Geek

Lightning.

I followed two impressive thunderstorms today, mostly around Garden City and Dodge City, Kansas. The lightning was quite impressive.

The daylight storm was very impressive with its winds as well. I needed two hands firmly on the steering wheel to keep the car on the roadway.

I trailed the nighttime storm, getting close to it, taking some photos, and then catching it again.

A great afternoon and evening of storm chasing.

Don’t Look Up.

There was a pretty impressive meteor shower earlier this week. We were lucky to have clear skies and a moonless night; we sat on the roof over our garage, which faces east, and at the peak was able to see a meteor or two every 30 seconds. It was beautiful. The remnants of this comment were a bit more orange than most meteor showers I’ve seen. The universe is amazing.

I have concerns about the longevity of humanity. I saw this tweet pass by and I wonder if the person tweeting this actually thought the meteor shower would light up any clouds or come through clouds.

Meteors coming through the clouds would be a bad thing. There’s been quite a few catastrophe movies with that very sort of plot line.

Retro.

Someone I follow on Mastodon posted this ad for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. The ad has some happy cats riding along on the train and this made me smile. I always enjoy these mid-century ads and other artwork, especially when shown in its original context. Memes are fun, but sometimes I the original more fun.

Plus, happy cats!

Good Enough?

As I get older I’m finding I have less tolerance for things that are “good enough” or “fine”, especially when it comes to using technology.

As mentioned a few weeks ago, I have a Lenovo ThinkPad t460s laptop. It’s a nice little rig and I’m able to swap out parts and upgrade it all I want, which is the direct opposite of an Apple experience. Unfortunately, the overall computing experience with the Lenovo hardware is several notches below the quality of the experience on an Apple device. Linux works great and does everything I want it to do, and this older laptop has plenty of horsepower for what I expect it to handle, but the trackpad and the quality of the display are a bit of a mess.

I often run into this sort of thing with the computer provided for work. While I am much more productive in a Mac or Linux environment and work insists on everyone using Windows, it’s not Windows slowing me down as much as the cheapest laptop hardware possible. Like my Lenovo ThinkPad, the work provided computer has a tiny trackpad requiring a crazy amount of pressure to click anything, the keyboard is sized slightly off from normal, and the display is just too dim for my aging eyes.

I’ve been using my 2018 iPad Pro in tandem with the Linux laptop and I’m finding I’m getting more acclimated to using the iPad as my daily driver that I carry around with me. If I want to get into full geek mode I still have the Linux laptop, the experience just doesn’t have the fit and finish of an Apple experience. Doable. Good enough?

Sometimes I feel like I’ve earned better than “good enough”. Now, if my budget would only cooperate with my plans.

I know, first world problems.

Zesta.

I thought Keebler made Zesta crackers? For some reason I do not remember a Kellogg’s logo being adjacent to a Zesta crackers logo. Ever.

The Twitter Thing.

I’ve been following this mess of a deal Elon Musk has put together to buy Twitter and take the company private, in the name of “making free speech a priority again”. He says the right words to get a certain segment of the population whipped up so he can line his coffers with more billions.

Look, I used to be impressed with the technological things Elon Musk has accomplished over the years. He bought Tesla and subsequently changed the paradigm of electric vehicles. SpaceX is filling in the gaps that NASA can’t seem to handle. Why he wants to buy Twitter, other than to grandstand on the platform and get money providers whipped up, is beyond me. In a way it’s kind of sad that one man can buy a public company, turn it private, and basically become the king of a social platform that the news media can’t seem to live without. What is his end game? I have no idea and honestly I’ve become quite bored with the whole affair.

What I have realized while wading through the barrage of news feeds is that it’s not really in my best interest to be dependent on social media platforms that are owned by eccentric billionaires. This is one of the reasons I keep this blog going; I can say what I want, when I want, in my space.

A few years ago an alternative to Twitter came to fruition. It’s called Mastodon. It works a bit differently than what the common user knows as the Twitter experience. Basically, a Mastodon server is an island in a sea of a Mastodon servers. They are connected to one another and you can see the feeds on any other server you wish. You can follow users on other islands. There’s no central configuration or central control point, either you run your own server and do your thing or you jump onto a server that someone has set up that aligns with your interests. In the past I’ve belonged to two “general” instances, mastodon.cloud and mastodon. social. More recently I belonged to mastodon.technology, which is geared towards those of us super interested in technology. While it was never required that I talk only about technology in my mastodon.technology feed, I always felt someone obligated to stay with the theme of the server. My Twitter feed can be all over the place.

I decided to start up my own Mastodon server last night. I’m the only user on it and will keep it that way for the time being (data can be expensive), but I’m able to chat with all the other folks I’ve met on Mastodon and I’ve been having fun meeting new people. I administer the server, I pay for the server (it’s less than 10 euros a month), and I am the only user.

