journal by stoolpigeon

The video editor built into youtube is surprisingly decent. It lets you cut videos up, add transitions, add photos, add text, put in music, all kinds of stuff.
 
With it running on their side I was able to edit up a bunch of separate videos, and then leave them processing while I did other stuff. It made it possible to do a lot of videos in parallel and not have my machine bogged down with it. Not bad.
 
It's not the greatest but for simple stuff that you just want to get up - it is pretty awesome. And it's really easy to get authenticated (or authorized or whatever) to load longer content than the default. I've been putting up stuff that is over an hour long without any problems.

User Journal

Journal: Tesco Home Delivery 5

Journal by stoolpigeon

We did our first home delivery from Tesco yesterday. My wife ordered on-line and they brought our stuff inside the window we were given for the delivery. The fee for delivery was 299 HUF which is about $1.10 right now.
 
It was a pretty awesome deal. The guy brought everything right in. There was a slight mix up - but that's because when people use GPS to come to our house it always takes them to my neighbor a little down the street. I don't know how it works in other parts of Europe, but in Hungary they seem to change the numbering of streets at a higher frequency than the U.S. So my house number is 6 but that use to be my neighbor Zsolt's house number and a lot of systems still think it is.
 
So the guy called me and after a moment or two of me fumbling around for the right Hungarian words, I realized he was 'here' and went outside to bring him in. A few minutes later we'd checked everything over, paid and we were all set. With gas going for around 400 HUF a liter, I doubt we could drive to the store and get it for less than we paid to have it delivered. On top of that the whole thing took maybe 10 minutes at most. If I go get it all myself I'm gone for over an hour. So we'll be using it again.

User Journal

Journal: Lollipop on 2012 Nexus 7 Wi-fi 4

Journal by stoolpigeon

I got a message that the OTA update to Lollipop was available for my Nexus 7 so I installed it.

It made the tablet unusable. Performance was atrocious, battery life could dropped to a couple hours. It couldn't play music. Doing anything took so long (if it worked at all) that it was really not worth it.

I googled around. One suggestion was to clear the cache. I tried to do that but when I tried to boot into recovery that always failed with an error about "No command found."

So finally I just flashed it back to Kit Kat.

I'm wrapping that up now. Google backup is reinstalling my apps and such. Hopefully things will improve. I know it's 3 years old but I really like it and I don't think it's too much to ask for it to still run well.

My son updated his too (he has the 2013 model) and he's been complaining. So this was a good run through if he wants me to do the same for his. I don't think the impact on his was as bad. He may just not like how lollipop looks. I'll talk to him about it this week-end and see what he wants to do.

Fun times.

User Journal

Journal: Compile FFMPEG 1

Journal by stoolpigeon

To get the most out of ffmpeg on Fedora - as far as I can tell - it needs to be compiled, not installed from a package manager. This is the only way I could find to get it with libfdk_aac support. I tried other stuff and then just went ahead and followed the very thorough guide on installing from source, right here: https://trac.ffmpeg.org/wiki/CompilationGuide/Centos

Though there was one thing I needed that they didn't have in the dependencies - libtool. That was quickly rectified. So if you do this - might as well add that on the front end. I noticed the need when there was an error with autoconf for one of the parts.

Civilization, as we know it, will end sometime this evening. See SYSNOTE tomorrow for more information.

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