Cheaters.

I haven’t been able to get in for an eye exam due to pandemic concerns. My eyes must be changing a bit as I get older so I’m now wearing cheaters while I work. Thankfully I don’t consider this an awful look.

I do need to get an eye exam, though.

WWDC 2020.

I cleared my work calendar yesterday so I could watch the Apple keynote at WWDC 2020 in its entirety. WWDC, or World Wide Developers Conference, is Apple’s annual gathering geared toward developers. This year the event is virtual. From what I’m hearing online it’s being well received. I’m happy Apple is able to maintain their momentum.

I’m not going to get into a complete rundown of thoughts and opinions on the keynote, fellow blogger Dave at Blogography does a fantastic job here. H/T to Dave.

However, I will touch on a couple of thoughts around the keynote. First of all, I LOVED the production of the entire thing. Obviously pre-recorded, the pacing was fantastic, the presentation was concise, and there were no time filling demos of games or other things just to, well, fill time. There were drone shots, zoom shots, and we were afforded the opportunity to see parts of the Apple campus not usually available to the general public. I hope this type of keynote is used as a model for future Apple endeavors, because I enjoyed this keynote more than any I’ve seen in at least the past five years. No pauses for applause and accolades, let’s show and go. It was fantastic.

Apple CEO Tim Cook opened up with a statement on the company’s stance on Black Lives Matter and I commend them for the $100 million dollars they are pledging to make this world a better place in this regard. It may be just a drop in Apple’s financial bucket, but it’s a heck of a lot of money and a bigger effort than their technological contemporaries. I have always loved Apple for their societal stances and the way they back up these stances with action and this is no different.

As the presenters moved through the new features of iOS 14, iPadOS 14, macOS, and the other operating systems, I couldn’t help but notice how much attention is focused on user privacy. As more and more of our lives move to digital platforms, user privacy is probably the most important element of our experience. While many like to crow about how great Google’s Android ecosystem is, I’m always concerned with the amount of information Google is scraping from user data for ad revenue generating purposes. And what happens if that user data ends up in the wrong hands? Bad things can happen.

Apple focuses on doing as much as they can in the way of processing user information locally, on the user’s own device, and as anonymously as practical. Does this hamper some of their efforts when compared to companies that do this processing in the “cloud”? Yes, it does. But I believe the trade off is worth it. Unless you’re running your own cloud, with all of the administrative tasks that come along with that endeavor, the closest thing you’re going to get to solid user privacy and have a digital presence is to do it through Apple’s ecosystem. I appreciate that focus and that’s why I always recommend Apple’s iPhone and iPad to friends and family looking for a routine, casual digital experience.

iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and macOS, as well as the other things announced during the keynote, look rock solid and very compelling. I’m excited about the releases coming out later this year.

While I explore Linux and my Raspberry Pis and the like, I’m always happy that I still have my Apple devices as well. Apple helps me look forward to the future.

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What The Font.

Let’s face it, in technology years I’m very old. I’ve been online in some way since early 1986, when I used my Commodore 64 and a 300 BPS modem to connect to the online service GEnie. To this day I’m still not the biggest fan of point-and-click or touchscreens, especially when it comes to everyday tasks like managing email or scheduling meetings or conversing online. If there is a command-line interface available I’m going to try to use it (unless there’s media involved). Hence, one of the reasons why my love affair with Linux never ends, though I do use other systems all the time. With Linux I can just get back to a classic interface and go with it.

It’s probably because of my weird tendency to focus and fixate, but the use of certain fonts in applications can be a distraction or an inspiration. When looking at columns of numbers I want the font to be simple, consistent, and I feel best when it has a “classic” look to it. I detest “Courier New” found in Windows but I *love* “Courier” found elsewhere.

When working with databases at work I use a variety of Database Management programs but I always set the default font to one that I purchased, and that’s called “Amateur Typewriter“.

I like Amateur Typewriter because it strongly resembles a font found on sales receipts printed by NCR cash registers in the late 1970s (the first scanning cash register, the NCR 255 being one of them).

Amateur Typewriter is not identical to NCR’s typeface on those old impact printers but it’s pretty darn close. And this gives me a geeky-comfortable feel during the workday, which in turn makes me very productive.

Sometimes it’s the little things that can make all the difference in the world.

Revitalized.

