Clicky.

I type for a living. A lot of people type for a living, and in this day and age in the 21st century one should know how to type. A few years ago I saw a fellow co-worker typing out code on their laptop and they did it with two fingers. I don’t know how they typed for a living. I often think of how lucky I am that my mother taught me how to type when I was in fifth grade. “If you’re going to use this typewriter, you should use the right fingers”. So my mother taught me how to type and 40+ years later I can still type between 90 and 110 words per minute, depending on my stamina and the keyboard.

Because I’m what I’ll call a “legacy geek”, I like keyboards with a lot of hefty and a confident response. I’m not a fan of the mushy membrane keyboards that tend to come with PC setups or laptop docking stations these days. And I’m really not a fan of many keyboards found on PC laptops. Interestingly, I never had an issue with the very flawed-by-design Apple “butterfly” keyboards they abandoned a year or two ago; I can fly right along on my husband’s MacBook Pro from that era and he’s never had a hardware failure from a speck of dust falling into the keyboard or something.

A requirement of a keyboard that shall be graced with my fingers is that it has to have a full sized function key row, or at the very least, a decently sized Escape key. As mentioned, I’m a “legacy geek”. In my day to day workflow I still use an editor called vim, which uses what are now considered archaic keystrokes to navigate and otherwise do things in a text editor. It’s not rare to see a document I’ve typed with wwwwww or jjjjjjjj accidentally typed in the code. The “w” in vi or vim is used to move the cursor by word, the j key moves down a line.

Here’s an eight minute tutorial of how vim or vi works

Back to the keyboard.

In addition to having a confident feel and response, I prefer a keyboard that does not have a numeric keypad. I don’t type numbers that much but more importantly, I don’t like reaching over the extra couple of inches to get to my mouse. I like my mouse to be close at hand so I’m not reaching around on my desk. Plus, I just don’t like giving up the desk real estate for the bigger keyboard. So I go with “tenkeyless” keyboards. Except once in a while I want a small keyboard where I can use a numeric keypad.

Enter the Havit Mechanical Wired keyboard. (Link to Amazon). This keyboard features red switches, has a fantastic response feel to it, but more importantly, incorporates a numeric keypad where the usual other navigation keys are located. The keypad layout uses the original IBM PC layout of home-end-insert-del, so it hearkens back to my teenage years and using an IBM PC in the high school business office. I have it on one of my Linux computers and I am thoroughly enjoying the typing experience. It’s still a little loud (the switches are mechanical, after all), but it’s not as loud as my Velocifire keyboards with Brown Switches. Yet, people still know when I’m typing. I don’t know if the neighbors can hear me or not, but the rest of the family definitely knows when I’m typing and sounding productive.

I recommend this keyboard for enthusiasts who like a smaller footprint, but still need a numeric keypad. It’s clicky, but I find it a delight to use.

Inspiration4.

Today, four civilians plan to launch into orbit aboard a SpaceX capsule. This will be the first all civilian space flight in history. They will orbit Mother Earth for three days before returning home.

This is awesome.

Here’s a link to their website.

Inspiration4 is the world’s first all-civilian mission to orbit. The mission will be commanded by Jared Isaacman, the 38-year-old founder and Chief Executive Officer of Shift4 Payments and an accomplished pilot and adventurer. Named in recognition of the four-person crew that will raise awareness and funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, this milestone represents a new era for human spaceflight and exploration.

Deco.

I decided one of my art deco school clocks would look better in my office, so I cleaned it up, hooked it up, and hung it up. The other clock was quite nice but I like the art deco look of this clock much more. It feels more “me”.

Updates.

I blocked my work calendar to partake in the latest Apple streaming event. The event took place this morning at 10:00 a.m. Pacific, which is also 10:00 a.m. Mountain Standard Time! Yay for no Daylight Saving Time in Arizona.

The announcements were predictable, but I found the presentation enjoyable. Since my iPhone X is getting long in the tooth, I’ve decided to go ahead and purchase an iPhone 13 Pro when it becomes available; pre-orders start this coming Friday. I’m upgrading primarily because of the camera improvements. The iPhone X was the last of the iPhones to not feature “Night Mode” and I’m anxious to give that a whirl. I also really want to see how it fares with shots of the night sky.

I was happy to see the improvements to iPad, specifically the iPad Mini. The new iPads are compatible with the Apple Pencil 2nd generation, the same Apple Pencil I have on my 2018 iPad Pro. And like my iPad Pro, the new iPads have also been transitioned to a USB-C connection instead of the Lightning Port found on the iPhones.

