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January 22, 2017

Bill and Me

I once spent a weekend with Bill Gates and some of his cronies, including Paul Allen, before either of them became rich and famous. It was just a matter of chance, and it didn’t seem all that big of a deal at the time.

January 18, 2017

Koha on Linode

Koha is an open source library system that is used widely throughout the world, and especially in Vermont. For various reasons (including financial) our library was not able to join either of the two consortia of Koha users in Vermont. So I installed Koha on Linode for the exclusive use of our library.

Linode is a hosting service that provides low-cost Linux virtual servers, called “Linodes”. Installing Koha in a Linode is a straightforward process, but it does require that you to be somewhat comfortable with typing commands at a command prompt.

January 17, 2017

Linux Mint on a 2008 Macbook

I have access to an old (2008) white Macbook that is not being used due to the age of its operating system. New versions of Firefox can’t be installed on this machine without an operating system upgrade, and the upgrade path for old MacBooks doesn’t appear to be free or easy. So I decided to see if I could install Linux Mint 17 (LTS) on the MacBook. Supposedly it was possible, but I wanted to see for myself.

November 16, 2016

Linux as an Internet Kiosk

For some time I have been looking for a way to use Linux as an internet kiosk in our small local library. The library currently has a number of computers available for use by patrons, ranging from netbooks to desktops, all running some variant of Windows 7. Some of these machines are crippled by not having Office licenses.

July 6, 2016

Housing Bubble 2.0

There’s a new, improved housing bubble going on all across the USA. It is going to end badly, as it did before. But meanwhile prices keep climbing, and that is squeezing both buyers and renters.

Take a look at the Culver City crap shack in the article linked to in the previous paragraph. At $782 per square foot, that may seem like a lot to my fellow Vermonters. But to a former Californian like me, it’s peanuts. In 2008 I was living in a mobile home in Palo Alto (in the only mobile home park in the town). Just down the block a 780 square foot house went up for sale with an asking price of $700,000. That’s $923 per square foot. According to Zillow, it sold for $675,000 a few months later, which must have been a huge disappointment to the seller.

But the story gets happier. The new owner sold the house in $2013 for $1,070,000, or $1372 per square foot. That was a 59% increase in value in just five years. Eat your heart out, Culver City!

This is one of the main reasons why I left California in 2009. At that point, Housing Bubble 1.0 had burst, but prices were still too high. I didn’t expect another bubble, and so soon, but it looks like nobody learned from history.

May 4, 2016

Fixing disabled TrackPoint after Mint 13 update

Yesterday I did a normal software update on a ThinkPad X200s running Linux Mint 13 (which is based on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS). After the update and reboot, the TrackPoint (belly button mouse) no longer worked. This made working with the GUI desktop nearly impossible.

Fortunately, Linux has several virtual text consoles that can be used to make repairs.

February 20, 2016

Creating a resume using Pandoc

One of the tasks that Pandoc can take over from word processors is the creation of printable resumes in PDF format. Because Pandoc uses LaTex to create PDFs, the markup in the source document can contain LaTex commands to tweak the appearance.

February 15, 2016

Fixing "send to" in Shotwell on Linux Mint Mate

I recently set up a ThinkPad T61 with Linx Mint 17 Mate for a long-time Mac OS user. I installed Shotwell as the photo manager. It is the default photo app in Ubuntu, and it seemed the closest to iPhoto due to its ability to organize photos by “events” (grouping by timestamp). I also installed Thunderbird as the email handler. But the Shotwell “send to” feature, which is supposed to allow the user to send a photo via Thunderbird, did not work.

February 6, 2016

Disabling multiple downloads in apt

The apt-based package managers and update managers in Ubuntu and Linux Mint will open multiple connections to repository servers in order to download several packages simultaneously. Unfortunately, the multiple connections cause our old DSL modem (a Westell 6100) to hang. At a former workplace, similar problems occurred with the corporate firewall.

The fix is decribed in this post. As root, create the file /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/75download with the following single line:

Acquire::Queue-Mode "access";

Then the package managers will attempt to download only one file at a time, reducing the stress on the DSL modem. The downside is that downloads will be slightly slower, but since our DSL connection is already quite slow, this is barely noticeable, and certainly preferable to constantly having to reset the modem during software updates.

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