My mid-2015 15-inch MacBook Pro (the last version before the butterfly keyboard was introduced on later models) has been slowing down over the past couple of months with updates from Apple to MacOS Catalina. To be honest, I haven’t really been a fan of MacOS Catalina since it was released in 2019; it asks for my password way too often, Airdrop is not reliable at all, and it rarely unlocked with my Apple Watch like it was suppose to do. All first world problems, I know, but when you invest more than average money in hardware and software you hope for a more than average experience. I kind of think MacOS Catalina deserves the “Windows Vista of Apple” reputation that’s been building on the Internet.

It’s been a number of years since I attempted to install a Linux distribution natively on any Mac. I’ve been playing around with Ubuntu Linux (and a couple of other distributions) in Virtual Machines on the Mac, but they run very slow and they don’t give a fair assessment of the actual performance of Linux.

So last weekend I decided to bite the bullet and see about setting Ubuntu Linux up natively in a dual-boot configuration on my perfectly fine 2015 MacBook Pro.

It was surprisingly easy.

Apple packages a program called Boot Camp with Mac OS so you can set up a dual-boot configuration with Microsoft Windows. While older versions of Boot Camp allowed you to use this same program to setup a Linux partition on the hard drive, the latest version of Boot Camp doesn’t allow for this. It demands the presence of a Windows 10 ISO image. Maybe a way around this is hidden somewhere but I sure as heck couldn’t find it so I ended up partitioning the hard drive by hand. Once I backed up my important data that isn’t stored somewhere else (primarily my flying raw footage) I set about moving some space around to make room for Linux. It went easier than expected and in no time I was booting Ubuntu Linux off a USB drive I had created and I was off and running.

I decided to stay with the stock desktop environment that comes with Ubuntu Linux. It’s called Gnome 3. There’s a huge number of different desktop environments you can install on any distribution of Linux. It all depends on what you need, what you want, and what your resources are. The default setup works just fine on this 2015 MBP and the computer boots up in about a third of the time as MacOS Catalina.

I poked around the Internet after getting things installed and found a black/dark theme with gold highlights that I find amazingly pleasing to the eye. The default Ubuntu orange and purple is just fine, but I wanted to find something a little more distinctive. Back in the day of text terminals I always opted for an amber-on-black screen (versus green on black or white on black) and this color combination is a modern twist on the experience.

I’m still installing the applications I need, all at no cost by the way, and making some tweaks here and there but I haven’t felt this engaged with my laptop in a very long time. Battery life is stable, the fans aren’t screaming in agony, and the Retina display under Linux power is absolutely gorgeous.

I’ll be including updates as I continue to delve further back into the Linux experience and I can always answer any questions to the best of my ability, or at least steer you to the resources I use as well.

Happy computing!

Shore Leave.

So I took the day off to get a breath of fresh air. My husband and I are back from a nearly 12-hour road trip across the prairies of eastern and central Illinois. For the record, we did not choose LSD for this trip.

Now, we went for a much shorter ride last weekend, and it was a nice taste of what I was needing to clear my head, but the going out for 12 hours today was just what the doctor ordered. The sky was blue with puffy clouds, the roads were relatively clear of traffic, and the winds brought us a pleasant breeze as we drove south on Illinois 1 in our Jeep Cherokee.

Along the way I stopped for some Starfleet photos; it’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a day of shore leave, so I thought it was prudent to take some photos of me in my Starfleet Shore Leave uniform.

Launch?

Photo courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel

I’ve been excited about today’s schedule launch of the SpaceX Dragon since they announced today was going to be the day. Not only did this mark the first time astronauts would be sent to the International Space Station via equipment designed and manufactured by SpaceX, it would also be the first time American astronauts would head to the ISS via U.S. soil instead of hitching a ride with the Russians.

Not that cooperative international efforts are bad.

It’s been too long since the Space Shuttle was decommissioned in 2011 and quite frankly I was almost convinced that would be the end of the manned American space program. Luckily I was just being a cynic and through amazing technology and the efforts of thousands of people smarter than me, astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken were aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on countdown ready to head to the ISS. Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided to get in on the act and the countdown was stopped at -16 minutes and 54 seconds due to weather.

I had cleared my schedule at work and was watching the proceedings all afternoon when two things happened: a meeting popped up on my calendar scheduled for launch time and then the weather call was made and the launch was rescheduled for Saturday.