Sadly, no models of the iPhone 13 were moved from Lightning Ports to USB-C ports. Apparently Apple can’t get waterproofing where they want it to be with USB-C ports on the iPhone. I can deal.

The new Apple Watch Series 7 looks intriguing. I’ve had this Apple Series 3 watch for quite a while and I’m looking forward to maybe asking Santa for a new Apple watch. I’m really pleased with the cycling improvements they talked about, with auto-pause happening when the cyclist stops for a break and the fall-detection alerts. I’m really enjoying the fitness capabilities of my Series 3 Watch, I’m sure I’ll really enjoy the upgrades and the bigger screen on the Series 7.

I recently traded in my 2015 MacBook Pro for an Apple gift certificate with the intent of using it to purchase the new iPhone or perhaps another MacBook of some sort. I’m not with a lack of computers; as of the trade-in I’ve been using my iPad Pro as my main unit with my Mac Mini as my Mac of choice when there’s something I can’t do on the iPad Pro.

Overall I’m pleased with everything Apple has to offer, but still wary of their privacy practices. Even with these concerns, I still believe Apple offers the best experience of all that’s out there.

Installed.

After a week of testing my little Raspberry Pi standing in for a grandfather clock sized master clock, I pulled wire through my office wall and properly installed this 1939 Standard Electric Time Company school clock. The clock never missed one click the entire week. This makes me happy.

We have insulation in every wall of the house. I will not be pulling wire through many more walls and instead will come up with a different plan for the placement of each clock.

A small accomplishment. I am pleased.

Tick Tock.

When we moved from Upstate New York to Chicago in 2017 I donated much of my school clock collection to family and the local Historical Society. The Historical Society is located in one of the old elementary schools in my home school district and they’ve installed the clocks but they’re not running yet. The next time I’m back east I’ll get them running. Apparently several visitors to the building have commented about the old clocks.

I had a few clocks that made the move from storage in Chicago to our home here in Tucson. Running wire throughout this house is not an option, as we have no attic or basement. However, there are a couple of places when I can pull wire without too much destruction so maybe I’ll get one or two going.

When the clocks were in the old house they were initially run by a master clock (the type of which would be found in an office of a school or commercial building) from 1957. That clock gave up the ghost and parts were hard to come by, so I ended up writing some software to run on a 1996 era IBM PC (Pentium III) that ran the clocks for about eight years. A terrible energy hog, I was determined that if I ever had the opportunity to get the clocks running again, I’d do it with 21st century technology.

Today I started up one clock with a Raspberry Pi 3 and relay board. Less than 100 lines of code and this 1939 Standard Electric Time slave clock is running flawlessly and synced to the Atomic Clock in Boulder, Colorado courtesy of a WiFi Internet Connection.

To give you a sense of the size of the computer running this clock, here it is, in a temporary box, next to a standard pair of scissors.

I’m very pleased with this setup, which I’m keeping in “temporary mode” to make sure things are working properly for the next week or so.

By the way, the clock in question is originally from Cassadaga Valley Central School in Sinclairville, New York. They were doing some major renovations in the school in the early 2000s and replaced the clock system. I had been in the school a couple of times in the 1980s and knew they had the same type of clock system I collected. They were happy to let me have one or two clocks for my collection, as they were just getting thrown away.

Perhaps they needed a little Raspberry Pi that fits inside a small box to get things going again.

Delayed.

Yesterday Apple announced they would be delaying the release of their new “CSAM scanning” software originally slated for upcoming iOS15. For those unfamiliar, CSAM is short for Child Sexual Abuse Material, and the majority of the cloud providers (Google, Dropbox, Microsoft, and Apple) scan photos uploaded to their servers for this type of thing. This is a good thing. Getting the trafficking of CSAM under control is very important and actually a no-brainer. No one wants to see children abused in any way, including this way.

Apple’s intended release was to scan devices BEFORE the image made it to their servers. So, if you used iCloud to store your photos, Apple’s new software would scan the image before it made its way to the cloud, using the horsepower of your device, and on your actual device. The scanning is done based on hashes and these hashes are compared to a third party list of offending hashes. A hash is basically a binary/numeric representation of an image, not the actual image. So, if Apple found a photo’s hash that matched a listed hash, there could be trouble. The system is not 100%, but Apple assured folks there was a one in a million chance of a false positive.

