Geek

Metric.

Interstate 19 runs south from Tucson to Nogales, Arizona. It’s relatively short for a two-digit Interstate; I-19 is slightly over 63 miles long, or more specifically, I-19 in 102 kilometers long.

That’s right, 102 kilometers.

The majority of distance based road signs on Interstate 19 are in metric. Speed Limits are displayed in customary Imperial measurements. Many think I-19 has metric road signs because it goes to Mexico.

Not quite.

The majority of Interstate 19 was built and signed around 1980. This is when the United States was going to finally catch up with the rest of the world and switch to the metric system. Arizona, being proactive at the time, decided to sign I-19 with metric signs. Interstate 88 in New York State almost met the same fate, and for a long time had blank exit number panels because they hadn’t decided whether the numbers were going to be sequential, mileage based, or kilometer based. New York State decided to go with the vastly outdated and not helpful sequentially numbered system.

All of this metric versus Imperial discussion took place around the same time I was in elementary school learning units of measure and distance. Since we were going to be metric by 1980, we learned liters, meters, etc. Was the push to metric a Carter Administration thing? I don’t remember a lot about President Carter, other than we suddenly had peanuts with every lunch meal, he had feathered hair, and the Iranian Hostage Situation. As far as Imperial versus metric goes, to this day I cannot remember how many quarts are in a pound or how many pints are in an acre. It makes me husband crazy when I say, “how many pints are in a gallon”? Metric has always made sense to me and it’s a shame the United States never made the conversion. Who cares how many chains are in a teaspoon.

The signs on Interstate 19 were replaced in the late 1990s, again with metric designations, and many have been recently replaced again. While Arizona was going to switch the freeway to Imperial units, after all, while metrification is long overdue, it’s also a kilometers long long-shot, but at the last minute decided to keep the metric signs. There are a few signs that were converted from 2 km to 1 1/2 miles on the northern end at Tucson, but for the most part, I-19 remains a metric highway.

I can’t wait to drive it again! Metrically.

Cee Dee.

It was spring 1987 and at age 18 as a freshman in college, a man showed romantic interest in me. Never considering myself “a catch”, I was baffled yet somewhat enamored by the whole affair. He invited me to his two room apartment and we listened to a small selection of music on his new CD player.

I had never seen or listened to music on a CD player before that night, and being the dork I am, I was intrigued by this device playing music off of shiny discs. I had seen the discs in the record stores, with their oddly shaped rectangular cases designed to compliment the record albums in the racks, but I never removed one from the package or played with an actual player. I had mastered my Dad’s General Electric VCR with ease and enjoyed the sound of music over my Yorx stereo system, but this CD player seemed so digital.

I quickly acclimated to listening to music on CDs. they were portable and far superior in sound quality to cassettes, and my music collection shifted from vinyl to CD. When I purchased my first CD player in 1989 I hooked it up to my aging Yorx stereo and it brought new life to the equipment I had purchased when I was still in high school.

In 1989 I worked for Digital, or DEC as it was commonly yet erroneously called. Slight tangent: the industry called Digital “DEC” but as employees we were highly discouraged from the same, as the company did not want to be a three letter acronym like IBM. Digital Equipment Corporation was “Digital”, not “DEC”.

OK, back to the story. I was working in my cubicle at CFO2 when my co-worker Karen called me for help with her computer. She was hooking up a new drive and needed some clarification on how to do it.

Her new drive was an external CD drive. This blew me away.

Employees at Digital tended to be rather tech-savvy, even personal assistants and secretaries, because the company pushed for a paperless experience. We all had computers on our desks (not a given back then) and those computers were part of the larger network throughout the company, which had connections to the outside world. But running software or reading data from a CD player, which in my mind was designed for music? That was surprising.

“This CD holds the same amount of data as 1000 floppies”, she said.

To this day I can still remember my idiotic question, “is it noisy”?

I easily figured out how to hook the CD player up to her computer and she was on her way accessing data on the CD she had been holding. I watched her work and was surprised at how quickly the data filled the screen. Within minutes she was back to being productive at her desk. Not a sound from the CD player, it just spun the disc and provided her the data she was looking for.