I will be on the ground ready to watch the proceedings during Saturday’s launch. I’m giddy like a young boy with the thought of these two men going into space from American soil.

Space exploration is a major reason why we have all this amazing technology at our fingertips. It’s our quest to get to the stars that has compelled us to push forward on technological advancements. Today’s crew will be using touchscreens, I believe a first, to navigate a commercially developed and built rocket to orbit. The open source operating system Linux has played a key component both with SpaceX and with the International Space Station.

I always enjoyed the math teacher that wrote in my yearbook way back in 1982, “Reach for the stars!”.

Though many will disagree, our country needs to get its people back in space under our own power. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new era of discovery, wonder, and exploration.

The Power of Wonder.

I’ve always had a small fascination with power lines. More specifically, the larger transmission lines that criss-cross the country side in hundreds of multiples of kilovolts. Years ago, searching the Internet on the history of a specific design of transmission tower, I stumbled across this photo from the 1950s. It was a publicity photo for the Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation.

Through some clever deduction via Google Maps. I was able to find this location and I wrote about that experience here. On that blog entry you’ll see a photo I took approximating the vibe of the two ladies shown in the photo above. My husband snapped this photo with my iPhone back in early 2016.

I always liked this photo of me, as I feel like it conveys a certain type of energy I see within myself.

The design of the transmission towers shown in both photos seems to be confined to Upstate New York, mostly in the footprint of the former Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation. I haven’t come across that exact design in any of the other 50 states.

Since moving to Illinois in 2017 I’ve wanted to capture the same type of energy I see in my photo above but on the Illinois landscape. Today on our road trip, my husband used my iPhone to take this photo.

I kept a small amount of color in this 2020 photograph because I liked the look of the hint of green in the field. The transmission towers seen here are similar to others found throughout the United States, except they have “cat ears” on top instead of the typical smaller supports for the ground wires elsewhere in the country.

As I was standing under these lines (which I believe are carrying 345kV) I could hear them crackling where the spacers are doing their thing between the towers.

I call this new photograph, “The Power of Wonder”.

Familiar.

So since we’ve started watching “The Mothers-In-Law” on Amazon Prime, Youtube has somehow figured out that we’re doing so and has started suggesting obscure television shows from the 1960s. One such show is called “Karen”, a show I have never heard of until about 15 minutes before writing this blog entry.

As I watched the episode on Youtube I couldn’t help but notice a familiar face:

It took me a few moments but then I realized it’s Bonnie Franklin, best known as Ann Romano on the 1970-80s Norman Lear sitcom, “One Day At A Time”.

Another show that has been suggested is called “Good Morning World”. I started watching an episode but was distracted by a passing thunderstorm; it looks like it might be a 1960s version of “WKRP In Cincinnati”. I may take some of this long weekend to check out an episode or two.

These obscure sitcoms are kinda groovy.

Realignment.

Earlier this month I received word at work there would be a change in the BYOD, or “Bring Your Own Device” policy at work. Since last year I have been using a personal Mac mini for all of my work from the home office. While I work for a company that full embraces Microsoft’s business offerings, Microsoft has shifted their approach over the past couple of years and have made their products much more friendly to operating systems outside of Windows. The official approach at work has been if you’re participating in BYOD you can use the Citrix-based VDI (Virtual Desktop Instance) to get to company applications. While connected to the work VPN with my Mac Mini I could do pretty much what I needed to do without delving into VDI and I was a happy camper.

Since the Mac Mini is a desktop device, I also had a work issued Windows 10 Dell laptop, which is my official work computer. I figured I would use that for travel and I would log in with it every couple of weeks to keep it up-to-date with the latest patches from work’s desktop services.

At least that was my intention.

A couple of weeks ago I received word that I hadn’t logged in with the laptop since late March and I needed to log in to get important updates. Not a problem, I’m always happy to oblige, so I did just that. The only thing I don’t like about that Dell laptop is the screen resolution; at 1366×768 it’s a little compact for me to do what I need to do on a daily basis. I have my own 32-inch USB-C monitor and the Dell laptop has a USB-C port on it so I hooked up the whole affair and was actually delighted to see I could use the monitor at it’s fullest resolution without throwing the laptop’s fan into fits.

