Reinvigorating old(ish) kit

Spare time this week has been spent on bringing my old PC back to life. Old as in former, as well as in elderly.

My current PC is around three years old, good enough to pay some games on, with an i5 processor, GTX 560 graphics card, plus the usual other bits and bobs. It doesn't have Windows 10 yet and it may never get it; that's something I will have to decide on the coming months.

My former PC is based around a Sempron 3000+ processor and it had XP on it, bought in 2006. It had served me well, although before long I had added a hard drive from an even older PC and put Linux (Ubuntu 6.10) on it. That was later replaced with Mint 11. On the oh-so-capacious 30Gb drive, with XP remaining on the main, 80Gb drive. I know, puny amounts of drive space, but enough. Even more so now than when I first had the machine, as I have removable drives many times larger, plus a huge chunk of cloud storage.

A while ago I updated to Mint 15, so it was time to update to Mint 17.3. I opted to go 64-bit and also to try the Cinnamon desktop. That was an error of judgement, as it kept hanging. I should have realised that this machine would be unlikely to cope with one of the fuller GUIs around. Fortunately I was able to download and switch to Mate, my previous desktop. I was also fortunate to have downloaded my copy of Mint the day before the site got hacked and the version I downloaded was redirected to one containing a backdoor. Since then, the Mint website has been offline, changed servers and, hopefully, made themselves less vulnerable to Wordpress hacks. Possibly a lucky escape for me.

I next downloaded a full copy of Ubuntu 14.04, with the Unity desktop. As expected, the aged box wasn't keen on that either, so I eventually overwrote XP with Ubuntu 15.10 Mate. Yet again, Mate to the rescue. I'm not exactly a fan of the very lightweight desktops. I have tried both LXDE and Xfce in the past and they aren't for me.

I was caught out by Ubuntu's decision to allow the user to choose their own software manager, but soon got over that.
So now I have a Windows-free PC. I imagine the sound doesn't work, as Linux has never liked my soundcard, but as I haven't got any speakers to plug into it, that's no big deal.

Thoughts on the process :

Mint seemed easier to install, but that was because I overwrote a previous version of Mint, so there wasn't a lot to consider. Ubuntu needed tweaks to the partition table, to reformat the disk, create a swap area and mount point - all things I haven't actually done for years.

Ubuntu picked up the location of Grub and didn't manage to destroy it, which has happened in the past. Yes, manually editing my Grub file some years ago gave me pause. However, Ubuntu did put its own stamp on my minimalist little Grub menu - a great big Ubuntu-themed stamp on it. Not the end of the world though.

When I installed Ruby on Mint, it picked up version 1.9. Jekyll wanted version 2. Version 2 was acquired, after a little Internet searching on the topic, but something didn't work right at the end of the process. It nearly worked, but not quite! Ruby still insists it is on 1.9, but Jekyll seems happy to work, so clearly it thinks there's enough of 2 for its purposes. I don't understand this and for now I can live with that.

So, being a glutton for punishment, I tried the same on the Ubuntu side of things. That repository happily delivered me a 2+ version of Ruby. Jekyll was happy, although installing something for Github pages failed. By that time it was "details".

All this was prompted by the similar "adventures", albeit in Pi-land of a friend on social media - you know who you are!

Oh and the first thing I installed on both versions was Midnight Commander. Old habits…

Baby Steps

Yesterday I pressed the button on something I have been contemplating for a while - another domain name. So now I am the proud (?) owner of four domains. Not many by a lot of people's standards, admittedly.

Recently I have started using the name of one of my gaming (Guild Wars 2) characters as a username on some social media. I'm "hazardwarning" in a lot of places, but sometimes that name has been taken. So Mydnyght Rose, my cute Necromancer, has morphed into "mydnyghtrose". She has an email account, she has a Twitter account and is my Instagram and Reddit username. Now I have the .com domain name to play with.
I have a couple of domains in my full name, but I wanted one to use, if I felt like it, for testing and learning.