I hadn’t thought about this in years but this morning I was listening to a track by Anders Enger Jensen called “DiscoVision” and was reminded of my first experiences with CD.

Enjoy this retro track. In Digital.

Clean Up, Part 2.

Last night my dreams were full of paranoid thoughts about computers and online networks and social media. I woke up incredibly and needlessly worried that something bad was going to happen if I didn’t continue my efforts to clean up old accounts and the like. So today I deleted a bunch more of my online presence.

I’ve never found a use for Pinterest. I’d “pin” some interesting photos or whatnot and they’d be arranged on a “board” but then Pinterest would suggest to me things that had absolutely no relation to what I was pinning. The account sat idle for a year or two and I decided to just ahead and delete the thing.

Pinterest does not make this easy. You can suspend, you can change your password, but to delete your account Pinterest has to send you an email and then you respond, which could reactivate your account because you have to sign in again. And the cycle went round and round until it finally stuck.

If someone can tell me why I should have Pinterest feel free to comment below.

I also pared down my Dropbox account to something that would fit in the Basic model. We already pay for an iCloud family plan, there’s no reason for us to have Dropbox as well. Delete delete delete. Besides, do I really want *all* of my information in the cloud?

No. The cloud is just someone else’s computer.

Geek Administration.

The latter half of my work week was consumed by a big “server migration” project. We are tasked with moving our applications to a server farm in a data center in the central part of the country. The server farm has “geographical redundancy”, which means there’s a backup copy elsewhere in the country. If one data center goes down, the other can pick up the slack.

This week we’ve moved applications from a server in Greenville, S.C. to the big data center. The application in question was written by programmers that have long left the company. There is no documentation. There isn’t even a general consensus as to who uses the various modules in the application or what other groups, which could be located anywhere in the world, have their applications talking to our inherited application. The server in question was sitting on the floor underneath a cubicle desk. Changes in the org chart placed a person with absolutely no stake in the success of the server or the applications in the cubicle in question.

On the bright side, the server hadn’t been sealed inside a wall while still powered on.

I led the project of building the new servers in the data center and moving the application that we inherited without documentation. The whole affair is over six years old and has had many cooks in the kitchen over the years, so the code is not consistently written.

The relocation project was deemed a success on Friday afternoon. As part of a very capable team of programmers at the company, we worked together to make this happen. After the move we had one trouble ticket from a team that used a forgotten module through some ancient automation. I came up with an interim solution until we could get things working reliably on the new servers.

It’s a small wonder that I slept 12 hours last night.

I haven’t had time to think about all the changes along the country’s political spectrum that happened this week. I haven’t had time to think about the flight I hope to take tomorrow afternoon (though the weather doesn’t look especially promising).

But I feel good today.

Safety.

Before moving to Chicago nearly four years ago, we lived in Upstate New York near Utica. Located somewhat close to the geographic center of New York State, the township was the site of many high voltage distribution lines coming together at a very large switching yard a few of miles from the house. Marching northward from the switching yard, toward the Canadian border where power flowed from Hydro Quebec, was one of the highest voltage lines in the nation, a single 765kV circuit. On more than one occasion I took a couple of fluorescent light bulbs along for the ride and stood underneath the buzzing lines. The light bulbs lit up in my hand. Turns out I wrote about one of my field trips, back in 2012.

Back in 1980, Ralph Waite (from “The Waltons”) starred in a movie called “Ohms”. The drama addressed concerns a farmer has about the power lines being built across his farmland. I watched the movie with great interest; it was one of the first times my mom and dad let me stay up until 11:00 PM. My dad made the final decision, since he knew I was very interested in these things and was fascinated with the movie. He watched it with me. There’s a brief clip from the movie on YouTube.

During one of our rides over the summer, I noticed a high voltage power line passing pretty close to a residential sub-division in Channahon, Illinois. As we drove along US 6 I said to my husband, “those power lines are really close to those houses. I’m surprised they built the houses *that* close”.