Since I was tardy with the updates this must have brought some attention to my account and I received another message from desktop services, this time advising I could make a choice of staying on my personal Mac Mini or I could use the company issued laptop, but not both. The company is moving to Microsoft’s WVD, or Windows Virtual Desktop, and the way the licenses are managed the company allocates either a laptop OR a WVD license per user, not both.

Staying with my Mac Mini would result in me not having a mobile solution for when I start traveling for work again, so that wouldn’t work. So, I decided to give up the Mac Mini approach to work and set up my Windows 10 laptop for full time use.

It has been a surprisingly smooth and pleasant move for me.

As a software developer and systems engineer I work in Linux all day long. I primarily work from the “command line” when doing much administrative stuff and the reason I liked the Mac Mini was because it had a Unix terminal baked right into the operating system. But over the past year or two Microsoft has done a complete 180º on their feelings around Linux and now offers “Windows Subsystem for Linux”, the ability to run Linux right inside of Windows 10.

This too has been an amazing experience for me.

My transition to the Windows 10 laptop, with Ubuntu Linux running in the “WSL” has met all of needs for work both effortlessly and easily. I am surprisingly pleased with the setup I’ve been using for the past week; today I took the opportunity of the quiet afternoon to put the finish touches on my setup and I’m ready to go after the long holiday weekend.

A while back I told my husband and family that my requirement of sticking exclusively to the Apple ecosystem had come to an end. With this proclamation we purchased a Windows 10 gaming computer from Jamie and Chris, with my intention of turning it into a flight simulator setup over the next couple of months. My husband has been enjoying playing online games with friends on it. It’s a fast machine for about a third of what we’d pay for a similarly-spec’d Mac.

I’ve also been moving back towards Linux full time with my personal computing needs. The hardest move for me was my task management system. I’ve been using OmniFocus for over 10 years and while it has served my needs well for all this time, the web version was just not powerful enough to meet my needs on the Windows 10 work computer. I solved the issue in a very simple way. Using the framework of the simple todo.txt text-file based system, I simply wrote my own automations and other task management routines that run on a nightly basis for both work and personal tasks. When I get up in the morning my day is already planned out the way I want it. When I have flight on the schedule, I can go to any computer in the world, log into my little Linux server I have running, and type “flight (date)” at the command prompt, and tasks reminding me to charge devices, update iPads, plan flights, get the weather, and pack all my gear, will appear on all of my task lists with the proper date and intervals necessary to accomplish everything I do before a flight.

I’m getting old. It’s easier for me to type a command at a prompt instead of point and clicking and moving things around on a screen.

The truth of the matter is two-fold, not only was I not able to work effectively within the closed-ecosystem of Apple based products, I’m quite frankly also getting bored with my Apple products. I’ve had an iPhone X since they came out in late 2017 and aside from some battery issues I’ve been experiencing over the past couple of days, I do not feel compelled to get the latest and greatest in any way. My MacBook Pro is a mid 2015 model, the last version before they went to those awful butterfly keyboards, and my iPad Pro works great and does everything it’s suppose to do, the exact same way every iPad I’ve had has done it for the past 10 years. The iPad Pro is a 2018 model and I don’t feel the need to update that anytime soon.

What I really want is to get back into Linux full time, but I can’t justify selling and buying things just for the sake of change. So in the meanwhile I’m running the latest version of Ubuntu Linux in a VirtualBox on my MacBook Pro and it’s running great. Canonical has done great things with Ubuntu over the years. A lot of the diehard Linux community is grumpy about Ubuntu and Canonical, some even going so far as to saying it’s not “really Linux”, because of some commercial software in the distribution. But I find Ubuntu’s implementation to be beautiful and stable and it gives me the ability to just get things done.

Because Linux gives me options, I’ve even gone so far as to install the older “Unity” desktop environment on my Ubuntu install. I simply like the way Unity works better than anything else out their in the Linux world and because Linux gives me freedom to set my computer up the way I want to, I’m going to use that freedom to do just that.

Apple hasn’t done anything wrong and I still recommend iDevices for folks that aren’t super tech-savvy and still want to maintain their own data privacy. I think Apple does that very well when compared to some other solutions out there. Microsoft is making great strides in keeping things open and giving folks choices, and Linux is awesome for those of us that want to know exactly what makes our computer tick and make it the exact way we want it to be.

My only family rule with the technology now is data can’t be confined to a specific device or ecosystem. This cooperative approach is keeping us a happy open family.