Today I joined Github, also with this username. I figured I would go for some consistency. This is also a tentative step along my "learn web stuff" path. I can play with a Github page; I can follow some Code Academy courses. I feel like I'm making some progress.

Next: download a copy of Linux Mint 17.3, ready to re-purpose my old PC. I do need to check, but I think it will run the 64-bit version. Currently I haven't decided whether to try Cinnamon or stick with Mate, so that decision needs to be made - soon.

New Objectives

have some leave coming up next month, so I intend to update some of my last-century IT skills. This may, or may not, happen. It could just be a diversionary tactic, looking at the list of household jobs I already have lined up for that week.
I am looking at some online courses/tutorials that might help. I hope to press my Raspberry Pi B into use and I might finally sort out my old PC. It's currently sitting idle, but is ripe for updating. I need to reformat the drives, so I can do away with the Windows installation and put a fresh Linux distro on. At the moment I think it's on Mint 15, though it could be 11 - it's a while since I have used it. This should be ok, as I have set up dual-boot machines many times in the past, so going from dual boot to a single OS ought to be within my capabilities.

Aims

  • Reformat/update old PC
  • Learn some basic web skills

Nothing too adventurous.

Plastic Surgery

I caught an item on the news this evening, in which it was stated that there had been a significant rise in plastic surgery procedures in the UK. I think that is worrying. What is it that is making people so unhappy with how they look? I can only assume it's other people. People in the media, celebrities who are always portrayed in a state of perfection, judgemental people who make themselves feel better by criticising others. Expectations seem to be raised so very high nowadays that few of us can hope to conform. I'm not talking here about people who have a medical or social need/desire for surgery, for reasons of dysphoria or disfigurement - although in some cases that can be brought about by the prejudiced reactions of society.

I think this whole situation is rather sad. I don't wish to pass judgement on people who have surgery; really it's none of my business. I have, though, seen young girls who really, genuinely feel worthless because of some aspect of their appearance. Great that they can change things, but surely not great that they should feel that way in the first place? Lovely, beautiful young women (and men) somehow believing they are ugly, or worthless. Nobody should feel that way, ever.

Hello World

Testing out a new tool, which will be more than just blogging. Eventually I think my old (current) site will come over to here. For now, though, just finding my way around on a typically rainy Sunday in February, with the 6 Nations rugby on in the background.

January books

I decided that a good thread for my blog this year might be to list the books I read, along with my thoughts on them. All good, you might think, so I looked to see which ones I had read in January. I've been quite good this year, I thought, getting back into my reading groove. Or not, as it appears that I have finished precisely one book. In my defence, I started the year reading a long and detailed work of non-fiction ("Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West" by Tom Holland). I took a break from it to read some fiction: I will return to it, but I needed a break from the massive amount of information the book contains.

Somewhat shamefacedly I have to list my single finished book for January 2016:-

A Cold Day For Murder by Dana Stabenow

I came across this author mentioned in a review for another book on Goodreads. It turned out that the first book in the series was free on Kindle, as was the first of another series by the same author , which I am currently reading.

This novel is set in Alaska and, in my opinion, does a pretty good job of evoking the environment and isolation there. I have never been to Alaska, so in truth, I have no way of knowing how accurate the novel is, but the author is from Alaska, which confers some credibility. This isn't a literary read, but it's a decent thriller, with some entertaining and interesting characters. I haven't decided whether or not I will read more books from the same series yet, but I enjoyed the book.

My criteria for judging books are simple:-

Did I enjoy reading it?

Do I remember anything about the story after some time has passed?

I can't comment on the second yet, in this case, as I only finished the book recently, but, believe me, there are books that I can't recall any detail of shortly after I finish them. Others I can recall years later, which implies the story made some kind of impression on me!

The Daily Sneezing Fit

So is this a thing, the daily sneezing fit? I've just had mine for today.