He mentioned it must have been an optical illusion since we were over a half mile away from where I spotted the power lines, so we drove around the subdivision and surrounding area and concluded that no, they were really close.

While researching other power lines I spotted during today’s ride, I found this photo on the Internet. These were the power lines I was referring to back during our ride over the summer.

Photo from electrical-engineering-portal.com

Here’s some perspective from a satellite view.

The housing development seems rather new so I wandered around on Google a bit to see if there was any discussion about the houses being so close to these power lines, but I haven’t been able to find anything. Now, I have no investment in any of this other than a dorky interest in the subject, but I’m still quite surprised at how close the residences are to this (seemingly) 765kV power line. Side note: I haven’t confirmed the voltage of these lines, they could be 365kV or 500kV, but the size of the towers seem to be the higher 765kV, but I don’t know this for sure.

I don’t know if there have ever been any conclusive studies on the health effects of prolonged exposure to these high powered transmission lines. I know I’m fascinated by them and have been around them on and off for years, but I have little interest in living close to them. Would I farm under them? Probably. Would I swim in a pool near them? Probably not.

The reason I went down this rabbit hole is because I realized that I’ve been in all 50 states and while I certainly haven’t seen every single power transmission circuit in the country, I don’t think that I’ve seen towers with such big “cat ears” like we have here in Illinois.

Today I took a photo of a glimpse of a sunset today, with a 345kV circuit crossing the Illinois prairie along the way.

Swag.

Screen shot.

I’m a dork. I freely admit this. I great joy in geeky, dorky things. We’ve talked about this before.

My Mac and iPhone and iPad are decidedly undorky. While they do what they’re suppose to do, they don’t really excite me in a techy, geeky sort of way. I see these hackers and crackers on television shows with awesome displays and nifty interfaces that beep and boop and I have none of that. I get in the realm of that sort of experience when I use Linux (don’t get me started on my Windows 10 experience at work).

Recently I discovered a cross-platform application called eDEX-UI. It’s a fun little tech experience with beeps and boops and characters flying around. It’s really just a super fancy terminal window (with multiple tabs) but I feel such dork joy when I’m using it. Does it lend credence to my productivity? Yes, it does, because it puts me in a focused type of system administration mindset. And that’s what I need in these days of boring interfaces to technology.

Geek out!

Dork.

Sometimes I do things on computers just because I can. Like having a file server to backup the backup server we already have in place. Or wiring an old Pentium II to run the 1930s master clock collection we had wired throughout the old house back East.

Or sometimes I fire up an extra Raspberry Pi with touchscreen I have for a future project and use it to write a blog entry.

Since the pandemic I’ve spent many weekends simply being a dork. I set myself up at the dining room table and fiddle with the various bits of technology I have around the house, wondering what I can do next.

I tend to drift toward retro-style computing; command line prompts are mighty keen as far as I’m concerned and even though I mess around at the command line all day long in my day job, there’s still something nifty about being able to fire up a command-line based email program from 30 years ago to read the latest email.

Sometimes I just revel in being a dork.

Privacy.

Photo courtesy of NBC News.

While I still use Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends, as well as participate in some groups that are not available anywhere else on the Internet, I absolutely refuse to have the application on my iPhone.

Here’s why. This is a list of all the ways the Facebook iOS app tracks your phone usage, courtesy of the new privacy information available with the latest version of iOS on my Apple iPhone X.


App Privacy

The developer, Facebook, Inc., indicated that the app’s privacy practices may include handling of data as described below. This information has not been verified by Apple. For more information, see the developer’s privacy policy.

To help you better understand the developer’s responses, see Privacy Definitions and Examples.

