Laptops, Desktops, and Tablets, Oh My!

I currently have a few devices used for my various computing needs. I have a 2009 Mac Mini running OSX 10.9 Mavericks and virtualizing Debian Wheezy, a 2005 Dell Inspiron 2200 Laptop running Debian Wheezy, and a 2012 Nexus 7 running Android 4.4.

These devices accomplish all I need them to, but not without complaint from me. The Mac Mini is my home desktop, the Dell I use at work, and the Nexus 7 is for when I’m on the move.

I use all of them for web browsing and media consumption, but I’m going to detail the more niche uses I have for each along with my main complaints and why I’m thinking about replacing this or that.

Mac Mini (2009)
Used for: Video Editing, Music Production
Complaints: OSX doesn’t work with EXT file systems.

Dell Inspiron 2200 (2005)
Used for: Word processing, Vector Graphics, Sound Editing
Complaints: Hardware is dated, Battery doesn’t charge, Occasionally shuts off with no warning

Nexus 7 (2012)Used for: Writing (novels), Tabletop RPG reference, PDF viewing, Showcasing Media, Sound Recording
Complaints: Using with a bluetooth keyboard is clunky, Android software leaves much to be desired.

I’m considering a few different ideas, though I can get by with what I have for a while longer, I will eventually need to address some of the issues I’m having.

  1. Buy a Chromebook: Cheap, many hours of battery life, potentially good as a portable typewriter for writing. Unfortunately I hear these things are terrible when not connected to the internet… If I could hack a regular Linux distro onto one…
  2. Buy an Ultrabook: Expensive, many hours of battery life, good multi-purpose machine to replace the aging Dell Laptop. Could also be used for writing.
  3. Buy a Desktop: Something that can do what the Mac Mini does but without the headaches of OSX and with a bigger hard drive… the Mini’s 500gbs go too quickly when working with HD video.

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Kubuntu 13.10 on 2009 Intel Mac Mini

I finally decided to update the 60 GB Linux partition on my 2009 Intel Mac Mini this month.  I wanted to see if a modern Linux distro could make use of the machine’s reasonable hardware (for the time), and so I went for a KDE install instead of my usual Debian/Crunchbang.  This time I used Kubuntu, a Debian derivative that uses the Ubuntu repositories and a nicely polished KDE 4.11 interface.

I am impressed.  I’ve never been a KDE person, but I know quite well that I don’t get along with either Gnome Shell or Unity.  I’ve been using OSX for a while on my other partition and it makes me seethe with anger on a regular basis.  I like to give all these interfaces a chance, and I since Kubuntu 13.10 comes with KDE 10 I thought it would be a good chance to give it another opportunity to impress me… and it did.

I’ve never had a KDE distro feel so complete before.  There is nothing lacking in its default set-up.  That’s sort of false, as I did install quite a lot of software after the install as well as codecs and whatnot.  However what I mean is this version of KDE doesn’t feel like it has loose ends, hanging chads if you will. The activities metaphor replaced the default virtual desktops and I think this is appropriate, it’s a clever way of reorganizing different tasks and it doesn’t feel redundant anymore.  Switching activities also stopped breaking things.

The application menu works without being weird.  The transitions are smooth and beautiful without being obnoxious. The window decorations don’t flicker or glitch. The tool-tip pop-up timing seems a little bit longer by default than before, which is nice, because I felt like I was getting punched in the face by all the tool-tips in the past. Even the background and fonts are nicely integrated.

I wanted to keep using Rekonq, the default web browser because it was so beautifully integrated, but it’s not quite there with Google Drive, so I really can’t use it alone, and opted to install Firefox.

There are only two major problems I haven’t yet resolved, one of which I really need to fix in order to use it on a daily basis, the other of which is just a nuisance.

Ibus isn’t working for me.  It may be a GTK dependency issue that I haven’t figured out yet, or it may be something else, but I can’t get ibus-setup to run to add anthy or mozc as an input method for Japanese. (Solved yesterday:

The other problem is just a visual glitch with Plymouth on startup… not an uncommon problem historically, and I’m accustomed to Plymouth almost looking good, but instead having some glitch like this.