Yes, I have asked other people and, with my wide sample of three, it seems to be a thing. We all get a daily sneezing fit. Not all at the same time of day as each other, nor at the same time of day every day for each individual. At least that brings some variety to life, I guess. We don't live in the same house, or even the same area of the country, but there it is, the daily sneezing fit.

Perhaps more research is warranted.

2016 Planner Setup

This year's planner setup will continue in the same manner as 2015 finished. I think I have (finally) found what works for me. I use a Traveler's Notebook, even though the spelling bugs me just a teeny bit. As I refer to it as a TN, I can cope.

I use the standard size and this fits in my bag just fine. I made myself a laminated dashboard, but have recently removed that, as I didn't use it.

The basic setup is this:Home-made week to a page diary. This is joined by a connecting band to a standard Midori blank insert. Wrapped around the diary only is a Midori credit card insert.These two inserts are slipped under the band. In the middle of those (the standard three-insert setup) is a Monthly Plan Pack which I settled on midway through last year. Do check it out, it's very useful, particularly for someone who works in an office. Tucked under all three of these inserts are a Midori zip insert and a Midori Kraft folder.

Of course, in addition to this I have several fauxdoris that I have made. One holds some spare A5 booklets, another (wide TN) how some Moleskine Chapters inserts & the third is a Field Notes size & has some pocket Moleskine booklets in.

Those three were just some practice pieces I did. My other cover in daily use is my Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter. I have an A5 one and I still love it. I would switch from the TN, except that this is too large to take everywhere and the A6 size is too small for me. So, it is my desk book. I have a Leuchtturm book in it that I keep work project notes in, a Rhodia notebook for, well, making rough notes, and a Zentangle booklet I created, which contains a pattern reference. That stays in there and at weekends the work book comes out and a sketch book goes in.

Ideally I would keep my daily journal in the RT, but I haven't been able to find the right one. I use a hardcover page-a-day A5 diary, which doesn't fit.

Social Media

Late this afternoon I received a text from a good friend, asking if I had set up a new Facebook profile, as she had received a friend request from me. I hadn't, of course and it seems someone had cloned my profile details & set up a fake "me". They then sent friend requests to my existing friends. Whilst it was all sorted pretty quickly - I asked another friend to report it, as I was away from my devices (I don't have Facebook on my phone) - I do wonder how it happened.

I know my profile photo and background image are public, so can be re-used, but quite how this account could send friend requests to my friends, I'm not sure. All my settings are "friends only" wherever I can do that, so unless they had logged into my account, they shouldn't have been able to see that information. I have login alerts set up and there were none sent out. In addition I run a VPN, even at home, which I thought provided some additional security. A small amount of time on Google implied that it had to be done by a "friend". A little perturbing, as I don't have friends I don't know. However, it happened and fortunately Facebook closed down the faker within 10 minutes of having it reported.

I can understand why people leave Facebook. I don't post there much, I just check in to see what friends are up to: people I wouldn't otherwise have time to keep in touch with. I don't often post there myself now. I post occasionally on Twitter and I chat on App.net, a place where I feel very much amongst friends. But I'd miss Facebook if I left.

Naturally, my password manager now has an even longer Facebook password than it used to have, though I don't think that was compromised. Although, thinking about it, I really should change passwords more regularly. At least I don't re-use them on different sites!

Pen Addict - me?

I have a confession, one that probably won't surprise anyone who knows me: I have a bit of a thing about fountain pens and stationery.

Yesterday I got into an exchange with a good friend on Facebook, whose addiction is more of the stationery kind than fountain pens. I pointed her towards several blogs I follow, as well as The Pen Addict podcast and Slack group. I don't know if she will listen, but she might. She might find some interesting feeds to follow on Instagram from checking out the people I follow.

On Monday evening I listened live to the podcast for the first time and I realised just how much pleasure I get out of listening, and interacting with fellow pen addicts in the Slack group. As a result, today I signed up for membership of Relay FM. It looks like a good way to support the work they do. I'm lucky though, I'm in a position to be able to do these things, so why shouldn't I?