Privacy practices may vary, for example, based on the features you use or your age. Learn More

Data Used to Track You

The following data may be used to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies:

Third-Party Advertising

Contact Info
  • Physical Address
  • Email Address
  • Name
  • Phone Number
Identifiers
  • User ID
  • Device ID
Other Data
  • Other Data Types

Developer’s Advertising or Marketing

Contact Info
  • Physical Address
  • Email Address
  • Name
  • Phone Number
Identifiers
  • User ID
  • Device ID
Other Data
  • Other Data Types

Analytics

Contact Info
  • Physical Address
  • Email Address
  • Name
  • Phone Number
Identifiers
  • User ID
  • Device ID
Other Data
  • Other Data Types

Product Personalization

Contact Info
  • Physical Address
  • Email Address
  • Name
  • Phone Number
Identifiers
  • User ID
  • Device ID
Other Data
  • Other Data Types

App Functionality

Contact Info
  • Physical Address
  • Email Address
  • Name
  • Phone Number
Identifiers
  • User ID
  • Device ID
Other Data
  • Other Data Types

Other Purposes

Contact Info
  • Physical Address
  • Email Address
  • Name
  • Phone Number
Identifiers
  • User ID
  • Device ID
Other Data
  • Other Data Types

Data Linked to You

The following data, which may be collected and linked to your identity, may be used for the following purposes:

Third-Party Advertising

Purchases
  • Purchase History
Financial Info
  • Other Financial Info
Location
  • Precise Location
  • Coarse Location
Contact Info
  • Physical Address
  • Email Address
  • Name
  • Phone Number
  • Other User Contact Info
Contacts
  • Contacts
User Content
  • Photos or Videos
  • Gameplay Content
  • Other User Content
Search History
  • Search History
Browsing History
  • Browsing History
Identifiers
  • User ID
  • Device ID
Usage Data
  • Product Interaction
  • Advertising Data
  • Other Usage Data
Diagnostics
  • Crash Data
  • Performance Data
  • Other Diagnostic Data
Other Data
  • Other Data Types

Developer’s Advertising or Marketing

Purchases
  • Purchase History
Financial Info
  • Other Financial Info
Location
  • Precise Location
  • Coarse Location
Contact Info
  • Physical Address
  • Email Address
  • Name
  • Phone Number
  • Other User Contact Info
Contacts
  • Contacts
User Content
  • Photos or Videos
  • Gameplay Content
  • Other User Content
Search History
  • Search History
Browsing History
  • Browsing History
Identifiers
  • User ID
  • Device ID
Usage Data
  • Product Interaction
  • Advertising Data
  • Other Usage Data
Diagnostics
  • Crash Data
  • Performance Data
  • Other Diagnostic Data
Other Data
  • Other Data Types

Analytics

Health & Fitness
  • Health
  • Fitness
Purchases
  • Purchase History
Financial Info
  • Payment Info
  • Other Financial Info
Location
  • Precise Location
  • Coarse Location
Contact Info
  • Physical Address
  • Email Address
  • Name
  • Phone Number
  • Other User Contact Info
Contacts
  • Contacts
User Content
  • Photos or Videos
  • Audio Data
  • Gameplay Content
  • Customer Support
  • Other User Content
Search History
  • Search History
Browsing History
  • Browsing History
Identifiers
  • User ID
  • Device ID
Usage Data
  • Product Interaction
  • Advertising Data
  • Other Usage Data
Sensitive Info
  • Sensitive Info
Diagnostics
  • Crash Data
  • Performance Data
  • Other Diagnostic Data
Other Data
  • Other Data Types

Product Personalization

Purchases
  • Purchase History
Financial Info
  • Other Financial Info
Location
  • Precise Location
  • Coarse Location
Contact Info
  • Physical Address
  • Email Address
  • Name
  • Phone Number
  • Other User Contact Info
Contacts
  • Contacts
User Content
  • Photos or Videos
  • Gameplay Content
  • Other User Content
Search History
  • Search History
Browsing History
  • Browsing History
Identifiers
  • User ID
  • Device ID
Usage Data
  • Product Interaction
  • Advertising Data
  • Other Usage Data
Sensitive Info
  • Sensitive Info
Diagnostics
  • Crash Data
  • Performance Data
  • Other Diagnostic Data
Other Data
  • Other Data Types