The server names can be anything and I wanted mine to be general and memorable, so I picked the domain name shavingcream.online.

I figured that I use shaving cream on a daily basis, I’ve always considered myself a shaving aficionado, and it’s offbeat enough for people to remember. So my Mastodon username is at (it’s actually the “@“ symbol) machias@shavingcream.online. If you’re on Mastodon, you can add me with this URL: https://shavingcream.online/@machias

I’ve made quite a few online acquaintances through Mastodon over the years and I’m probably going to use this as my Twitter replacement. I’m not comfortable with the idea of providing my data to eccentric billionaires who buy public companies on a whim (or the creepy Zuck and Sheryl show at Facebook) so having my open-source, federated social instance on Mastodon gives me great geek joy.

Feel free to add me if you’re on Mastodon. If you’re curious about the platform and don’t know where to start, here’s a place to take a peek:

https://joinmastodon.org

As I mentioned before, you don’t have to run your own server, you can join one of the many public (free and open source) servers that fit what you’re looking for in a social media experience.

Happy engagement!

Strange New Worlds.

The trailer for “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” is out. I’ve been excited about this series since it was announced a while back. It strives to be more like original “Star Trek”.

Background.

Every once in a while I watch episodes from the short-lived, 1970s sitcom, “Bewitched” spin off “Tabitha”. The show starred Lisa Hartman as the grown up daughter of Sam and Darrin. The timeline was off with Tabitha’s age, Adam didn’t really seem like Adam, and all of a sudden we had a new aunt named Minerva (played by Karen Morrow), but the magic seemed the same and the sound effects were the same so it was like a road show version of the show. Dr. Bombay even popped in a few times.

“Bewitched” had a background extra that appeared in episodes throughout the entire series and his name was Gerald York. A while back I noticed that “Tabitha” has a background extra appearing all over the place as well. He’s a good looking blond man but I have no idea what his name is.

Here’s a screenshot with him casually glancing over to Robert Urich having a chat with a cafeteria hostess.

I have to admit he caught my eye because he resembles the very first man I ever dated back in 1986, but I have absolutely no idea as to who the background player is or if he ever continued acting. Sometimes he’s wearing glasses, sometimes he’s not. Sometimes he seems like two people in the same scene.

So in this scene he’s left the cafeteria after lunch, put on his jacket, and come back for lunch.

Here he is in another episode holding the cue cards for the news.

And here he is getting sprayed with an antidote from Dr. Bombay for Mary Wickes’ (as Cassandra) love potion that ended up in some chip dip.

OK, Mr. Blond Guy from “Tabitha”, I don’t know who you are but I certainly noticed you.

Think.

Last weekend I discovered an online shopping site for refurbished computer equipment called BackMarket. I’m a firm believer that we should keep our technological devices out of the landfills for as long as possible. I have a Mac Mini from 2011, which has been deemed by Apple as too old to run their MacOS, running Linux. It is a nifty little machine for web browsing, social media, and watching YouTube videos. And because it’s from the era before Apple decided to start gluing everything together, it can be updated with new hard drives and more memory as necessary.

I haven’t had a laptop in quite a while, relying on my 2018 iPad Pro as my portable device. As much as love the iPad Pro, there are some limitations for a tech geek like me, all having to do with the way Apple implements iPadOS and the whole app ecosystem. Yes, I can get pretty full-on geek with the iPad but not in the way I like. I wasn’t in the mood to spring for a brand new MacBook when there’s plenty of viable tech out there just looking for a home, so I gandered at the BackMarket site and found myself a 2018 Lenovo ThinkPad T460s laptop. It’s lightweight yet sturdy, has plenty of horsepower for what I’m looking to do, and has what I still deem probably the best keyboard in the business.

The refurbished laptop came with Windows 10 Pro on it, which is fine, but I prefer playing around with Linux. In 30 minutes or less I had a full install of Linux Mint MATE Edition in place, with all the frills I need for surfing the web, creating documents, doing some coding, and going through my email. Plus, I have full access to the likes of Discord and Telegram and such for staying in touch with friends and family far and wide. So far the experience has been flawless, except for the FedEx delivery.

When the package arrived it was markedly damaged, opened, and looked like it might have been run over by the likes of a forklift.

That’s what the package looked like when it arrived with the delivery man today. Luckily, the computer was not damaged at all and has been cranking along like a little trouper since I installed things in between work meetings this afternoon.

I’m quite pleased with the purchase and if you’re looking for an affordable approach at adding computer equipment to your collection and helping the environment by not throwing things prematurely into a landfill, I suggest BackMarket. Their website was quick and easy to navigate and their delivery was very quick.