Overall this is the best out of the box KDE experience I’ve ever had, hands down.

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I’m tired

I’m very tired.  I’m ready for a vacation… This is a long, busy month.  The speech contest practices that I help with this month after school are actually way more fun for me than typical middle school classes are since I get to teach one on one and I actually see the students improvement, but piled on top of all the normal classes and another extra weekly class I’ve taken on this month… I’m a bit worn out already.

I have let my diet go wild too and I’m not exercising much at all.

All these things together are a recipe for disaster… I can feel it.  I need to go swim a few km at the pool tonight and let off steam, or go to yoga.  One or the other.

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Long Term Goals: The 25 year project

When I was 25 years old (not long ago) I decided to set a goal to complete by the time I’m 50 years old.  25 years is a long time to work on a goal, but to be honest it’s probably a realistic time span.

The goal: Create a media production of greater quality and relevance than the original Star Wars trilogy.

The crew: I managed to get a couple of my friends to agree to work with me on it.  Obviously I don’t know if they will stick to it or not, but for the time being that’s okay.  Here’s hoping we all do.

My job: Writing, world-building, plotting, characterization.

How to get there: Write a lot and constantly improve my writing and story telling.  Master the craft of the narrative.  Read and watch others works and learn from them.

Progress report: I’ve been writing, not so much as I’d like, but writing none the less.  The project sits in the back of my brain encouraging me to keep up the work.  More importantly perhaps at this stage, I have been dissecting the narratives I read, getting up close and personal with conflict, characters, and plot.

Timeline: 5 years at a time

25-30: Write a solid, good, fully edited novel length narrative. Publish it.

30-35: Learn from mistakes and criticism.  Write two more.  Establish a professional creative network of media creators.

35-40: Expand professional network. Write a new media, if I’ve been doing novels, switch to screenplays.

40-45: Write and produce something that gets mainstream media attention.

45-50: Produce the masterpiece.

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Filed under books, film, media, writing

Think, Design, Test, Iterate.

There’s a pattern used in businesses for product development.  First a product is conceived of.  Then it is designed and prototyped.  Once the working prototype is ready it is tested.  Testing reveals problems with the design and suboptimal performance.  Observations made during testing are then considered, the product is redesigned, the redesign is prototyped and tested, and the test results are considered again for the next iteration.

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Tact on the internet

I have great respect for those netizens out there who act courteously and generously when encountering ignorance, bias, and even belligerence in those they interact with.

The internet serves as the world’s forum, and we encounter people who we might not otherwise have chosen to interact with there.  More often than not we don’t see eye-to-eye, and that’s the beauty of it; we have the opportunity to learn from, exchange with, and teach each other.

It’s very obvious to me when someone I’m interacting with over the internet is a middle or high schooler: It reminds me of how I feel at work in the classroom…

Inevitably that means I will be correcting misunderstandings and explaining difficult concepts several times in succession, rewording and simplifying as I realize their level of naivette or ignorance on the matter. I have new eyes for my own adolescence… and new respect for the teachers that put up with aggravating questions day after day.  And I also find myself proud to have the opportunity to be a good teacher and role model.

In the classroom I adore the opportunity to teach one-on-one, as it’s rare and at the same time the most powerful and influential way to get the target information from my head to theirs.  Until now I didn’t feel the same way about interactions on the net, the anonymity perhaps soured those relationships.  It can be much like how our sense of others’ humanity is lost behind the wheel, because we can’t see through the heavy metal shells of others’ cars to the people driving them.  They become sources of aggravation and frustration instead of opportunities to learn, exchange, or teach.

From today I’m going to reverse that trend in myself, the tendency to treat others as the cause of my irritation, and instead to see them the way I see students in my classroom.  Sometimes I get to teach them what I know, but just as often, I get to learn from them what I need to change in myself.

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From Openbox to JWM

Openbox is the hotrod of stacking window managers.  It’s as powerful as the engine you put in it and can look like whatever you want it to, it depends entirely on your configuration and customization.  It doesn’t look like much of anything without your effort.

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