App Functionality

Health & Fitness
  • Health
  • Fitness
Purchases
  • Purchase History
Financial Info
  • Payment Info
  • Credit Info
  • Other Financial Info
Location
  • Precise Location
  • Coarse Location
Contact Info
  • Physical Address
  • Email Address
  • Name
  • Phone Number
  • Other User Contact Info
Contacts
  • Contacts
User Content
  • Emails or Text Messages
  • Photos or Videos
  • Audio Data
  • Gameplay Content
  • Customer Support
  • Other User Content
Search History
  • Search History
Browsing History
  • Browsing History
Identifiers
  • User ID
  • Device ID
Usage Data
  • Product Interaction
  • Advertising Data
  • Other Usage Data
Sensitive Info
  • Sensitive Info
Diagnostics
  • Crash Data
  • Performance Data
  • Other Diagnostic Data
Other Data
  • Other Data Types

Other Purposes

Purchases
  • Purchase History
Financial Info
  • Other Financial Info
Location
  • Precise Location
  • Coarse Location
Contact Info
  • Physical Address
  • Email Address
  • Name
  • Phone Number
  • Other User Contact Info
Contacts
  • Contacts
User Content
  • Photos or Videos
  • Gameplay Content
  • Customer Support
  • Other User Content
Search History
  • Search History
Browsing History
  • Browsing History
Identifiers
  • User ID
  • Device ID
Usage Data
  • Product Interaction
  • Advertising Data
  • Other Usage Data
Diagnostics
  • Crash Data
  • Performance Data
  • Other Diagnostic Data
Other Data
  • Other Data Types

Clickity-Clack.

When it comes to typing, I’m probably one of the fastest typists I know. That sounds kind of prideful, but is it really prideful when you’re speaking the truth? I’ve been typing since 5th grade and when I was playing around with a borrowed typewriter at that age, my mother said, “If you’re going to type, use the right fingers”. She showed me how to type properly, for the most part, and from there my speed just picked up a lot. I aced a keyboarding class my senior year of high school, where I was entered into a statewide typing competition. I came in third. I was struggling with the space bar on my IBM Selectric II that day. Later, when I went to college to become a music teacher, I had a harder time playing piano than I thought I would have. I can plunk out music but I can’t make people weep with beautiful tunes coming from a piano; I figure I used up all my keyboard-related bandwidth on learning how to type.

Because I type for a living I’m very picky about my choice of keyboard. To this day my favorite Mac keyboard was in my 2005 PowerBook with its aluminum keyboard. I loved that keyboard and I had a hard time adjusting to the newer keyboards introduced in later models. I’ve never owned a MacBook Pro with the “butterfly” keys, though my husband’s MBP had that type of keyboard. It’s comfortable to type on but it’s not particularly reliable and I don’t really get a pleasing experience while using it. But it gets the job done, I suppose.

Mechanical keyboards are awesome and lately I’ve been gravitating towards the Cherry Brown switches in the Velocifire keyboards found Amazon. I don’t need a number pad; I find the narrower footprint works better for when I’m using a mouse. I have two of these keyboards; one for work and one I hook up to my iPad Pro when I’m writing long prose (much like I’m doing right now). This particular keyboard is notably affordable on Amazon. Other mechanical keyboards can go for well over $100.00. That’s a lot of keyboard.

One of the things (of many) that drives me crazy about using work’s Windows 10 laptop is there is such a delay between key press and display on the screen. I’ve followed several online guides to remedy this, I’ve swapped out keyboards to see if it was related to the keyboard (it’s not), and I’ve noticed the same issue when using the built-in laptop keyboard on the computer. It’s one of the reasons I tend to use my personal Mac for work, in fact, I use the same exact keyboard on both computers and notice no lag on the Mac. It must be a Windows thing.

Of course, mechanical keyboards can be loud, though the Cherry Brown switches are not nearly as loud as the old IBM Model M keyboards from the 80s that endure to this day. How I’d love to get my hands on one of them again.

Meanwhile, I’m quite content with these Velocifire keyboards.