Many security professionals much smarter than me, and security minded folks like me, obviously want to end the exchange of CSAM. CSAM is bad. But essentially building software that is a back door into anyone’s device to scan all cloud-bound images for this material is really bad. Apple promised this scanning would be used for this purpose and this purpose only, but once a back door is created, it can be exploited. It can be abused. Not to mention bad actors putting non-CSAM images on the hit list, for example LGBTQ+ themed images identified in a country that doesn’t like that sort of thing.

Apple has ramped back the release to re-evaluate based on customer feedback, consumer group concerns, etc.

It’s still not a good idea. If the images are on a cloud server, have at it. But scanning images directly on a device, which is essentially the same as inviting Apple to come into your house every night and rifle through your cabinets, wallets, etc., is a very bad idea. No one would allow this in the real world. We shouldn’t give up our digital privacy so easily.

Dork Fun.

It’s a two selfie day! 15 years or so ago I went back to school to become a Civil Engineer, with a focus on traffic management. That dream didn’t come to fruition in the way of a career, but from time to time I dabble with designs based on what I learned in college.

Sometimes a dork just wants to have fun.

Wednesday.

Apparently there’s a large community of folks that collect washers and dryers. While down a YouTube rabbit hole I saw a video of this washing machine in action, which is nearly identical to the washer we had starting in 1980 or 1981 after the old Westinghouse had flooded over one too many times.

As a kid I was always fascinated with washing machines, in the home and in laundromats, until the previously mentioned Westinghouse flooded the bathroom in our tiny mobile home. It broke its own schedule and structure, did something out of the ordinary, and then I was concerned it was going to do it again. This should be have a sign to my folks that not only was their son a strange one but probably had a different set of wiring and circuits in his head.

Even though the Westinghouse flooded my dad had my mother soldier on with it for a few more years, even making the move to the new house across the street. When it started flooding that laundry room and spitting grease on his work shirts, then we got the new General Electric washer like the one pictured above.

That washing machine lasted over 15 years before I replaced it with a pair of Hotpoints I had purchased and took the old washer and dryer to my townhouse about an hour away. This was my way of having dad pay for the washer and dryer I could no longer afford. I’m happy Dad was cooperative that way.

I don’t think anyone would expect a washer or dryer purchased today to last 10 years let alone over 15.

Opportunity.

I am solidly a Gen-Xer. I was born in the first half of the Gen-X generation. My childhood was a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n roll, or more aptly, a little bit analog and a little bit digital. I remember the lifestyle my parents talked about (2.5 kids, white picket fence, small town charm) and I know the lifestyle the millennials know (“you can be anything”, live your dreams, see the world!). I have no complaints with this but as I have become an aging Gen-Xer, I’m following the footsteps of the “when I was a kid…”.

As a technology enthusiast I am enthusiastic about computers. Makes sense, right? The lights and buttons and dials of the ages have entranced me in many ways throughout my life and because of my Gen-X roots, I think of computers first and foremost as a tool. Technology give us the opportunity to learn, grow, and express ourselves.

When I was a kid (there it is), my computer, a Commodore VIC-20, was up in my bedroom and used on rainy days or after dark. My first self-funded magazine subscription was to “Compute!”, a periodical for computer enthusiasts in this budding world of technology.

I quickly discovered the limitations of the 2K of memory in my Commodore VIC-20 by writing my own programs, usually emulators of the electronic point of sale systems I saw at various department stores. App stores would be decades away and any sort of standardization would still be a few years away. For example, I couldn’t save my program written on my VIC-20 on a floppy and open it on the Apple ][+ back at school. In those days, our software arrived by mail and specifically, by magazine.

Image from Compute!, courtesy of arstechnica.

Typing in your software line by line is an amazing way to learn how to program. I learned the importance of fast and accurate typing skills at an early age and more importantly, I learned how to spot mistakes quickly and cross check my entries in a fairly quick manner.

This “software” distributed by magazine laid the foundation of a skill set that I still use today as a Software Engineer. It taught me not only the role of technology in our lives, but how that technology works. In 2021, it’s more important than ever to know how technology works. The typical user of a smartphone or whatever may not know how to write a program, but I believe it’s really important for users to understand that whatever is happening in that little box of technology is not “magic”. We put a lot of trust in our devices. We become attached to them. We need to remember they’re a tool in our box of tricks in this game we call life.

Here’s an article from Geek Chicago that talks a little bit about how your iPhone knows so much about you. The article is five years old but the principles remain the same. It’s a short read and written in understandable terms.

Never stop learning about the devices you rely on.